Auburn Baseball Inks Impressive Late Class

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn baseball coach Steve Renfroe has signed seven players during the late signing period that will join Auburn for the 2003-04 academic year.

The signees includes LHP Colin Carter of Frisco, Texas; C Mike Hnytka of Palatine, Ill.; IF Tyler Johnstone of Brampton, Ontario; RHP John Madden of Poinciana, Fla.; IF/C Ben Maitland of Colleyville, Texas; RHP/IF Mike Nix of Auburn; and IF Cory Zimmerman of Odessa, Texas.

"Overall, we feel we have met our needs with pitching, speed and depth in this class," Auburn head coach Steve Renfroe said. "We're very excited about the addition of this group and feel that they will give us the opportunity to have depth in the infield and outfield for the first time in years at Auburn."

Carter, a left-handed pitcher led Liberty Christian High School to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) 4A State Championship after going 6-4 with a 1.67 earned run average in 46 innings. A 6'0" 185 pounder, Carter fanned 94 batters and was named to the TAPPS 4A First-Team all-state squad. Carter was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft by the San Diego Padres.

"Colin is a left-handed pitcher with an outstanding breaking ball who can contribute right away. We feel he will be an SEC-caliber pitcher in his first year," Renfroe said.

A 6'0" 185-pound catcher, Hnytka hit .331 with 12 doubles and 20 runs batted in while helping Seminole (Fla.) Community College to a Regional VIII title and a sixth-place finish at the NJCAA College World Series last season. Hnytka was also named the Mid-Florida Conference defensive player of the year.

"Mike is a strong defensive catcher with great leadership and is a tough out at the plate," Renfroe said. "We really like the way he handles pitchers and calls games."

Johnstone, an infielder transfer from Purdue, hit .310 as a sophomore with five doubles and 17 runs batted in while starting 42 contests for the Boilermakers. A 5'11" 175 pounder from Brampton, Ontario, Johnstone played at Conners State as a freshman with current Auburn first baseman Karl Amonite.

"Tyler is a shortstop that can play three infield positions. He is a good runner and a quality defender who is tough to strikeout at the plate," Renfroe said. "Tyler gives us an opportunity offensively that we didn't have last year with his ability to play the hit and run and bunt games."

Madden, a teammate at Seminole Community College with fellow Auburn signee Mike Hnytka, was 8-4 on the mound last year with a 3.24 earned run average with 75 strikeouts in 86 innings or work. A 6'5" 215-pound right-hander, Madden was 6-6 with a 4.26 ERA as a freshman at SCC.

"John is a junior college pitcher that we feel is a versatile pitcher in the mold of a Levale Speigner," Renfroe said. He has the ability to be a closer, setup guy or starter. We wanted an older player that could fill the void left by Levale and we think John can handle that role."

Maitland hit .375 with 13 doubles, three home runs and 31 RBI as a freshman at Grayson County Community College. The 6'0" 180-pound utility player saw action at six different positions while helping Grayson County to a 55-15 record and a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA College World Series.

"Ben is a versatile player who is a great athlete. He is a good runner and an excellent defensive player," Renfroe said. "He has played several positions, including catcher and will give us added depth in the infield."

A 6'5" 220-pound right-handed pitcher, Nix was 6-3 with a 2.49 earned run average at Central Alabama Community College last season. An Auburn native, Nix tallied 55 strikeouts in 65 innings at Central Alabama in 2003.

"Mike is a big, strong right-handed pitcher who played two ways in junior college and will be given the opportunity to do both at Auburn," Renfroe said.

A 6'0" 170-pound left-handed hitting infielder, Cory Zimmerman hit .482 with nine home runs and 37 runs batted in as a senior at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. Named to the All-Permian Basin team as a senior, Zimmerman was a three-time all-district selection in high school. As a senior, Zimmerman had an impressive .600 on-base percentage with 12 stolen bases.

"Cory was a high school shortstop that we think can become an outstanding player at this level. He possesses a good bat and great arm," Renfroe said. "We feel Cory will be one of the top offensive infielders in the Southeastern Conference before he leaves Auburn."

Auburn will begin fall practice with six returning position starters and 10 pitchers from the 2003 squad that went 42-21 and hosted a NCAA Regional.


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