HOUSTON - The Rice baseball program has signed eleven high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2016 season, head coach Wayne Graham announced on Tuesday (Nov. 18).
The list of newest Owls includes: Dominic DiCaprio, Zachary Esquivel, Kendal Jefferies, Gavin Johnson, Jackson Parthasarathy, Jay Proctor, Braden Rollins, Brent Schwarz, Jacob Simon, Cody Staab, and Lucas Wakamatsu. The group consists of four pitchers, two catchers, two infielders, an outfielder and two multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and/or position player/hitter. All are from the high school ranks. Eight are from Texas and two are from the greater Houston area.
Coach Graham had high praise for the group that is as talented as it is young. After 23 seasons at the helm of the Owl program, Graham has long had an eye for athleticism and quality arms. The head coach also specifically acknowledged the work of his assistant coaches, Patrick Hallmark and Clay Van Hook, for their roles in what could prove to be one of the nation's top recruiting classes.
"Coach Hallmark and coach Van Hook have done a great job in assembling a recruiting class that answers our immediate, and long-term, needs," coach Graham said. "Their effort reflects their great ability and sophistication in seeking out top recruits and pointing out the advantages of being a baseball student-athlete at Rice."
Dominic DiCaprio is a second team PerfectGame All-America catcher from Coral Springs, Fla., who is ranked as the No. 160 prep player in the country. The 6-foot, 200-pound, backstop served as a team captain during his junior year at Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., where he helped lead the Eagles to a final eight finish in the state tournament. DiCaprio hit .360 with six home runs and 64 RBI, but also graded out as one of the best defensive receivers in the baseball-rich state. He played select ball for Elite Squad Prime, and in 2011 he was a member of the a gold medal-winning United States national age-group team to represent the country in a tournament in Venezuela. Academically DiCaprio has maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout his high school career.
Second team all-Greater Houston and first team all-District 23-5A honoree Zachary Esquivel is a right-handed pitcher from League City, Texas, who plays at Clear Creek High School. The Wildcat's ace led the team to a 28-9 record and to the quarterfinal round of the 5A state tournament after going undefeated in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Esquivel is a three-time selection to the Under Armour Preseason All-American Tournament and invited to participate in the 2014 U-17 Team USA National Team Identification Series (NTIS). At Clear Creek Esquivel is ranked 19th in his class of 533, and he is a Member of National Technical Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society.
Versatile Klein High School standout Kendal Jefferies is an infielder and right-handed pitcher. PerfectGame named the Spring, Texas, native as an honorable mention high school all-America, the No. 9 prep shortstop in the state, and one of the nation's best 500 overall players. Jefferies is the returning team MVP for his dual hitting/pitching role, but his versatile athleticism is not limited to the baseball diamond. He was also a first team all-District 13-5A selection and three-year letterman for the Bearkats' football team. Jefferies is also an Academic all-district honoree and member of the National Honor Society.
Catcher Gavin Johnson earned first team Louisville Slugger high school all-America honors as a junior at O'Connor High School in San Antonio. The 6-foot, 185-pound, receiver hit .485 with 24 doubles and 46 RBI on the way to all-state accolades. Johnson was a member of the 2014 Washington Nationals Area Code Team who PerfectGame rated as the No. 17 prep catcher in the state. An off-season player for the Texas Sun Devils, Johnson is also a member of the National Honor Society and the O'Connor Academic Honor Roll.
Jackson Parthasarathy is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound, right-handed pitcher from Austin's Lake Travis High School. He is a third team PerfectGame All-America, one of the Top 500 players in the nation, and the No. 23 ranked right-handed pitcher in the state. He was the most valuable player of the SunBelt Classic Tournament last summer who plays select ball for the Austin Banditos. Academically Parthasarathy is ranked in the Top 7 percent of his class with a 4.1 grade point average and an AP Scholar with Honors.
Middle infielder Ford Proctor throws right and bats from the left side at Monsignor Kelly High School in Beaumont. He hit .482 with five home runs as a junior to earn first team all-state honors and selection to the Texas Ranger Area Code Team. In addition to participating in the 2014 Texas Scouts Association All-Star game, PerfectGame had Proctor rated as one of the nation's top 500 high school seniors and the No. 7 shortstop in the state. He played select ball for the Texas Sun Devils. In the classroom Proctor is an outstanding student who was named to the National Honor Society.
Lake Mary High School (Florida) star Braden Rollins is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound, right-handed pitcher and outfielder who went 4-1 on the mound and hit .351 on the way to being named a second team prep all-America. Rollins' all-America honors carried a little more weight as he was actually selected to play for the United States national team in an international age-group tournament held in the Czech Republic. He is veteran club player for FTB Chandler. Academically Rollins is a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society.
Brent Schwarz joins Rice from Aurora, Colorado, where he can to continue his collegiate playing career at a more pitcher-friendly the altitude. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound, right-hander was named the top high school pitcher in the state, and the No. 4 player overall, by Prep Baseball Report. He went 7-1 as a junior at Regis Jesuit HS where he led the Raiders to the state championship. Schwarz was a member of the Cincinnati Reds Area Code Team and a select team player for Chandler World Baseball. He was the recipient of the Aurora Scholar, an honor presented annually by the city's mayor to just one high school student who distinguishes themselves for academic achievement and community service.
Jacob Simon is the third Galveston Ball High School standout to join the squad in the last two years (along with current Owls Austin and Nick Orewiler). The 6-foot-2, 175-pound, Simon is the lone left-handed pitcher in the signing class. He earned first team all-county after finishing his junior season with 1.86 ERA. The southpaw is a three-year baseball letterman who participated in the 2014 Texas Scouts Association All-Star Game. When not playing summer league baseball for Kyle Chapman, Simon is also an all-district quarterback for the Tors' football team who led 23-5A in passing yards.
Left-handed hitting Cody Staab is a PerfectGame Honorable Mention All-America outfielder at College Station High School in College Station, Texas. He is the No. 21 ranked outfielder in the state who led CSHS to the 3A UIL state championship. In addition to participating in the 2014 Texas Scouts Association All-Star Game, Staab is a three-year member of the Chicago White Sox Area Code Team and was selection to the Oakley All-America All-Tournament team. He plays select ball for D-BAT Mustangs and is a four-year member of the Academic Honor Roll.
Infielder Lucas Wakamatsu is a talented 6-foot-3 switch-hitter who earned third team All-America honors at Keller High School in Keller, Texas. Rated as the No. 72 player in the country, and the No. 2 shortstop in the state, Wakamatsu played in the PerfectGame All-American Classic and the 2014 Texas Scouts Association All-Star Game. His ability to switch-hit sometimes overshadows his polished defensive skills. Lucas' father (Don) is a former major league manager who in 2014 served as a bench coach for the American League Champion Kansas City Royals. This past summer Lucas was selected to the Texas Rangers Area Code Team as well as help his D-BAT select team win the Connie Mack World Series.
Coach Graham has led Rice baseball to 20-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and 19-straight conference championships - including titles that were won in the regular season and/or conference tournament. The Blue & Gray won both the Conference USA regular season and tournament championships in 2014.
The 2015 Owls return five offensive starters in the batting order and six veteran pitchers who helped lead last year's squad to a 42-20 overall record. Rice opens the 2015 regular season at home against longtime rival Texas with a four-game weekend series at Reckling Park on Feb. 13-15.
2014 Rice Baseball Signing Class (to enroll in the Fall of 2015 for 2016 baseball season)
|Name||Pos.||B/T||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown (Previous School)||Dominic DiCaprio||C||R/R||6-0||200||Coral Springs, Fla. (Stoneman Douglas HS)||Zach Esquivel||RHP||R/R||5-10||170||League City, Texas (Clear Creek HS)||Kendal Jefferies||Inf/Rhp||R/R||5-11||180||Spring, Texas (Klein HS)||Gavin Johnson||C||L/R||6-0||185||San Antonio, Texas (O'Connor HS)||Jackson Parthasarathy||Rhp||R/R||6-3||200||Austin, Texas (Lake Travis HS)||Ford Proctor||Inf||L/R||6-0||190||Beaumont, Texas (Monsignor Kelly HS)||Braden Rollins||Rhp/OF||R/R||6-4||200||Lake Mary, Fla. (Lake Mary HS)||Brent Schwarz||Rhp||R/R||6-3||215||Aurora, Col. (Regis Jesuit HS)||Jacob Simon||Lhp||L/L||6-2||175||Galveston, Texas (Ball HS)||Cody Staab||Of||L/L||5-10||170||College Station, Texas (College Station HS)||Lucas Wakamatsu||Inf||S/R||6-3||185||Keller, Texas (Keller HS)|