The 2014 PGCBL season is about to get underway and the Elmira Pioneers are primed to give the entire league everything they can handle. “The Pioneers coaching staff is excited about the team we have this year,“ manger Matt Burch said. “This is a talented group of players and we are excited to see how much they can achieve.” Without further ado, here are your 2014 Elmira Pioneers.
A rising junior at Virginia State University, Gunn dominated the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 2014 and will hope to do the same against better competition in the PGCBL. Gunn had an unbelievable season for the VSU Trojans, going 10-1 with a 3.46 ERA and 76 strikeouts against just 23 walks in 78 innings pitched. The 6'3", 185 right-hander also tossed 6 complete games, striking out 10 in three of them, as he proved himself not only overpowering, but also durable. To top it all off, Gunn also often appeared in the Trojans' lineup as their designated hitter and defied the convention of pitchers not hitting as he hit .444 in 53 at-bats. It is the mound, though, where Gunn really shines, and the Pioneers can't wait to have him.
A rising redshirt junior at Northern Illinois, Anthony Ciagno 13 appearances for the Pioneers last year, managing a 4.88 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. The talent is still there for Ciagno to be even better this time around. A 6'0", 180 right-hander, Ciagno was praised by Perfect Game in high school for a high-80's fastball and an excellent feel for a changeup. He also stands out for his athleticism and the way he attacks the strike zone. Ciagno has plenty of potential and will hope to actualize it this season in the PGCBL.
Rising sophomore Derek Deler drilled a homer for a 35-win Florida International team this year, and he will hope to further establish himself at the collegiate level as a member of the Pioneers. Deler drew rave reviews from Perfect Game for his defense at shortstop, with evaluators complementing everything from his actions and arm strength to his instincts and feel for the game. Not an imposing figure at 5'10", 165, Deler still can't be overlooked at the plate thanks to a line drive swing and flashes of power. Deler is the prototypical "grinder" type of player, and with the skills he has on both sides of the ball, he could be a very interesting player for the Pioneers this season.
Austin Von Herbuilis
A formidable 6'7", 220, Austin Von Herbulis played football, baseball, and basketball in high school at Burlington-Edison High School in Washington and excelled at all three. He was a unanimous first-team selection in the Northwest Conference as a tight end, a second-team selection as a pitcher, and set the 2A state tournament record with 27 rebounds in a game. Since arriving at Skagit Valley College, however, Von Herbulis has shown that baseball is his priority. The only junior college player on this year's Elmira squad, Von Herbuilis appeared in 7 games as a pitcher and 9 games as a position player in his freshman season in 2014. He will focus on the mound this season, and hope that focusing on one sport and one position will make everything click for him.
Returning to the Pioneers for a second season is third baseman Taylor Hillson. A rising sophomore at Mansfield University, Hillson generated impressive results in his freshman year, hitting .336 with a .408 on-base percentage and a perfect 10 for 10 in stolen base attempts. He also posted a strong .923 fielding percentage at the hot corner. Playing under his dad, Mountaineers coach Harry Hillson, Hillson was a second-team All Pennsylvania Athletic Conference player, becoming one of just two freshman on the first or second team. He built strongly on his stint with the Pioneers last summer where he hit .268 with a .349 on-base percentage, and he will hope for even better results in his second go-around with the team.
Joining HIllson is rising senior Taylor Skerpon out of Penn State University. Skerpon has delivered solid results at the plate for the Nittany Lions this season, hitting .247 with a .333 on-base percentage. He has ranked second on the team in walks with 22 and third in runs batted in with 17. Where he stood out the most, though, was his defense. Skerpon started 38 games at second base during the regular season, but he also got into 11 contests at shortstop and even 4 at catcher. He played great defense wherever his team put him, managing a .975 fielding percentage overall. Skerpon's greatest feat came on May 16th, when he started a 6-4-3 triple play, the second triple play turned by Penn State in that game. Skerpon's versatility will make him a valuable piece of the Elmira roster.
6'0", 190 right-hander Sam Sinnen hit the ground running in his freshman season at Old Dominion, leading all pitchers on the team minimum 7 innings pitched in ERA. He went 1-0 with a 2.22 ERA overall in 15 relief appearances and a lone start, striking out 14 in 24.1 innings pitched. He was able to work around 13 walks by holding batters to just a .218 batting average against and allowing just 1 home run all season. Sinnen is not overpowering, but he keep hitters off-balance through a careful mix of fastballs, breaking balls, and changeups. His arsenal could lend itself towards starting if need be, or he could follow up his season at Old Dominion by becoming the Pioneers' relief ace.
Like many freshman, Old Dominion's Nick Walker began on the bench. However, he didn't stay there for long. Walker played shortstop in high school, but the Monarchs had a need at right field so he began playing there. Before long, he had also added centerfield and left field to his repertoire of positions. Then, in April, he finally went back to the infield for the first time, playing second base. Walker was playing all over the field, and the reason was that Old Dominion had to get his bat in the lineup. By the end of the season, Walker had paced the team in batting average, on-base percentage, stolen bases, and run scored, the latter two categories especially impressive because he started just the 9th-most games on the team. Overall, he hit .319 with 11 doubles, 4 homers, 26 RBI, and 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts in 185 at-bats. He showed excellent plate discipline, drawing 25 walks against 27 strikeouts, and a steady glove in the field, as evidenced by a .973 fielding percentage. He emerged as a catalyst at the top of the Monarchs lineup no matter what position he was playing, and he will hope to the same for the Pioneers in 2014.
Zach Pidgeon helped his high school team to a Class 4A New York State Championship and he has only experienced more success at Ithaca as his team has gone an incredible 67-18. This season, the 6'4", 205 lefty emerged as a dependable pitcher for the Bombers. His most impressive outing featured two innings of no-hit ball, and he also had a 4-inning stint without allowing an earned run and a 3.1-inning appearance allowing just 1 run. Wins have followed Pidgeon everyone that he has gone, and he hopes to make sure that the same is true this summer in Elmira.
Old Dominion freshman Joey Guaragna had just 1 hit for the Monarchs in 2014 but made it count, drilling a 2-run double. He will hope for more clutch hits as he receives a bigger opportunity for the Pioneers this season. Guaragna, a 6'1", 175 outfielder, intrigued Perfect Game with his fluid defense to track down fly balls and his strong arm to throw out runners attempting to advance. At the plate, meanwhile, he is a lefty swinger who has shown power to the gaps with a chance for more. Guaragna's development is just beginning, but he has shown potential and he hopes that Elmira is the place that he starts turning it into results.
Tucker Rekucki struck out a batter per inning in his first two years at Bucknell, but his junior season saw him to his game to another level. The 6'1", 185 right-hander went 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA, an 18-6 strikeout to walk ratio, and 6 saves in 15 appearances and 15 innings pitched. Hitters couldn't do much against Rekucki as he held them to just a .204 batting average and just one extra-base hit the entire season. Rekucki will hope to fill a similar late-inning role for the Pioneers this year and be the pitcher that manager Matt Burch relies upon with the game on the line in the 9th.
Every team wants to have explosive speed at the top of their order, and TJ Dixon has the ability to provide that and more for the Elmira Pioneers. The 5'11" outfielder made an immediate impact in his freshman season at Samford, starting 54 games and hitting .260 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 20 RBI, and 19 stolen bases. He excelled at getting on base, walking 41 times on his way to a .399 on-base percentage. The 41 walks were easily the highest on the team–no one else had even 30. Dixon's combination of speed and plate discipline gave Southern Conference pitchers fits, and he will hope to keep that up in the PGCBL. He also played very well defensively, putting up a .974 fielding percentage with a pair of outfield assists. Dixon projects as a prototypical leadoff man and centerfielder, and the Pioneers are excited to see him show off everything of which he is capable.
When you picture a workhorse starting pitcher, a hurler with a 6'1", 185 frame may not be what comes to mind. However, in his sophomore and junior seasons at Bucknell, that is exactly what Bryson Hough was. In 2014, he went 8-3 with a 4.37 ERA, striking out 43 while walking 21 in 80.1 innings pitched. He tossed 3 complete games and 1 shutout, always doing everything he could to keep his team in games. He did so quite well as his 8 wins led the Bucknell staff. Hough stood out for impressive command and control, walking just 2.4 batters per 9 innings and allowing just 2 home runs all season. The Pioneers will rely on Hough to provide length for them out of the rotation, and there is every reason to believe that more complete games and victories will be on the way.
Last summer, the Elmira Pioneers considered Jeremy Soule a foe as he pitched for the Amsterdam Mohawks in the PGCBL. Now the 6'4", 200 right-hander is set to join the Pioneers' ranks, and they are glad to have him. After a strong sophomore season in 2013 at Fairfield that saw him post a 3.61 ERA, Soule pitched to a 4.26 ERA in 9 appearances and 19 innings pitched for Amsterdam last summer. Then this season, Soule increased his versatility as a pitcher as he alternated between starting and relieving for the first time, starting 4 games and relieving in 13. The move to the bullpen did wonders for his ability to strike hitters out as his strikeouts per 9 innings jumped from 5.0 in two years as a starter to 8.2 last season. The Pioneers will have options as they figure out how to use Soule this season, and he has the ability to succeed as either a starter or reliever.
6'0", 165 right-hander Blake Oyler had a very good freshman season at Transylvania University, going 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 7 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 36.1 innings pitched. Pitching well at the Division I level is a challenge, and Oyler was able to come through. However, Oyler decided to push himself even more, transferring to the University of Kentucky to walk on the baseball team. Oyler successfully made their roster, and he will prepare for his redshirt sophomore season at Kentucky this summer in Elmira. With a great slider and his confidence at an all-time high, Oyler could be primed for a big season.
Entering his freshman season at Siena, Taylor Ahearn was expected to play a little outfield and maybe log a few innings on the mound. As a pitcher, though, Ahearn vastly exceeded expectations, going 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 5 relief appearances, 3 starts, and 19.1 innings pitched. He burst onto the scene in a spot-start on April 4th, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits in 5 innings with 4 strikeouts. However, he saved his best performance for when it mattered most, tossing 5.2 innings on May 25th allowing just a lone run to earn the win as Siena clinched the MAAC championship. Ahearn will hope to get more experience on the mound as a member of the Pioneers, and it will be interesting to see how much time he receives as a position player.
Every team wants a lefty reliever capable of dominance, and Matt Horton could be exactly that for the Elmira Pioneers this season. The 5'10", 185 lefty finished with solid numbers in his sophomore season at Cornell, going 2-3 with a 16-9 strikeout to walk ratio and 1 save in 12 appearances and 18 innings pitched. Those overall numbers are quite misleading, however, because Horton really hit his stride in the middle of the season. After just a 2-7 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 3 appearances, Horton finished with an excellent 14-2 mark in his final 9, and he will hope to take that momentum into his stint with the Pioneers. Perfect Game liked his stuff in the past, praising him for excellent late bite on his fastball and a sharp curveball, and he has what it takes to stifle opposing batters whenever he is brought into games.
In his final at-bat of the season for Wofford University on April 27th, Carrier laced an RBI single. It was only a minor achievement, but Carrier hopes that he has more hits like that in store for him in his time with the Pioneers. Possessing an athletic 6'0", 185 frame and a sweet swing from the left side, Carrier made the first team of both the All-Monroe County and All-Greater Rochester squads. He also showed the ability to win as he led his team to three consecutive division championships. Carrier will receive more playing time in 2014 for the Pioneers and will hope to pad his resume with a few more victories.
Entering the 2011 MLB Draft, Roberto Suppa was a player to watch. Evaluators loved his projectable 6'5", 205 frame, but they were just as enamored with his arsenal. Baseball America praised his low-90's fastball and its excellent sink while Perfect Game lauded the potential of his slider and changeup. Sure enough, Suppa was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round, but he chose to honor his commitment to Cornell instead. Three years later, Suppa is still trying to recapture the potential that he showed out of high school, but this season was major progress. After just a 7.31 ERA in 32 innings in his first two years, Suppa went 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in 3 starts and 3 relief appearances in 2014. On April 2nd, he tossed 4 innings of 1-run ball to earn the win for the Big Red, and he also tossed 2.1 innings of 1-hit ball and 2 strikeouts on April 16th. Suppa hopes more similar results are in store for him this summer. He possesses as much upside as anyone on this year's Elmira team, and everyone involved hopes that this will be his breakout season.
There isn't a tougher conference to pitch in at the collegiate level than the SEC, and that is even more so the case for a freshman. Yet Logan Salow made his mark in his first year at Kentucky, and he hopes to do the same as a member of the Pioneers. A 5'11" lefty Salow had an impressive 23-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 25 innings pitched, and even came away with an SEC Player of the Week Award. His stuff suggests that even more success will be ahead. Salow attacks hitters with a fastball that touches 90 MPH with good movement, but it may not even be his best pitch. That title goes to his slider, which hits the high-70's with dynamic late break. He also mixes in a curveball. Even though he is in just the first year of his collegiate career, Salow knows how to miss bats, and the Pioneers are expecting plenty of strikeouts from him this summer.
After two years at East Stroudsburg, John Armbrust is still hoping to establish himself. In the meantime, Armbrust has learned to do everything he can to help his team in limited action. This season for ESU, Armbrust hit just .200 in 50 at-bats, but he had 5 RBI among those 10 hits and also drew 6 walks. He also was successful on all three of his stolen base attempts. Most important, though, was Armbrust's increased versatility. He can play both middle infield positions, the outfield, and even pitch a little bit, and he has proven himself capable defensively wherever he goes. He will hope that his flexibility in the field will be his ticket to playing time with the Pioneers this season.
At 6'7", 235, Brandon Holup has an imposing figure on the mound, but his results from his sophomore season at East Stroudsburg would be impressive at any height. Holup went 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA in 7 starts, 4 relief appearances, and 49.1 innings pitched, tossing 3 complete games and 2 shutouts. Not a power pitcher, Holup struck out only 29 (5.3 strikeouts per 9 innings), but he did an excellent job mixing his fastball, slider, and changeup to cause weak contact when the opposition put the ball in play. Holup's .232 average against was best among all East Stroudsburg starters who threw at least 16 innings pitched. Considering how well he pitched to contact, it is no surprise that he got deep into games. Holup projects as an innings-eating starting pitcher for the Pioneers, and they are hoping that he finishes the year with another few complete games.
Mangers hope it never happens, but often starting pitchers are knocked out of games early and teams are forced to piece together the rest of the contest through relievers. In that situation, it is important to have a dependable long reliever that can save the rest of the bullpen and just maybe give the team a chance to come back. The 2014 Pioneers appear to have one such pitcher in Brandon Diorio. A 5'10", 180 right-hander, Diorio averaged nearly 3 innings in his 7 relief appearances in his sophomore season at Ithaca, easily the highest total among pure relievers on the team. On three different occasions, Diorio topped 3 innings pitched, and he allowed just 1 earned run in two of those games. For his efforts, Diorio earned a pair of wins and also a save, and he will look forward to helping the Pioneers get back into games as well.
The son of Pioneers hitting coach Brian Hill, Austin Hill will take the field for his second season in Elmira in preparation for his first year at Ithaca College next season. In 2013 at Corning Community College, Hill appeared both as a pitcher and a hitter and prompted optimism in both roles. At the plate, he hit .239, fifth on the team minimum 15 at-bats, with 2 doubles, 5 RBI, and an outstanding .370 on-base percentage. On the mound, meanwhile, he tossed 13 innings across 5 appearances and struck out 12, just under a batter per inning. Overall, Hill played pitcher, catcher, and both middle infield positions for Corning. Hill appeared exclusively as a pitcher in 6 games for the Pioneers in 2013, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in this time around.
After a strong summer in 2013 as a member of the Pioneers, 6'0", 220 lefty Zach Bican emerged as a regular starter for Pitt-Bradford in his sophomore season. In Elmira, Bican had a 2.70 ERA in 5 relief appearances, striking out 5 while walking 2. Then for Pitt-Bradford, Bican made six starts plus a relief appearance and posted an impressive 4-1 record. He threw 33.2 innings, just under 5 innings per game, and struck out 24 batters. He ranked second on the team in innings pitched and games started while tying for third in wins. Success on the mound is nothing new for Bican, who opened his 2012 high school season with a no-hitter, striking out 11 over seven innings of dominance. Bican aims to keep winning games as he returns to the PGCBL.
The Pioneers are excited to have Chris Kalousdian, their leading hitter for 2013, back in the fold for this season. PGCBL pitchers were in trouble when Kalousdian came to the plate last year as he hit .376 with 19 doubles, 2 homers, and 32 RBI in 170 at-bats. He showed incredible plate discipline, drawing 17 walks against 13 strikeouts on his way to a .438 on-base percentage. Then he also wreaked havoc once he got aboard, stealing 12 bases in 16 attempts. Kalousdian led the Pioneers in a multitude of categories including batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, RBI, and stolen bases. Kalousdian had a season for the ages, and he followed it up with a strong junior year at Manhattan, hitting .285 with 23 stolen bases in 27 tries. Kalousdian has proved himself a game-changing player through his line drive swing, excellent speed, patience at the plate, and strong defensive ability. While following up his 2013 may be a little too much to ask, Kalousdian will be a critical player again for the Pioneers this season.
Starting pitching and relief pitching are both critical pieces of a team's success. Some hurlers are better suited for one than the other. For Manhattan College freshman Matt Simonetti, he will hope to return to starting games at some point, but it was in the bullpen that he found his calling. After a rough start to the season, the 6'1", 195 right-hander began pitching in shorter stints and improved significantly. His strikeout to walk ratio went from 3-9 all the way to 9-5 and he delivered 9 different scoreless outings. He even registered a save. His fastball velocity hit the low-90's as he could put in higher effort on every pitch, and he also saw his slider become more effective. That is a formula that could help him continue to succeed moving forward in relief. Simonetti will hope to build on his strong effort in the Pioneers bullpen.
While it was Chris Kalousdian who was the Pioneers' big star last season, his Manhattan College teammate Christian Santisteban actually out-hit him during the Jaspers' season. A 6'2", 215 first baseman, Santisteban will hope to keep that trend up as he joins Kalousdian on the Pioneers' roster. In 2014 at Manhattan, Santisteban hit .314 with 17 doubles, 2 homers, and 22 RBI. The doubles were seven more than his closest teammate, and he also paced the club in hits and total bases. In addition, Santisteban did a very good job getting on base even when he could not get hits, drawing 15 walks and get hit by 7 pitches on his way to a .389 on-base percentage. Santisteban will give the Pioneers another formidable hitter, and the friendly competition between him and Kalousdian will be something to watch all season.
The fourth and final player from Manhattan College who will join the Pioneers for this season is rising sophomore Jason Patnick. The 6'2", 190 outfielder Patnick is the youngest of the three Jaspers position players, but don't underestimate his leadership ability. In high school, Patnick received the Diamond Jacks Scholarship for players who exhibit the ability to lead both on the field and in the community. Then, in his freshman season at Manhattan, Patnick showed signs that he could eventually lead by example. He hit .231 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, a homer, and 16 RBI and also stole 3 bases in 3 attempts. He did an especially good job working his way on any way he could, walking 12 times and getting hit on 6 more occasions to record a very good .351 on-base percentage. Patnick will hope to get involved in the Pioneers outfield and become more than Kalousdian's younger Manhattan teammate.
Catchers in baseball often take a while to develop, but the reward can be significant if they turn out as planned. Cornell rising junior Collin McGee hopes that this summer will be the turning point in his progress both behind the plate and beside it. This season for the Big Red, McGee had a strong 3.80 catcher's ERA, contributed a 2-hit game on April 17th, and also threw out a runner who attempted to steal. He hopes to contribute even more moving forward, and he has the ability to do just that. Perfect Game praised McGee for outstanding arm strength and raw power, and he hopes to start utilizing both of those skills more consistently. This summer could be McGee's opportunity, and it will be fascinating to see if he can deliver the type of results he desires.
In his freshman season at USC-Upstate, 5'11", 175 catcher Drew Fisher only began to show what he is capable of. At the plate, he went 3 for 21 in limited time, but when one of the hits was a double and he also walked 4 times. Defensively, meanwhile, he made 25 chances without an error. All of that was nice, but Fisher is ready to take the field more frequently in Elmira. In high school, he was named the South Carolina 2A Division Player of the Year and was also an All-State player. Armed with arm strength, bat speed, and power, the lefty-swinging backstop hopes to beginning showing why he received those accolades for the Pioneers this summer.
Expected to be selected relatively early in this year's Major League Baseball Draft, Zachary Sullivan will begin the season with the Pioneers and see what happens from there. A 6'2", 175 outfielder, Sullivan is the only player on this year's Elmira team that has yet to play a collegiate game. Luckily for him, he has the talent to make up for that and more. Lauded as a five-tool player by evaluators, Sullivan stands out most right now for his blazing speed and the way he can use it in centerfield. That was never on display more than during the Wood Bat Championship event, when he made an over-the-shoulder catch to rob an extra-base hit and then delivered a strike to third base to complete a double play. Sullivan needs more work at the plate, but with a line drive swing and flashes of power, his potential is considerable there as well. The Pioneers will be exhilarated to have Sullivan for any period of time and get a glimpse of how much ability he has.
Their entire team in the fold, the Pioneers are ready to pack Dunn Field once again after finishing third nationwide for total attendance a season ago. The Pioneers home opener is set for Friday, June 6th VS the Amsterdam Mohawks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM and there will be plenty of entertainment for fans including a HUGE post game FIREWORKS display!! To learn more about ticket prices and events for the upcoming 2014 PGCBL season at Dunn Field, call the Pioneers front office at 607-734-2690. Also be sure to stay up-to-date with player signings and all the news you can take about the 2014 season at www.elmirapioneers.com.
The Elmira Pioneers...2013 PGCBL West Division Champions!!