Auburn, Ala.--Coach Butch Thompson and the Auburn Tigers are expected to add a talented signing class on Wednesday when at least 10 players are expected to ink with the program led by one of the top catcher prospects in the country.
An Under Armour All-American, a member of the Team USA U-15 team two years ago, and the Ray Knight Player of the Year in the Albany, Ga. area as a junior, Steven Williams has led Deerfield-Windsor to back-to-back GISA Championships and is headed to Auburn to play his baseball. Batting .524 a season ago with 11 home runs, 16 doubles, three triples and 49 RBI, Williams is a versatile player that is also capable of playing a position in the field.
A left-handed hitter, something Thompson, Brad Bohannon and Doug Sisson are looking to add to the roster in the coming classes, Williams said he’s excited about what the future holds on the Plains and can’t wait to get started.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Williams said of signing with the Tigers. “It’s been a lifelong dream to play baseball for Auburn. Now that it’s finally going to come true it’s just really big for me and my family.
“I really like the coaching staff and all their experience,” he added about the Tigers. “Coach Thompson was assistant coach of the year one time while he was at Mississippi State and the same for Coach Bohannon at Kentucky. With Coach Sisson and his pro experience, all that together was really pleasing to me. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
At 6-3, 220, Williams has the size and ability to come in and play very early for the Tigers, something he said is exciting to think about.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I look at myself primarily as a catcher, but I can also play outfield or first base. I’ll come in and play wherever I’m needed the most.”
Williams is just part of a class that is expected to be among the best in the country by the time the dust settles. Already very familiar with many of the guys including pitchers Tanner Burns from Decatur and Rhett Fetner from Handley High on Roanoke, Williams said the class is already close and ready for big things.
“It’s big,” he said. “Playing with the guys you’re going to be playing with the next three or four years of your life and building that chemistry early on, that’s a really big part of having success when we get to Auburn.
“It’s extremely exciting,” he added. “It’s all we’ve talked about. Me and Rhett Fetner took a trip to New York to play in the Metropolitan Classic and he was my roommate. We just sat in our room and talked about much fun it would be to hopefully bring a lot of success to Auburn in the coming years.”
The latest addition to the class is big-time pitching prospect Evan Steele out of Chipola (Fla.) Community College. A 6-5, 210 LHP originally from Marietta, Ga., Steele played last season at Vanderbilt before transferring to a junior college for his sophomore season this year. He pitched in 11 games with the Commodores, going 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in just 11 2/3 innings. A Perfect Game Preseason All-American as a senior, Steele was a two-time team captain and earned Region Pitcher of the Year and Team MVP honors in his final year at Marietta.
Tanner Burns, 6-0, 205, RHP, DH, Decatur (Ala.)--One of the top players in Alabama, Burns was 5-2 on the mound last season with two saves and a 1.11 ERA while adding 86 strikeouts and just 14 walks. Swinging a hot bat as well, he hit .472 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI as a junior. He was originally committed to Alabama.
Carter Bowen, 5-11, 195, RHP, Cullman (Ala.)--A talented pitcher and infielder for the Bearcats, Bowen is expected to concentrate fully on the mound at Auburn when he arrives on the Plains. With a 7-2 career record and eight saves, Bowen has struck out 93 in 88 ? career innings.
Cade Evans, 6-0, 170, INF, Chattanooga (Tenn.)--The grandson of former Florida and Cleveland Indians pitcher Rudy Simpson, Evans is one of the top players in Tennessee and chose Auburn over the Vols, Coastal Carolina and others. As a junior the switch hitter batted .459 and had an impressive 33 stolen bases.
Rhett Fetner, 6-3, 195, RHP, Roanoke (Ala.)--A big-time athlete that throws in the low 90’s, Fetner is currently playing quarterback for the Handley Tigers and has them 9-2 and in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. His team has won nine consecutive games and has scored more than 40 points in seven of those contests.
Dylan Gentry, 6-1, 175, LHP, Danielson (Ga.)--A former Georgia commitment, Gentry is another one of the talented group of pitchers that the Tigers are bringing in. Last season he was 6-2 with a 0.76 ERA in 65 innings with 93 strikeouts for Madison County High.
Peyton Glavine, 5-11, 175, LHP, Alpharetta (Ga.)--The son of former Atlanta Braves’ standout Tom Glavine, he’s a player that could help the Tigers down the road as he continues to develop physically. Last season he was 6-0 with a 0.80 ERA at Blessed Trinity Catholic. He’s expected to begin his career at a walk-on for the Tigers.
Cody Greenhill, 6-4, 210, RHP, Russellville (Ala.)--A powerful pitcher and also a strong first baseman and hitter, Greenhill had a strong summer and enters his senior year as one of the top players in Alabama. Last season he was 13-3 with a 1.14 ERA, had 10 complete games and five shutouts, and was a perfect 4-0 in the postseason. Greenhill is 27-7 in his career with a 1.50 ERA.
Ryan Hoerter, 6-6, 185, RHP, Pleasant Prairie (Wis.)--A pitcher that should only gain velocity as he continues to mature physically, Hoerter was 8-0 last season with an ERA of just 1.08 in 42 innings. He struck out 57 and walked just 10 while allowing only 25 hits and five earned runs.
Edouard Julien, 6-1, 185, INF, Quebec (Can.)--Playing for the Canadian National Team last season, Julien has experience against top competition already with his team spending parts of the spring and summer in Florida facing minor league teams in spring training and even extended spring training games. That has prepared him well for life in the SEC and he should be an impact player for the Tigers when he arrives.
Brendan Venter, 6-2, 215, INF, Flower Mound (Tex.)--Signing with Stephen F. Austin before starting his career at McLennan (Tex.) Community College, Venter is a powerful corner infielder that should bring some punch to the Auburn lineup. Last season he batted .385 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles and 69 RBI in 55 games.
Judd Ward, 6-0, 190, OF, Russellville (Ala.)--A talented outfielder, Ward is a two-time All-State performer and was the Class 5A Player of the Year last season. As a sophomore he had a .504 batting average, Ward had four home runs, six triples, and 12 doubles while adding 68 hits, 58 runs scored, and 49 RBI while striking out just nine times for the year. Last season he hit .488 with two home runs, eight triples, 20 doubles and 41 RBI.
A player that won't be signing with the Tigers in the early period is longtime commitment Bubba Thompson from McGill-Toolen in Mobile. Adding football offers from Tennessee and Ole Miss as a quarterback, Thompson will wait until February to make a decision as he chooses between baseball and football.