Baseball Inks 11 During Early Signing Period

Nov. 10, 2011

Fullerton, Calif. - Titan baseball Head Coach Rick Vanderhook announced that 11 student-athletes have signed National Letters of Intent during the early signing period and have plans to continue their baseball careers at Cal State Fullerton during the 2012-13 academic year.

The Titans, who are returning just two pitchers from the 2011 season, were looking to bolster their pitching brigade, and did so with this first recruiting class under the first-year Head Coach Vanderhook.

"Our 2012 class really fits our needs for next season," Vanderhook said. "We've made a effort to go out and get some pitchers with good arms and good pitch ability, while also picking up a couple of superb defensive players along the way.

"This class has a lot of versatility and I think that Coach [Mike] Kirby and Coach [Kirk] Saarloos have done an excellent job of identifying the types of players that will make a good fit into the Titan program."

As Titan tradition has it, all 11 of the prospective student-athletes come from the baseball-rich state of California. Two of the athletes (Joe Navilhon and Jake Jefferies) have had fathers play with or commit to go to Cal State Fullerton. Four of them (A.J Kennedy, Nico Darras, Bryan Conant and Miles Chambers) have learned from coaches that have gone through the Titan baseball program.

Of the 11 high school seniors to sign late Wednesday, six of them were pitchers (five RHP, one LHP), and the other five were position players (a catcher, three infielders and an outfielder).

2012-13 CAL STATE FULLERTON EARLY SIGNING CLASS
Miles Chambers (RHP / 6-2 / 195 / R-R / Rio Linda, Calif. / Rio Linda HS)
Bryan Conant (LHP / 6-3 / 190 / L-L / Alta Loma, Calif. / Alta Loma HS)
Nico Darras (1B-OF / 6-3 / 205 / R-R / Laguna Beach, Calif. / JSerra HS)
Thomas Eschelman (RHP / 6-3 / 190 / R-R / Carlsbad, Calif. / Carlsbad HS)
Justin Garza (RHP / 5-11 / 160 / R-R / Ontario, Calif. / Bonita HS)
Jake Jefferies (INF / 6-1 / 180 / S-R / Pleasanton, Calif. / Foothill HS)
A.J. Kennedy (C / 5-11 / 170 / R-R / Anaheim, Calif. / Savanna HS)
Kyle Murray (RHP / 6-1 / 180 / R-R / La Crescenta, Calif. / Crescenta Valley HS)
Joe Navilhon (RHP / 6-0 / 190 / R-R / Antioch, Calif. / Freedom HS)
David Olmedo-Barrera (INF / 6-0 / 155 / L-R / La Canada, Calif. / St. Francis HS)
Tyrone Taylor (OF / 6-2 / 180 / R-R / Torrance, Calif. / Torrance HS)

Below are small capsules on each player that include a comment from Coach Vanderhook.

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MILES CHAMBERS
RHP / 6-2 / 195 / R-R / Rio Linda, Calif. / Rio Linda HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Miles is a big, strong, right-handed pitcher who fits in the Fullerton mold. He's got two really good pitches with his fastball and slider and we will look for him to be able to contribute immediately."

ABOUT CHAMBERS:
Will be a fourth-year varsity player this season for Head Coach Rich Pierce and the Knights... Was a 2011 All-Capital Valley League honoree... Struck out 49 batters and allowed 37 hits in 40 innings last season... He has a projectable frame with a good slider... Takes pitching lessons from former Cal State Fullerton pitcher Steve Cardona (1995-96).

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BRYAN CONANT
LHP / 6-3 / 190 / L-L / Alta Loma, Calif. / Alta Loma HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Bryan is a big physical left-handed pitcher with a tremendous up-side. He has a plus arm, a good curveball and feel for his change-up. He has three pitches right now and we expect nothing except for him to come in here and get better."

ABOUT CONANT:
Will be a third-year varsity baseball player for the Braves under Head Coach Ted Pursell (outfielder on the 1995 Cal State Fullerton roster) in 2012... He's a late bloomer with a projectable body... Has an above average change up with great command... Was a 2011 All-Baseline League honorable mention.

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NICO DARRAS
1B-OF / 6-3 / 205 / R-R / Laguna Beach, Calif. / JSerra HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Nico is a very physical young man. He's very athletic and is a middle of the order type hitter with light-tower power in his bat. He has the ability to play left field and first base."

ABOUT DARRAS:
Will be a three-year varsity starter for the Lions under Head Coach Brett Kay (catcher with Cal State Fullerton from 1999-2001)... Was an All-Trinity League player in 2011 and led the Lions in RBI and fielding percentage as a first baseman... Will join other JSerra alumni Grahamm Wiest and Clay Williamson on the Titan roster in 2013... Ranks 500th in the country, 116th in the state and 29th at his position among the class of 2012 according to PerfectGame.org.

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THOMAS ESHELMAN
RHP / 6-3 / 190 / R-R / Carlsbad, Calif. / Carlsbad HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Thomas is a complete pitcher with advanced pitch ability. He throws three pitches for strikes and will become more physical on the mound with age."

ABOUT ESHELMAN:
Will be a third-year varsity letterman for the Lancers and Head Coach Chris Greene in 2012... Hit .288 with three home runs and 12 RBI at the plate and was 6-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 63 punch outs in 63 innings on the mound in 2011... He has come on late, has a good presence on the mound and pounds the strike zone...Was an All-Avocado West League honoree in 2011.

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JUSTIN GARZA
RHP / 5-11 / 160 / R-R / Ontario, Calif. / Bonita HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Justin has a chance to be a front-line Friday night pitcher very early in his Cal State Fullerton career. He really has electric stuff and is extremely competitive."

ABOUT GARZA:
Will earn his third varsity letter for the Bearcats under Head Coach John Knott in 2012 ... Was impressive on the mound in 2011, going 13-0 in 13 starts, hurling seven complete games... Posted a minuscule 0.51 ERA in 83 innings while fanning 75...Was the Hacienda League's most valuable player and was an All-CIF selection in 2011... Baseball America said of Garza in Oct. 2011, "[he] has legitimate stuff--he lives at the knees and mixes in a sharp curveball"... He ranks 130th in the country, 31st in the state and 47th at his position among the class of 2012 according to PerfectGame.org... Played for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 Area Code Games.

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JAKE JEFFERIES
INF / 6-1 / 180 / S-R / Pleasanton, Calif. / Foothill HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Jake is a switch-hitting infielder that we think can contribute at all three of the infield positions. He can flat-out hit, has a very good knowledge of how to play baseball and will fit perfectly into our program. The best way to describe him... he's a baseball player."

ABOUT JEFFERIES:
Comes from good baseball pedigree... His father, Gregg, was a two-time major league All-Star over 14 season with six major league teams. Gregg signed a letter of intent to attend Cal State Fullerton before becoming a first-round pick by the New York Mets in 1985... Played for the Oakland A's in the 2011 Area Code Games... Was a two-sport (football and baseball) athlete before this past summer... Hit .347 with 26 hits, 9 doubles and 20 RBI in 2011 for Head Coach Angelo Scavone and the Falcons of the East Bay League.

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A.J. KENNEDY
C / 5-11 / 170 / R-R / Anaheim, Calif. / Savanna HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"A.J. is a solid defensive catcher who possesses the tools to come in and contribute right away. His catching skills are comparable to former Titan national championship catchers Brian Loyd and Kurt Suzuki."

ABOUT KENNEDY:
Will be a four-year starter behind the dish for the Rebels under Head Coach Rick Parmenter (right-handed pitcher on the 1996 Cal State Fullerton roster) in 2012... Played for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 Area Code Games... Is a three-time All-Orange league honoree... Was the Orange League's Most Valuable player and an All-CIF Southern Section player in 2010... Has averaged .405, 34 H, 27 RBI, 10 2B, 3 HR and only 6 K over the past two seasons... He ranks 286th in the country, 54th in the state and 29th at his position among the class of 2012 according to PerfectGame.org.

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KYLE MURRAY
RHP / 6-1 / 180 / R-R / La Crescenta, Calif. / Crescenta Valley HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Kyle is a right-handed pitcher that has an outstanding curveball that he can and will throw at any time. He's a tremendous competitor who attacks the zone with three quality pitches."

ABOUT MURRAY:
Will play his second season at the varsity level under Head Coach Phil Torres and the Falcons in 2012. Paired with teammate Elliot Surrey (UC Irvine commit), led the Falcons to a 13-2 Pacific League championship and a trip to the CIF postseason in 2011... Was 5-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 73 strikeouts in just over 50 innings... Was named an All-Pacific League second teamer and first-team all-area in 2011.

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JOE NAVILHON
RHP / 6-0 / 190 / R-R / Antioch, Calif. / Freedom HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Joe is a physical right-handed pitcher and is a Titan in every way. He has a really good arm and a really good slider and we are looking for great things from him in the future."

ABOUT NAVILHON:
Comes from solid Titan lineage... His father, Larry, was a pitcher for the 1979 and 1980 Titans, combining for a career 18-2 record while helping the Titans to their first national championship in 1979... Will be playing his fourth season at the varsity level for the Falcons under Head Coach Gary Alexander.... Hit .302 with 16 RBI at the plate, and was 4-5 with a 1.80 ERA in 62.1 IP on the mound in 2011. Was an All-Bay Valley League and All-CIF selection in 2011... Played for the Oakland A's in the 2011 Area Code Games.

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DAVID OLMEDO-BARRERA
INF / 6-0 / 155 / L-R / La Canada, Calif. / St. Francis HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"David is a left-handed hitting third baseman who I compare to [former Titan and major leaguer] Mike Lamb. He has the same-type of swing and approach. He's very quiet, but he's a very polished and advanced hitter."

ABOUT OLMEDO-BARRERA:
Is a two-time Star News All-Area and All-Mission League selection for the Golden Knights and Head Coach Brian Esquival... Finished his junior campaign by batting .415 with 11 doubles, 19 RBI and and 11 stolen bases.

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TYRONE TAYLOR
OF / 6-2 / 180 / R-R / Torrance, Calif. / Torrance HS

WHAT HOOK HAS TO SAY:
"Tyrone is probably one of the most athletic players that we have recruited to come to Cal State Fullerton since Dante Powell. He is extremely talented with great instincts in the outfield."

ABOUT TAYLOR:
Is a potential high-round draft pick out of high school... Is an extremely valuable defensive asset to have in the outfield... Will earn his third varsity baseball letter in 2012 for the Tartars and Head Coach Ollie Turner in 2012... Hit .473 with 52 hits, six home runs, 26 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 2011... Was named the Pioneer League's most valuable player and was an All-CIF selection in 2011... Was named the Daily Breeze's player of the year in 2011... Is a two-sport athlete for the Tartars - as of Nov. 9, 2011, he has rushed for over 1,200 yards with 16 touchdowns in nine games... Ranks 147th in the country, 35th in the state and 32nd at his position among the class of 2012 according to PerfectGame.org... Played for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 Area Code Games.