by John Whittle
The weather is warming and summer is getting closer, so another year of Canes baseball is just around the corner. This year, we have a challenging schedule playing in the best events across the country and look to add to our total of eight Perfect Game national championships at the 17U level.
This summer on our Canes National team, we have 17 players who could see action for us in the field this summer. The group boasts some players who have been in the organization for four years, while others are experiencing playing with our teams for the first time.
On the field this summer will be a balanced lineup that has speed and athleticism, but also big power in the heart of the order.
“We’re going to have guys with high baseball IQs, guys who can run, guys who can handle the bat and we have power in the middle,” head coach Jeff Petty said. “We have more players than we’ve ever had before, and we’re going to have competition, which is good, because competition brings out the best in everybody.”
One of the key features of our team this season is the versatility on the infield. We have five players who can see action at second base, third base or shortstop over the course of the summer.
“All of them are superstar shortstops at their high school and all have versatility,” Petty said. “They might find themselves playing third, might be at second and shortstop – they’re all just so athletic.”
One of the important pieces of our infield is Quade Tomlin from Liberty Christian Academy in Virginia. Tomlin, a left-handed hitter, is in his second year with the Canes organization and is committed to play his college baseball at Liberty. He can also see time on the mound this summer.
“I look forward to competing with guys that are the best in the country. My teammates are insanely good,” Tomlin said. “Canes baseball has helped me develop by pushing me to be the best I can be. On the Canes, you carry a name that is the best travel team in the country. To be a part of this team is truly humbling.”
Outfielder Dominic Johnson, from Edmond High School in Oklahoma, will be back with us for his first summer after playing with us last fall. Johnson, an Oklahoma State commitment, was the MVP in the Wilson Premiere championship.
“I joined the Canes simply because I want to play with the best and against the best. The only way to get better is by challenging yourself every day,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been around so many talented guys on one team, and it’s surreal. How could any baseball player not want to be a part of the best organization in the nation with the best players.”
A player who could be seen in multiple spots for the Canes this year is catcher and outfielder Cooper Ingle from A.C. Reynolds High School in North Carolina. The Clemson commitment is in his second year with the Canes and was part of our team that won the Wilson Premier title.
“Canes baseball has helped me develop by helping to compete with and against people of my caliber of play to the highest level on the field,” Ingle said. “I’m looking forward to all the talent and potential our team has this upcoming summer with all the pitchers and big hitters.”
Another of our important infielders is Johnny Castagnozzi from Massapequa High School in New York. Castagnozzi, a UNC commitment, joined us in the fall last year, but will spend his first summer with us in 2019. Even though he’s a position player, he was on the mound to close out our Wilson Premier win in Florida last year.
“My most memorable moment was when we won the Wilson Premier in Florida. We had ran out of pitching at the end of the game and I came in to close it out. It was awesome,” Castagnozzi said. “Playing with the Canes last fall definitely made me a better player all around. Being around the best and playing against the best helped me turn into a better player. Also being with the awesome coaches I had helped me learn more about the game at the higher levels.”
Joining our organization for the first time is middle infielder Colby Halter from Bishop Kenny High School in Florida. A left-handed hitter, Halter is committed to the University of Florida and can play anywhere, but may fit best on the left side of the infield.
“What I’m looking forward to most this summer is to play on a team full of Division I talent and not only win a bunch of games, but compete with my teammates daily and push each other,” Halter said. “I want to play with the best and against the best. I also wanted to gain a new experience before heading off to college next year.”
Our other utility man who will see a lot of time at catcher but will be all over the field this summer is Kyle Teel from Mahwah High School in New Jersey. Another left-handed hitter, Teel is committed to play his college baseball at Virginia and is in his fourth season with the Canes.
“My most memorable moment with the Canes was going to Lake Pointe for the first time as a 15 year old,” Teel said. “It was most memorable because not only did we do well in the tournament, but I got to hang out with my team every night and make friendships that would last a lifetime.”
Outfielder Alex Urban, who is from River Bluff High School in South Carolina, is back for his third year with the Canes. Urban is a Clemson commitment and says trips to the semifinals in Fort Myers and East Cobb rank up there as his best memories with the team.
“Playing with the Canes has helped me develop because of the competition that we play against as well as being surrounded by the best coaches and players in the country,” Urban said. “I moved to the Canes because I knew that it would give me the best opportunity to play with and against the best competition in the country, which I didn’t get with my old travel team.”
Ryan Clifford, who is from Leesville Road High School in North Carolina, will feature some at first base and other times in the outfield for the Canes this summer. He’s a long-time player in the organization having spent four years with us, and goes all the way back to his 12U team when he robbed a potential game-tying home run in the last inning as one of his favorite moments.
“Being able to compete at such a high level with others that have the same goals and mentality I have on the baseball diamond is one of the main reasons I’m ready for the summer,” Clifford said. “I look forward to getting to meet new guys while also seeing some again from last summer. Overall, just getting to wear Canes across my chest and representing the organization.”
Our primary stalwart behind the plate is Tomas Frick, who is entering his third year in the Canes organization. The North Carolina commitment was a part of the 16U team that won the championship in Jupiter, Fla. two years ago.
“I’m most looking forward to the team we are loaded and should be really tough to beat,” Frick said. “The best thing about the Canes is you are surrounded by a great coaching staff and some of the best players in the country. And we challenge each other and it just raises everybody’s game.”
Outfielder Colby Shade is one of the fastest players to come through our organization. This will be his second summer with the Canes and the Fort Collins High School (Colorado) product is committed to play his college baseball at Virginia.
“My most memorable moment with Canes is winning the Wilson Premier Championship last fall. We played several good teams and won the championship game with position players pitching,” Shade said. “The coaches have helped me grow as a player in all aspects of my game but they have also helped me grow as a person as well. Canes has given me unforgettable friendships and experiences. I can’t wait for another year with the Canes.”
Outfielder Chad Born joins the program from across the country prepping at Orange Lutheran High School in California. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder is committed to further his career at Miami and joined the team in part because of our in-house strength and conditioning coordinator.
“The great reputation and success this organization has made for itself is one of the main reasons I joined the Canes,” Born said. “I always hear great things about Canes Baseball. Josh Reidt was also a big part of me wanting to join, as well as knowing Jake Brooks was on the team who I have played with.”
Left-handed hitting outfielder Eddie Park is also coming across the country for his first year with the Canes. Park is from Valley Christian High School in California and committed to play at Stanford.
“Coach Petty reached out to me and I couldn’t miss the opportunity,” Park said. “One of my old teammates (Patrick Wicklander) who is now pitching at Arkansas told me that he loved it when he played with the Canes. I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity.”
Infielder Lukas Cook, from Hardin Valley Academy in Tennessee, joined our Canes program in the fall of last year and is back for his first full year with the program. A South Carolina commitment, Cook could feature at shortstop, or several other positions on the infield.
“My most memorable moment of the fall was winning Wilson Premier in Jupiter Florida and the dogpile,” Cook said. “I joined Canes baseball because it is a very well known organization and a couple of my old teammates played for them.”
Another one of our versatile infielders is Mac Horvath from Century High School in Minnesota. The North Carolina commitment is a plus runner with a strong arm across the infield. This will be his first year playing for The Canes.
“I look forward to playing with the best players in the country and winning. I’m a competitor, and I love to win,” Horvath said. “I wanted to play with the best players in the country and I know a few players who speak very highly of the program, so I wanted to be a part of it.”
Also featuring for us on the field this summer is first baseman Caden Grice, who is from Riverside High School in South Carolina. Grice, who will also pitch and play some in the outfield, is committed to Clemson.
Pitchers Riley Eikoff and Luke Wagner will also have multiple opportunities to get onto the field and into the batters box. Eikoff, a Virginia commitment from Patriot High School in Virginia, will see time on the infield. Wagner is a Georgia commitment from Red Land High School in Pennsylvania, and he will play in the outfield. Read more about them in our forthcoming story on our pitching staff.