The nine players come from Alabama, Florida and Colorado and have the potential to comprise Auburn's fourth consecutive nationally ranked recruiting class.
The nine signees are RHP Zach Blatt of Opelika (Opelika HS), C Caleb Bowen of Anniston (Saks HS), LHP Ryan Hines of Daphne (Daphne HS), RHP Preston Long of Auburn (Auburn HS), INF Casey McElroy of Orlando, Fla. (Boone HS), RHP Dexter Price of Colorado Springs, Colo. (Air Academy), RHP Adam Purdy of Pell City (Pell City HS), OF/LHP Tyler Stovall of Hokes Bluff (Hokes Bluff HS) and RHP Steven Upchurch of Mobile (Faith Academy).
"We are excited about this early signing class. Butch (Thompson, Recruiting Coordinator) has done a tremendous job of evaluating and recruiting these young men and their families. We feel as though this group brings a special blend of talent, character and a sincere interest in an Auburn degree," Slater said.
Blatt, a 5-10, 185 lbs. RHP, was the South MVP in the 2007 North-South Alabama All-Star Game. The Opelika High School 2007 MVP and Best Pitcher Award winner, he has been listed in the ALABCA Top 150 in both 2006 and 2007. An honor roll student, he has excelled in the classroom, earning election to the National Honor Society, the Spanish National Honor Society and the Science National Honor Society. A two-sport athlete at Opelika, he was a 2005 All-State honorable mention punter and a 2006 Second Team All-Area kicker. He is the son of Wayne and Carla Blatt.
"Zach is a local talent that is a very good athlete and a great competitor," Slater said. "He is a strike-thrower with a hard slider. He has a bulldog mentality and I just love his makeup. We are really excited about what he can do here next year. Once he is concentrating solely on baseball, he should really take off."
A 5-10, 185 lbs. catcher, Bowen was a North-South All-Star and has been a First- (2006 & 2007) and Second- (2005) Team All-Calhoun County selection at Saks High School. A Calhoun County All-Tournament Team selection in 2006 and 2007, he has been listed in Who's Who Among American High School Students and a member of the National Junior and Senior Honor Societies. A two-sport athlete until the 10th grade when he gave up basketball to focus on baseball, he is the son of Barry and Theresa Bowen.
"Caleb is a good defensive catcher who has the ability to shut down the running game. We like his ability to receive, block and throw," Slater said. "He was very impressive in our Labor Day Camp and we feel he was as good of a catch-and-throw guy as we saw in our recruiting efforts across the country."
Hines is a 6-1, 200 lbs. LHP from Daphne High School where he was an All-County selection in 2006 and 2007. A 2007 North-South All-Star Game selection, he attended the Perfect Game Top 200 National Showcase in Cincinnati. A two-time Deadly Diamond honorable mention and a two-time Alabama High School Coaches All-Star Tournament participant, he went 8-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 60.2 innings last season, throwing five complete games. As a sophomore in 2006, he was 5-2 with a 2.11 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. He is the son of Tift and Tammy Lyons and Ed Hines.
"Ryan is a physical left-hander with arm strength and competitiveness," Slater said. "He has the maturity and skill-set to have an immediate impact."
Long, a 6-3, 210 lbs. RHP transferred to Auburn High School this fall after attending Lee-Scott Academy where he was named an AISA All-Star in 2007 and was twice named the Pitcher of the Year. An Alabama Baseball Coaches Underclassman Team choice in 2007, he was the MVP of the Edgewood Tournament this past season. Nominated for Team UnderArmour in 2007, he has played on select baseball teams for the past two seasons. He is the son of Rick and Kena Long.
"Preston is another local product from right here in Auburn. He has a power arm and can really spin the curveball," Slater said. "We are excited to add his arm to our staff."
A 5-9, 170 lbs. middle-infielder from Boone High School, McElroy hit .462 with 32 runs scored and a .628 slugging percentage during his junior season in 2007. An All-Metro Conference First Team selection and a Second Team All-County choice at shortstop in 2007, he was selected to the Big Blue Bonanza High School All-Tournament Team in both 2006 and 2007. As a freshman he was the starting second baseman in the FHSAA Class 6A State Baseball Championships, helping Boone to a runner-up finish. This past summer he started at second for former big-leaguer Chet Lemon's Juice at second base, helping the team to the UnderArmour Southeast Wood Bat Tournament Championship, the World Wood Bat Association Championship in East Cobb and the AAU National Championship in Florida. A preseason 2008 UnderArmour All-American, he is the son of Gerald and Holly McElroy.
"Casey comes out of a great Boone high school program as well as AAU power Chet Lemon's Juice. We are excited about both his offensive and defensive ability," Slater said. "He is a winner. He is a good middle infielder and can really swing the bat."
Price, from Air Academy, is a 6-6, 200 lbs. RHP, who went 6-1 last season, striking out 67 while walking just 12 in 52.1 innings while compiling a 3.5 ERA. The Air Academy Offensive Player of the Year in 2007, he threw a perfect game on March 20, 2007, striking out 11. Also seeing action at first base, he hit .517 with four home runs and 42 RBI and was selected First Team All-State and First Team All -Conference. Born in Birmingham and a cousin of former Auburn standout Brandon Moore, he is the son of Paul and Kim Price.
"Dexter is a big, projectable right-handed pitcher and a strike-thrower right now with three pitches. He was born in Alabama before moving to Colorado and we are excited about the potential he brings with him," Slater said.
Purdy, a 6-4, 215 lbs. RHP from Pell City High School, has been a four-year varsity starter. He led Pell City in ERA in both his sophomore (2.27) and junior (2.25) seasons and has collected over 180 strikeouts over the last two seasons. A 2006 Aflac Preseason All-American and a Top Pitcher at the PUMA National Showcase in Birmingham, he has played summer ball for the Louisiana Knights and former MLB pitcher Jack Cressend, where he went 7-3 with a 2.28 ERA as the Knights compiled a 41-10 mark. He is the son of Jim and Rhonda Purdy.
"Adam is a big-frame right-handed pitcher and an intense competitor. He throws from a three-quarter arm slot and combines a sinking fastball with a plus slider," Slater said.
Stovall, a 6-1, 175 lbs. OF/RHP from Hokes Bluff High School, has been a varsity starter for the past four seasons. The North MVP of the Alabama North-South All-Star Game, he is ranked 76th in Baseball America's Top 100 High School Prospects. Last season he went 18-1 with 227 strikeouts in 103 innings, establishing state records for winning percentage and strikeouts, while in his sophomore season he was 12-2 with 159 strikeouts. Offensively he has been a force as well, hitting .528 with 13 home runs as a junior and .440 with eight home runs as a sophomore. Selected to participate in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., he hit .500 and has a 0.00 ERA and was chosen to the 2007 USA Baseball Junior National Team, which won a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Mexico. Chosen for the MLB East Coast Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., he has also played basketball and football at Hokes Bluff and is currently No. 1 in his class academically. He is the son of Brian and Holly Stovall.
"Tyler is a legitimate two-way player. We think he can impact both our lineup and our pitching staff immediately," Slater said.
Upchurch is a 6-4, 180 lbs. RHP from Faith Academy. Baseball America's top high school prospect for the state of Alabama and 34th overall, he has been an AISA All-Star and an Alabama Baseball Coaches Association All-Star. Having helped his team to a AISA Region 1 Championship and a second-place finish in AISA Class AAA in both 2005 and 2007, he is the number one rated pitcher in Alabama by Perfect Game and was ranked 38th at the MLB East Coast Showcase. A member of the 2006 USA Junior Olympic Baseball Championship, he is a member of the Junior National Honor Society. He is the son of Alan and Brenda Upchurch.
"Steven is a power right-handed pitcher with a plus changeup. We are excited about what his future holds as a potential front-line pitcher," Slater said.
Auburn's last three recruiting classes have been ranked 10th in 2005, 18th in 2006 and fifth in 2007 by Baseball America.