By John Whittle
Canes baseball is always loaded with some of the top pitchers in the country and this year is no different with four of them ranked in the top 50 nationally by Perfect Game. The group is headlined by right-hander Matthew Thompson (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Ranch), the No. 6 player in the country, according to Perfect Game.
Thompson, a Texas A&M commitment, has been clocked as high as 96 mph and will bring a power arm to the organization much in the mold of Austin Becker from a year ago. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder also showcases two 80-plus mph breaking balls as well as a changeup to keep hitters guessing.
Right-hander Matt Allan (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) is in his second year with the Canes and ranked as the No. 15 player in the country regardless of position. He’s been clocked as high as 93 mph in a Perfect Game event and has great life on his fastball from his three-quarters arm slot.
“Canes baseball has helped me develop because I am constantly surrounded by elite athletes, which pushes me to elevate my game even more,” Allan said. “I am most looking forward to playing against such good competition with a team that is loaded with the best of the best talent. I’m looking forward to playing with some guys I have known and played with since I was eight years old.”
Right-hander Jason Diaz (Franklin Square, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) is another mid-90s arm who will feature prominently on the pitching staff this summer. This is his first year with the Canes and has signed scholarship papers play for Miami. Diaz is ranked as the No. 34 player in the country by Perfect Game.
“I’m looking forward to competing with this group of guys and making new friends,” Diaz said. “The Canes are a high-level program that I’ve always wanted to play with. I can’t wait for the chance this summer.”
There are three South Carolinians who are grizzled veterans when it comes to their time with the Canes. Left-hander Geoffrey Gilbert (Charleston, S.C./Bishop England) is beginning his fourth year in the organization. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is one of two Clemson commitments on the team and has a bunch of memorable moments with the organization.
“I hate to lose and love to win and compete,” Gilbert said. “In the summer of 2016, recruiting started to pick up a little bit more. I was on the 15U South team and we played at Lake Pointe and we had a night game, I played well and I was in the outfield looking around and saw about 30 coaches and I realized that’s what life was like wearing a Canes jersey. It really opened my eyes to what the program brings.
Joining outfielder Tyler Kehoe as the second South Carolina commitment on the roster is left-hander Will McGregor (Anderson, S.C./TL Hanna), who is in his third year with the Canes. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has a delivery similar to that of MacKenzie Gore, who was selected No. 3 overall in the MLB Draft last year. McGregor doesn’t have that same fastball velocity, put he brings an arsenal to the team that will be needed to get some big outs over the course of the summer.
“Canes baseball has really helped me get great exposure and play at and elite level for the past two years,” McGregor said. “I’m really looking forward to this summer because we’re going to have a loaded team, and we’re playing in some really big tournaments.”
The final Palmetto State pitcher is left-hander Michael Foltz (Myrtle Beach, S.C./Carolina Forest), who is also entering his third season with the Canes. A Duke commitment, he’s another 90 mph arm who has pitched in big moments for the organization. He pitched into the seventh inning without giving up any runs in the 16U WWBA Championships last year to help his team advance in the pool.
“Canes Baseball has definitely played a huge role in my development as a player as it has put me in situations to compete with great ballplayers, as well as exposure to great coaches who make sure you’re playing in the right scenarios and really want to see the fullest out of a player,” Foltz said. “The chance to play alongside some of the best players in the country and have other guys around me challenging me to get better and encouraging the best play from me, as well as going up against other top players and proving myself at that level is all just something truly amazing to look forward to.”
Left-handed pitcher Griffin Agee (Goode,Va./Jefferson Forest) is entering his second year with the Canes and he’s one of seven pitchers 6-foot-3 or taller. The 6-foot-5 talent, committed to Virginia, will reach up to 90 mph on the radar gun and also pitch in a meaningful role this summer.
“My best experience with the Canes so far was definitely dog piling at the Wilson Premiere in Arizona,” Agee said. “The bus rides with the boys are always one of my favorite parts of playing with the Canes and I can’t wait to see all my old teammates again as well as meet some new ones.”
Another Virginia native in his second year with the program is right-handed pitcher Casey Green (Chesterfield, Va./Benedictine). The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder is committed to Coastal Carolina and got better every outing over the year in 2017 as he recovered from an injury that kept him out a lot of the spring.
“My most memorable moment playing for the Canes is winning Jupiter as a group of 2019s. No one expected the young guys to be a contender and we got it done,” Green said. “Canes baseball has helped my development as a pitcher by giving me the opportunity to be around and play against the best players in the country. Helps me realize that it’s a big world and there are a lot of really good players, which drives me to work even harder.”
The youngest member of the team this year is right-handed pitcher Tyler Nesbitt (Labelle, Fla./Labelle), who won’t turn 17 until July. The Florida Gulf Coast commitment joined the organization last fall and he has a couple of swing-and-miss breaking balls that will see him rack up strikeouts.
“The pitching talent on the Canes National team has driven me to work harder than I have ever worked. I want this team to be successful and I want to be the pitcher that everyone counts on,” Nesbitt said. “Coach Mike Petty offered me a spot in the pitching rotation for the WWBA tournaments in Ft Myers and Jupiter. Playing in those two events and getting to know the other players and coaches sealed the deal for me. I had offers to play for other highly successful teams but my experience with the Canes made my decision easy.”
After joining the Canes in the fall last year, right-hander Jack Jasiak (Spring Hill, Fla./Frank W. Springstead) was key in winning our championship in Jupiter. Jasiak threw a complete game two-hitter in the tournament on just 74 pitches, which shows both his competitiveness and his efficiency. A USF commitment, Jasiak will get the ball in big moments this summer.
“The most memorable moment I have with the Canes is winning the WWBA in Jupiter as underclassmen. I had a lot of fun during the long championship day,” Jasiak said. “The amount of exposure while playing with the canes helped me as a player. I am always trying to get better and the idea that there will be scouts at the games this summer fuels me to get better.”
Right-handed pitcher Dylan Delucia (Orange, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) went into Jupiter last year uncommitted but because of his two performances, several schools came calling. Now a College of Charleston commitment, Delucia was named the MVP Pitcher of the tournament totaling 11 2/3 innings pitched giving up only one earned run on nine hits with 17 strikeouts.
First-year Canes pitcher Nolan Crisp (Locust Grove, Ga./Locust Grove). Crisp, a Florida commitment, is an ultra-competitor with a low 90s fastball and swing-and-miss slider who will feature in big games.
“I’m looking forward to dedicated, fun summer. This is the last summer I get to play so I’m going to make the most of it,” Crisp said. “I want to learn a lot and showcase myself while winning championships with the team. I joined the Canes because I want to win and the Canes are winners. I don’t play to lose; I play to win and have fun. That’s why I’m playing with the Canes and I’m excited for a great summer.”
The youngest on the team is a pitcher and so is the tallest. Right-hander Thomas Schultz (Mount Carmel, Pa./Our Lady of Lourdes) stands a sturdy 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds. The Vanderbilt commitment is in his first year with the Canes with a fastball that will get into the low 90s.
“A couple of things stick out to me about the upcoming summer and first is the amount of competition that we’re going to face in this last summer and fall before heading to the next stages of our career,” Schultz said. “Also, getting to play with a bunch of new guys. I’ll have a chance to take the field with other Vanderbilt commitments behind me and will be a great start to the next four years.”
Right-handed pitcher Nick Hoffmann (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) is also in his first season with the Canes. A Clemson commitment, Hoffman is an upper 80s pitcher who uses his curve ball and a lot of deception to get his outs.
“I wanted to join the Canes because they’re a competitive and first-class team,” Hoffmann said. “I am really looking forward to meeting some new teammates and traveling around the country with them. It’s always great to meet new people, especially the ones who have common goals as you do and love baseball.”
We always have a couple of talented two-way players on the roster and this year is no different. Left-handed pitcher, first baseman and corner outfielder Josh Hahn (Huntington Beach, Calif./Huntington Beach) is ranked as the No. 33 player in the country by Perfect Game. This is his first year with the Canes and he’ll be featured in a variety of different roles. The UCLA commitment stands 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds.
“I joined the Canes because I want to play with the top team in the nation. While playing with the top team, I get to play against other top talents to challenge my abilities. I also get to create lifetime friendships with my teammates and coaches,” Hahn said. “I am looking forward to playing with the Canes to see some of the guys I haven’t seen in a while. The Canes have some of the best players and it’s an honor to play with them.”
Second-year Canes star Chris Newell (Newtown Square, Pa./Malvern Prep) is back again and will bring his talents to the batting order and the mound. A left-handed pitcher and outfielder, Newell says the tournament he’s most looking forward to is the WWBA in Georgia. The Virginia commitment is ranked as the No. 172 player nationally.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing all my teammates again and catching up,” Newell said. “Canes baseball has helped me develop as a player in many different ways. By playing with the Canes, I have been exposed to the highest level of baseball possible. We see every team’s best arms and everyone brings their A-game to play us. Most of all, I have learned how to be the best teammate I can be.”
Our roster of 28 players is set and is both ready and eager to continue on the Canes tradition of winning championships. They’re off to a great start having won a senior tournament already.