After taking heavy losses in the 2012 MLB amateur draft, the Stetson baseball program continued to restock the program with talent by signing eight players to letters of intent during the fall early signing period.
The eight players, who will join the program in the fall of 2013, include four pitchers, two outfielders, a shortstop and a utility player. Seven of the eight come from top high school programs while the other comes from one of the best junior college teams in the nation.
“With only a limited number of spots available on the squad for 2014, we focused our efforts on quality over quantity,” Hatters head coach Pete Dunn said. “We targeted a number of high quality pitchers as well as players to fill specific needs and were able to connect with several who we believe will have outstanding college careers.
“It is truly a credit to our coaching staff – Associate Head Coach Mark Leavitt and assistant coaches Chris Roberts and Brian Pruitt – and their efforts that we were able to bring in such a high quality class of signees.”
Seven of the eight players in the signing class are from Florida. The lone out of state player is outfielder Jordan Schulz, who hails from Saskatchewan, Canada. Schulz was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team that squared off with the Hatters in an exhibition game in October.
The other members of the signing class are right-handed pitcher Taylor Cockrell of Lake Wales, outfielder Dalton Eckstein of North Redington Beach, right-handed pitcher Griffin Fuller of DeBary, left-handed pitcher Tyler Keller of Pompano Beach, right-handed pitcher Trey Norris of Frostproof, shortstop Mitch Piatnik of Winter Haven and utility player Eliot Shapleigh of Oviedo.
Here is a look at each of the newest Hatters’ accomplishments.
Taylor Cockrell – 6-2, 175
RHP – Lake Wales, Fla.
Cockrell has played almost every position on the field during his prep career at Lake Wales HS, but he projects as a starting pitcher in college. As a junior last spring he posted a 9-2 record with a 0.92 ERA and 84 strikeouts while also hitting .341.
“We project Taylor come in and compete for a starting role on the mound as a freshman,” Dunn said. “He is an outstanding student and is very athletic. He has a huge upside and is very competitive.”
While Cockrell is expected to push for a spot in the rotation, he may also have a chance to play in the field.
“Taylor also swings the bat and has a chance to be a two way guy,” Dunn said. “He participated in the prestigious East Coast Professional Showcase this past summer in Syracuse, NY. He will impact the program many ways and we are very excited about Taylor joining the Stetson Baseball Family.”
Cockrell, who was born in Germany, helped his team to a district title in 2012 with a 22-8 team record. He chose Stetson over Florida State, Florida, UCF and South Florida.
“Stetson has that small town atmosphere where I can get a great education,” Cockrell said. “It is a great baseball school with a great coaching staff.”
Dalton Eckstein – 5-11, 175
Outfielder – North Redington Beach, Fla.
Eckstein has been a part of successful baseball programs for a number of years. He was on the 14U Florida Dizzy Dean championship team in 2009 and has helped his team at Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg improve each year. While he does see time as a pitcher, he projects as a full-time outfielder for the Hatters.
“Dalton is an exciting player that brings his plus speed to both side of the ball,” Dunn said. “He has run sub 6.6 60-yard dashes and can really go get it in the outfield. He swings the bat from the left side and runs the bases very well.”
Last spring Eckstein hit .311 with a .463 on-base percentage and was 9-of-10 on stolen base attempts. He continued to improve during the fall, hitting .427 with five triples and three doubles.
“Dalton is another great student from Pinellas County,” Dunn said. “We envision him pushing for a starting job while providing depth and speed to our outfield. He will be a great addition to the Stetson baseball family on the field and in the classroom.”
Eckstein chose Stetson over Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina, Duke and Tennessee because of the combination of academic and athletic excellence provided by the Hatters.
“I like the combination of a small college atmosphere and a Division I baseball program where I believe I will have the opportunity to excel,” Eckstein said.
Griffin Fuller – 6-3, 185
RHP – DeBary, Fla.
A local product, Fuller has posted a 17-2 mark on the mound over the last two years while helping Spruce Creek HS to a 49-10 record and a 2012 state title. He was named the Class 8A Player of the Year in 2012 and has been named All-Area by the Daytona Beach News-Journal twice.
“Griffin is a local product who has had an extremely successful high school career and is an amazing student at Spruce Creek,” Dunn said. “He really commands the strike zone with three pitches and competes on the mound.”
Last spring Fuller posted a 9-1 record with a 1.14 ERA and was the winning pitcher for the Hawks in both the district and state title games.
“Griffin has a great pitcher's frame and has a huge upside,” Dunn said. “We project him getting quality innings as a freshman in either a starting role or coming out of the pen. He is another great Volusia County addition to the Hatter program.”
Fuller, who chose Stetson over Florida Atlantic, said he has been a Hatters baseball fan for years.
“Since I live minutes away from Stetson, I've grown up watching the Hatters play,” Fuller said. “I have always been impressed with how the baseball team has been operated. My sister graduated from Stetson and I saw the quality of the education at Stetson. It seems like a great fit for me.”
Tyler Keller – 6-0, 170
LHP – Pompano Beach, Fla.
Keller continues a long line of talented players to join the Stetson baseball program from Palm Beach County. As a left-handed pitcher with a variety of weapons on the mound, he has a chance to be a versatile asset for the Hatters.
“Tyler comes from the prolific Palm Beach County area and is another great student and athlete who brings a lot to the program,” Dunn said. “Tyler has a very good feel for how to pitch with three pitches, is aggressive on the mound and has a very good curveball that will get left handed hitters out right away.”
Keller posted a 4-0 record with two saves as a sophomore in 2011 and posted a 3-2 mark as a junior. In his 11 appearances last spring, he had a 1.87 ERA with 57 strikeouts in just 40.2 innings of work. Over the summer he played for the East Cobb WWB team and hurled a no-hitter against a team from Illinois.
“He projects as a left-hander out of the bullpen with the ability to be a starter as well,” Dunn said. “He is another welcomed left-handed pitcher who will excel in the classroom.”
Keller, who chose Stetson over opportunities from a number of other schools, including FAU, FIU, USF and UCF, said a visit to Stetson last summer greatly influenced his decision.
“My coach, Chad Upson, talked very highly of the baseball program and academics at Stetson,” Keller said. “I visited the campus while on the Diamond Vision Tour and attended one of the baseball showcase camps. After meeting and speaking with Coach Dunn, Coach Leavitt and Coach Roberts, I felt very much at home and was impressed with the campus and baseball facilities.”
Trey Norris – 6-4, 195
RHP – Frostproof, Fla.
The lone junior college signee in the 2014 class, Norris will complete his second season at Polk State College in Winter Haven this spring. Last year, he helped the Eagles to a 46-12 record and a berth in the Junior College World Series in Gran Junction, Colorado.
“Trey comes to Stetson from Polk State College where he has served as the team's closer,” Dunn said. “He helped Polk State to the Juco World Series as a freshman and will step into our bullpen and make a huge impact right away.”
In his first season at Polk State, Norris appeared in 20 games with 33 innings of work. He finished the season with a 1-0 record and had 35 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA. He followed up by posting a 3.08 ERA with 12 saves for the Leesburg Lightening in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.
“Trey is extremely athletic, has a great arm and a plus pitch in his breaking ball,” Dunn said. “He is also a very good student who will represent the baseball program well in the classroom. We are looking forward to getting Trey into the Hatter fold next year.”
At Frostproof High School, Norris was selected to Polk County All-Star team and was named second team All-County. As a senior he posted a 6-4 record with a 1.92 ERA in 65 innings of work with 77 strikeouts. He chose Stetson over offers from South Alabama, Florida Southern, Tampa and South Florida.
“I liked the small town atmosphere, the coaching staff and the tradition of winning for the Stetson baseball program,” Norris said.
Mitchell Piatnik – 5-11, 165
Shortstop – Winter Haven, Fla.
Future Stetson shortstop Mitch Piatnik is from a baseball family. His father won a pair of Division II national championships as a player at Florida Southern and has spent his entire professional career as a Major League scout. It was really no surprise for the Winter Haven product to choose Stetson for his college playing career.
“Mitchell has the strong potential of being our shortstop of the future,” Dunn said. “He is a very good athlete with plus speed, plus arm strength, quick feet, very good actions in the field, advanced instincts for the game, is a switch hitter and is extremely competitive.”
Those skills have been honed at Winter Haven HS where he has been the Blue Devils’ starting shortstop for the past three years. As a junior he batted .374 with nine doubles and 10 RBI, helping the team to a second straight district title.
“Mitch is another very good student from Polk County who also has blood lines to college baseball in Florida and the professional ranks,” Dunn said. “His father, Mike, was a standout shortstop in his own right and currently works for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mitch will make an immediate impact on the middle of our infield defense and lineup.”
Piatnik chose Stetson over Florida State, UCF and FAU for multiple reasons.
“Stetson is a perfect fit for me and they have a great baseball program,” Piatnik said. “I also want to major in Sport Management because I want to do something for a living that has to do with sports.”
Jordan Schulz – 6-2, 190
Outfielder – Strasbourg, Saskatchewan
Schulz didn’t have a great experience the first time he played at Stetson’s Melching Field. In an exhibition game against the Hatters in Ocotber, Schulz was hitless as the Hatters defeated his Canadian Junior National Team 10-3. But that experience didn’t dampen his excitement about calling Stetson his college home.
Schulz is a left-handed hitting outfielder with extensive international experience that has come from his time on the Canadian Junior National Team.
"Jordan will impact our lineup and outfield defense right away as a freshman,” Dunn said. “He is very athletic, runs well, tracks balls in the outfield well, has power from the left side with a quick bat. Most of all, he plays the game hard.”
His athleticism has not been limited to the baseball diamond. In addition to his baseball accomplishments, he has also played basketball, volleyball, track, badminton and curling at the William Derby School in Saskatchewan.
His list of baseball accomplishments is extensive, including earning MVP honors for the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League in 2012. He has traveled to places like Italy and the Dominican Republic with the Junior National Team but also found time to pile up a number of first place finishes in track in events like the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, long jump and triple jump.
“Jordan is also very accomplished in the classroom, and currently carries a 4.0 GPA,” Dunn said. “We project him to be a potential middle of the order hitter who can play all three outfield positions. He is a great addition to the Stetson Baseball Family from North of the Border.”
Schulz chose Stetson over schools like Texas State, Illinois State, Kentucky and Nebraska.
“I like the warm climate and the size of University,” Schulz said. “There are great coaches, excellent facilities, a competitive and successful team and good success record of players moving onto the next level.”
Eliot Shapleigh – 6-1, 175
Utility Player – Oviedo, Fla.
Shapleigh is no stranger to being used in whatever role best serves his team. At Trinity Prepartory School in Maitland, he has served as an outfielder, pitcher and first baseman on the baseball team as well as quarterback and defensive back on the football team. A left-hander, he could find himself playing in multiple roles for the Hatters as well.
“Eliot is a very good student, is extremely athletic, has a really good swing from the left side,” Dunn said. “He runs well, has a better than average arm and is a hard worker. We see Eliot using his versatility to fight for a starting job while adding depth to the entire field. He is going to be a positive influence in all facets here at Stetson and we look forward to having him in the program.”
Shapleigh helped Trinity Prep to a 24-5 record last spring with a .362 batting average and a 2.84 ERA. For his prep career he has hit .365 with 112 RBI.
In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Shapleigh has earned a Stetson University Presidential Scholarship. Once he gets to Stetson, he plans to major in Pre-Law with an eye toward attending Stetson Law School. He chose Stetson over schools like Duke, Georgetown, Davidson, Furman and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“Stetson was the perfect fit for me,” Shapleigh said. “ It has a great, competitive baseball program in Florida with a small town atmosphere and a very good academic reputation.”