Davis adds nationally-ranked class for 2018

BEAUMONT – Made up of five area high school players, Lamar University Baseball head coach Will Davis inked a class of 17 for the 2018 season that ranks as one of the best in the country, the program announced Thursday. The group added was signed during the early signing period.

“I really wanted to make this my first big, true freshman class, and I certainly think we’ve done that with 11 quality guys that we can build a future with. We also felt like we needed to supplement that with some talented, experienced arms, and we’ve done that as well,” said Davis, who opens his first season at the helm on February 17.

“All 11 of our high school guys are either from the Southeast Texas or Houston areas,” he added. “We all know that our area and Houston are very fertile grounds for baseball.”

According to Perfect Game, Lamar’s high school class ranks 80th in the nation and is the top class in the Southland Conference, and the only league program added to the PG Top 100. Its class sits one spot behind a national power in Rice and ahead of nearby Houston.

“Of course you have to win games when they get here, but recruiting great talent is a great way to start,” said Davis. “I learned early on that Lamar is a place you can recruit a Top 100 class and be at the top of the league. Because we have that ability, we want to maximize it. We’ve started to do that and I think it will only get better with this momentum going.”

Davis and staff signed three athletes from the Midcounty Madness rivalry, including both Brendan Dunkleberger and Chase Kemp of Nederland and Logan LeJeune of Port Neches-Groves

Dunkleberger, a 6-3 right-handed pitcher, was twice named to a Perfect Game All-American team, both with his 17U and 16U teams. With the Bulldogs, he was voted all-district during his junior season as a pitcher. He was named All-District 22-5A his freshman year and was the Newcomer of the Year.

Kemp, 6-1 a first baseman and left-handed pitcher, was the District 22-5A Hitter of the Year last season. He’s a three-time all-District first baseman and was also an all-district pitcher in 2016.

PNG product Logan LeJeune joined those two and will come in as a District 22-5A champion and first-team all-district second baseman last season. He’s helped his Indians to back-to-back district championships, looking for a third in his final campaign. The outfielder was listed as a first-team all-district utility player in 2015. LeJeune is also a football standout.

Chase Partian, a 6-3 pitcher from Silsbee, is a two-time first-team all-district honoree and two different positions, pitcher and utility. He was named all-district honorable mention in his freshman year. With a .429 batting average last year, he led the Tigers to the regional quarterfinals and was a member of the regional finals team his freshman season after a 32-9 campaign.

Chet Jones, a catcher and right-handed pitcher from Kirbyville, hit for a .326 average during his junior year with 33 runs batted in and 16 runs scored, but his performance on the mound overshadowed that with a 7-1 record and a 2.37 earned run average in 11 appearances. He struck out 104 batters. Through his three year career on the hill, he’s recorded a 14-6 record and 2.80 ERA. At the plate he’s hit for a .301 average, but his best is .343 his sophomore year, which led him to being named the offensive MVP.

Rhett McCall, Barbers Hill, is a first-team all-district catcher and district defensive MVP after an outstanding junior season, in which he hit .370. He was also voted All-Greater Houston Area as a third-team member. He was also a third-team district catcher in 2015 after .312 batting average and two long balls. He’s helped his team to the playoffs in each of his seasons as a varsity member, and is an academic all-district honoree as well.

Cole Secrest, an outfielder from The Woodlands, was a first-team all-district performer last season and has led the Highlanders to a 41-27 record as a member of the varsity squad. Born Vincent Cole Secrest, he was also a football letterman and member of the National Honor Society.

Marcus Olivarez was named as a first-team all-district outfielder last season, and is a two-time academic all-district honoree. He signed as an outfielder and right-handed pitcher from Columbus.

Avery George (Humble) is a three-year letterman and was a second-team all-district third baseman, but signed as an outfielder for the Cardinals. The right-handed batter is coached by David Sitton.

Charles Peacock signed as a right-handed pitcher and a three-year letterwinner from Dickinson High School. He and his Gator squad are coached by Chris Cauley.

Tyrese Clayborne, a middle infielder and outfielder from Humble, is a teammate with fellow signee Avery George. Clayborne was mentioned as a Perfect Game 2016 Underclass Honorable Mention honoree. The 5-5 athlete has tremendous speed.

Two junior college signees played in the Texas-New Mexico All-Star Game, Adrian Cook and Erik Key.

Cook, from Coastal Bend College, started 10 games and recorded 2.33 earned run average in 38 2/3 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts. At Victoria HS, Cook was a standout football and baseball player, and was a state finalist on gridiron his senior season. On the diamond, he had 82 total strikeouts in 75 innings of work.

Key had a 2-1 record and a save in 20 1/3 innings at Panola Junior College. His season spanned 14 appearances, in which he finished with 21 strikeouts.

Kristjan Storrie is a Canadian native but was signed out of Galveston as a right-handed pitcher. He notched three saves and a 3-4 record from the bullpen in 21 appearances. In his 21 2/3 innings, he struck out 20 batters.

Jason Blanchard, signed out of McLennan after transferring from Rhode Island. At URI, he made eight appearances with three starts, and recorded 13 punch outs in 13.2 innings of work. He finished his career at Kingwood Park HS with a 17-5 record and a 0.99 ERA under Bruce Cox. The pitcher was a two-time first-team all-district winner selection and was added to the All-Greater Houston list.

Doug Palmer helped Brookhaven to the regional finals as a starter and pitched 54 1/3 innings over a span of 16 games. He finished his season with 68 strikeouts.

Caleb Dean, who is already on campus but must sit out due to transfer rules, joins the Cardinals after a successful stint at Hill College. At Hill, he ranked sixth in the country and topped Texas with 22 home runs and led it to a third place regional finish. At Harker Heights HS, Dean was a two-time first-team all-district pitcher and all-area second baseman. He finished his senior season with a .375 batting average and .534 slugging percentage.

“Recruiting is a team effort, and we put a lot of time and effort into finding this class and hit the road hard,” said Davis.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the job that Scotty Hatten did. He was given the recruiting coordinator title in June and has really run with it,” he added. “With my wife and I having our first child in September, he really picked up the slack. Scotty did a great job identifying talent and getting it on campus.”

In all, the Cardinals signed seven pitchers, four outfielders, a catcher and four dual athletes – which span the infield and behind the plate.