JONESBORO, Ark. (9/20/23) – Ahead of the 2024 season, the Arkansas State baseball team added 20 newcomers, head coach Tommy Raffo announced Wednesday.
The class includes five Division-I transfers, five freshmen and 10 junior college transfers. Four of the five incoming freshmen signed during the fall signing period.
“I would like to commend recruiting coordinator Drew LaBounty for the hard work, time and effort he dedicated to signing our 2023-24 recruiting class,” Raffo said. “Drew has done a wonderful job of blending high school and junior college players with the transfer portal for our incoming class of players. Our primary focus was solidifying our catching, shortstop and pitching, along with left-handed bats. It is a great blend of youth and D-1 experience, and we are excited for their potential and the future for Arkansas State Baseball.”
Eleven different states are represented in the class, as well as two countries – Canada and The Netherlands.
Bios on A-State’s newcomer class are below.
JACKSON DOWNING | RHP | KANSAS CITY, MO. | LIBERTY NORTH HS
Jackson Downing joins A-State as one of the top right-handed pitchers in the state of Missouri, hailing from the Kansas City area and Liberty North High School. The 6-1 righty helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back state titles and a top-20 national ranking in 2022. Boasting a three-pitch mix, Perfect Game ranks him as the seventh-best righty in Missouri and one of the top 500 high school prospects nationally. Downing is also a two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American Central Region Honorable Mention selection and plays club baseball in the Kansas City Royals Scout Team program.
LaBOUNTY ON DOWNING: “Jackson, from Liberty North High School in Kansas City, Missouri, is a right-handed pitcher that has the ability to play a big role for us as a freshman. He has good feel for three pitches and competes in the zone. Jackson has the makings to be a starter in the Sun Belt for years to come.”
BLAINE HARPENAU | RHP | REMSEN, IOWA | KIRKWOOD CC
Blaine Harpenau comes to Jonesboro after a standout two-year career at Kirkwood Community College. In his two seasons, he totaled 96 strikeouts across 88 2/3 innings pitched, owning a 10-6 record. He started 18 times in 21 appearances, and in 2022, owned a 10.31 K/9 ratio with a 6-3 ledger.
LaBOUNTY ON HARPENAU: “Blaine comes to us from Kirkwood, one of the best D-II junior colleges in the country. He has shown the ability to be a starter in junior college, and we anticipate him playing a big role for us in that same capacity.”
JOHN HARRICK | RHP | OVERLAND PARK, KAN. | JOHNSON COUNTY CC
John Harrick, a shutdown reliever out of Johnson County Community College, held opposing batters to an average of just .038 last season. He appeared in nine games in relief, striking out 16 batters in eight innings, allowing just one hit.
LaBOUNTY ON HARRICK: “John threw some really good innings in relief for Johnson County last year. He has two quality pitches in his fastball and curveball, and when he is able to throw both for strikes, he is able to get a lot of guys out.”
NYAN HAYES | INF/OF | R/R | NEW ORLEANS, LA. | HOWARD COLLEGE
Nyan Hayes is a versatile player who can play multiple positions. In two seasons at Howard College in Texas, Hayes boasts a career slash line of .356/.601/.497 with 11 home runs, 51 RBIs, 88 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. In 2023, he batted .413 and slugged .690, while getting on base at a .534 clip, garnering Honorable Mention all-conference honors. He tallied 76 hits, including 30 for extra bases, along with 59 runs and 40 driven in.
LaBOUNTY ON HAYES: “Nyan is a really athletic player who can play in the middle of the field. He has tremendous bat-to-ball skills and developing power. His speed is the separator – he shows the ability to track down the baseball as well as steal bases.”
DYLAN HEINE | RHP | HADDONFIELD, N.J. | RIDER
Tall right-handed pitcher Dylan Heine joins the Red Wolves after four seasons at Rider University, where he played a key role in helping the Broncs reach the NCAA Tournament in 2023. He drew 14 starts last season, striking out 48 and walking 19 in 68 2/3 innings, while hurling four quality starts. In 2022, he struck out 17 in 21 innings and had three shutout outings.
LaBOUNTY ON HEINE: “Dylan has pitched in a lot of big games. He comes to us with experience and the ability to throw three pitches for strikes whenever he wants. Dylan will play a big role for us in our rotation this year.”
JAYDEN HILL | OF | S/R | FRISCO, TEXAS | VERNON COLLEGE
Switch-hitting outfielder Jayden Hill brings a blend of power and speed to the class, having hit 16 homers and stealing 20 of 22 stolen bases in two seasons at Vernon College. The son of former NFL running back Greg Hill, Hill slashed .313/.566/.408 with nine round trippers and 54 RBIs. He added 15 doubles and two triples as part of his 57-hit season, scoring 47 runs. Hill was rated as one of the best players in the state of Texas out of high school and top 500 nationally.
LaBOUNTY ON HILL: “Jayden is a gifted athlete who can play anywhere in the outfield. He has the potential to hit for average as well as power. He looks to play a big role for us in the outfield and hit in the middle of the order.”
AIDAN HOUSEWORTH | INF | L/R | ST. LOUIS, MO. | CHAMINADE HS
Aidan Houseworth is a power-hitting middle infielder from St. Louis who was ranked by Perfect Game as one of the top 500 players nationally. Before battling injury as a senior, Houseworth owned an OPS of .950 or better as both a sophomore and junior. He was a first team all-conference pick as a sophomore, and played club baseball for St. Louis Gamers Baseball, coached by former A-State standout pitcher Matt Whiteside.
LaBOUNTY ON HOUSEWORTH: “Aidan is a left-handed-hitting middle infielder from St. Louis, Missouri, and Chaminade High school. He has the ability to be an impact player in the middle of the infield for us as soon as he steps on campus. Aidan has elite bat-to-ball skills and projects as a middle-of-the-order-type player.”
AUSTEN JASLOVE | INF | R/R | KNOXVILLE, TENN. | TENNESSEE
Austen Jaslove joins the Red Wolves after two seasons at Tennessee, where he appeared in 24 games with 12 starts in 2023. Jaslove drove in eight runs for the Volunteers in 2023, doubling twice. Prior to his stint on Rocky Top, Jaslove was a two-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American out of high school, helping lead Christian Academy of Knoxville to three consecutive state titles from 2017-19 and 110 victories in that span.
LaBOUNTY ON JASLOVE: “Austen is a really athletic middle infielder who comes to us from Tennessee. He possesses all five tools on the baseball field, and will play a big role. We’re looking forward to him hitting in the middle of our lineup.”
COLLIN MALONEY | RHP | R/R | ST. LOUIS, MO. | MEHLVILLE HS
Three-time all-conference selection Collin Maloney signed with the Red Wolves in the fall and was one of the state of Missouri’s top prep arms. As a senior, Maloney went 8-2 with a 1.66 ERA while striking out 89 batters and holding opposing hitters to a .172 clip. As a junior, Maloney went 6-3 and owned an 82/15 strikeout/walk ratio in 55 innings pitched.
LaBOUNTY ON MALONEY: “Collin is a 6-3 right-handed pitcher from St. Louis, Missouri, and is a product of Mehlville High School. He has the potential to come in and be a starter for us early in his career with his ability to go late in games. He has a workhorse mentality and loves to compete.”
JALEN MARTINEZ | OF/LHP | R/L | CLIVE, IOWA | BALL STATE
Two-way player Jalen Martinez joins the Red Wolves after a season at Ball State, where he helped the Cardinals to a MAC title. In 21 games (four starts), Martinez hit .344 with a homer and eight RBIs. He spent a season at Iowa Central Community College before his season in Muncie, hitting .364 with 13 homers, 61 RBIs and 72 runs.
LaBOUNTY ON MARTINEZ: “Jalen is a two-way talent, both in the outfield as well as on the mound. Left-handed pitching was an area we needed improvement, and I believe Jalen can fill that role.”
DEUCE MUSIAL | RHP | R/R | DE PERE, WIS. | NOTRE DAME DE LA BAIE ACADEMY
Tall right-handed pitcher Deuce Musial – a relative of Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial – bolsters A-State’s pitching staff after an all-star senior season in Green Bay. Musial helped Notre Dame De La Baie Academy to a WIAA Division I sectional final as a junior, as well as back-to-back region crowns.
LaBOUNTY ON MUSIAL: “Deuce, from De Pere, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame De La Baie Academy, is a 6-5 right-handed pitcher with a ton of potential. We project Deuce to be a starter for the Red Wolves throughout his career. Deuce has a really good fastball that we believe will be highly effective in this league.”
ELIJAH NICHOLS | INF | MANILA, ARK. | SOUTH ARKANSAS CC
Elijah Nichols returns to Northeast Arkansas after a pair of standout seasons at South Arkansas Community College. This past season in El Dorado, Nichols had a key role in helping his team to its first JUCO World Series in program history. The Manila native belted 15 homers and drove in 73 runs for the Stars, hitting .279 with 41 runs and a .559 slugging percentage.
LaBOUNTY ON NICHOLS: “Elijah had a great year at South Arkansas, and is an athletic third baseman. He has shown power in-game, and has shown the ability to play a high level third base.”
BRYAN PIÑA | RHP | MIAMI, FLA. | BETHUNE-COOKMAN
Bryan Piña is a tall right-handed pitcher who joins the Red Wolves after playing two seasons (2022-23) at Bethune-Cookman. Piña only made one appearance last season, but saw action in nine games out of the bullpen for the Wildcats in 2022. He logged 10 1/3 innings, striking out seven batters and holding opposing hitters to just a .147 mark.
LaBOUNTY ON PIÑA: “Piña has an electric arm with two quality pitches. He can run the fastball up to 94, which should play well in the back end of games. We’re looking forward to having him in our bullpen this year.”
HUDSON ROSS | RHP | R/R | GERMANTOWN, TENN. | MEMPHIS
Towering righty Hudson Ross joins A-State after two seasons at Memphis. The 6-10 Germantown, Tenn., native went 1-0 in 10 appearances in 2023, fanning 16 batters in 12 2/3 innings with an ERA of 5.68. Prior to his stint in Memphis, Ross played two seasons at national JUCO power Walters State Community College.
LaBOUNTY ON ROSS: “Hudson has the ability to make hitters uncomfortable with his size. When you couple that with three quality pitches for strikes, he can be really tough on opposing hitters. He will play a big role on our staff this year.”
HUNTER RYAN | C | R/R | CHANNAHON, ILL. | EASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE COLLEGE
Catcher Hunter Ryan comes to Jonesboro after winning a Gold Glove Award at Eastern Oklahoma State College, where he was coached by A-State assistant Bryan Hodge. He slashed .353/.590/.472 with eight homers and 49 RBIs while drawing 29 walks to 26 strikeouts. On the basepaths, he went 12-for-13 while tallying 55 hits and 38 runs. Behind the plate, Ryan boasted a .987 fielding percentage and threw out 27 base-stealers.
LaBOUNTY ON RYAN: “Hunter is a really good defender behind the plate. He has the ability to stop the running game for opposing teams because he can really throw. He has the potential to make a big impact this year behind the plate and with the bat.”
VINNY SAUMELL | C | S/R | SPRING, TEXAS | SEMINOLE STATE COLLEGE (OKLA.)
Vinny Saumell is a switch-hitting catcher who played two seasons at Seminole State College in Oklahoma, earning all-conference honorable mention accolades for the Banditos. In 2023, Saumell hit. 277 with four homers and 38 RBIs, doubling 12 times and scoring 30 runs. As a freshman, he owned a .310 clip with three home runs and 12 runs driven in.
LaBOUNTY ON SAUMELL: “Vinny is another catcher who can really defend. He can change the game with his ability to receive and steal strikes for our pitchers. You also add that he is a switch-hitter, which brings a different dynamic to our lineup.”
JETT SUTTON | RHP | R/R | MARION, ARK. | MARION HS
Local standout pitcher Jett Sutton joins the Red Wolves after a solid prep career at Marion High School. Sutton was a two-time all-conference performer who played alongside current Red Wolves Daedrick Cail and Chase Armstrong in the Patriots multiple state tournament runs.
LaBOUNTY ON SUTTON: “Jett is a freshman with tremendous upside and the ability to throw a lot of strikes. He possesses three quality pitches and we anticipate him being the rotation in the near future.”
CADE TUCKER | INF | L/R | KRUM, TEXAS | NORTHERN OKLAHOMA COLLEGE-TONKAWA
Cade Tucker comes to A-State after a stellar season at Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa. The Krum, Texas, native slashed .386/.700/.488 while driving in 80 runs and powering 11 home runs.
LaBOUNTY ON TUCKER: “Cade has the ability to change a game with one swing of that bat with his power potential. Also, being a left-handed hitter adds a different look for lineup. I see Cade playing a big role for us the year.”
KOLE TURNER | RHP | WHITE ROCK, B.C., CANADA | THREE RIVERS COLLEGE
Kole Turner joins A-State after a pair of solid seasons at Three Rivers College. The Canadian righty made 15 appearances in 2023, drawing five starts and owning a 3-2 record with two saves. He hurled 43 innings, striking out 53 and walking just 13 batters.
LaBOUNTY ON TURNER: “Kole has had experience both as a starter and reliever at the junior college level. He has the ability to throw three quality pitches for strikes in any count. Kole has the makeup and stuff to be a front-line starter in the Sun Belt Conference.”
JELLE VAN DER LELIE | RHP | LEIDEN, SOUTH HOLLAND, THE NETHERLANDS | HILL COLLEGE
Jelle van der Lelie brings international experience to Jonesboro, hailing from The Netherlands, and spent the last two seasons at Hill College in Texas. The right hander went 7-4 with a 4.68 ERA across 14 relief appearances, striking out 67 batters in 65 1/3 innings. In 2022, van der Lelie went 3-1 in nine appearances, striking out 26 in 22 innings pitched.
LaBOUNTY ON VAN DER LELIE: “Jelle is another potential starter in the rotation this year. He can throw any pitch in any count which makes him very unpredictable for opposing offenses. Jelle should play a big role in our rotation.”
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A-State Baseball Welcomes 20 Newcomers for 2024 Season. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council