Baseball announces 2005 early signing class

Seven pitchers and seven position players highlight the 2005-06 recruiting class for the University of Florida baseball program. Head coach Pat McMahon announced Wednesday that 14 student-athletes have signed National Letters of Intent and will play baseball for the Gators beginning in the 2007 season. UF was 48-23 overall last year and is coming off a runner-up performance at the NCAA College World Series after capturing the Southeastern Conference championship.

"This class will play a significant important role in the future of Florida Gator baseball," said McMahon. "All 14 players signing with us today are from the state of Florida," McMahon said. "It is important that we make our home state the recruiting base, while we continue to recruit on a national scale as well. Recruiting classes are the lifeblood of programs and it takes a special person to fit into our system."

"With the loss of nine seniors and facing the potential of several juniors leaving early because of next June's Major League Baseball Draft, it is critical that we continue to work hard to achieve positional and class balance."

The class includes seven pitchers, five right-handed and two left-handed. Florida added right-handers Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla./Riverview H.S.), Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek H.S.), Brandon Holden (Coral Springs, Fla./Majory Stoneman Douglas H.S.), Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny H.S.) and Colton Willems (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carroll Catholic H.S.). The southpaws signing with the Gators were Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla./Westminster Academy) and Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla./North Broward Prep).

The seven position players signing with the Gators were catcher Dustin Bamberg (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven H.S./Tallahassee C.C.), infielder Adrian Cardenas (Miami Lakes, Fla./Monsignor Edward Pace H.S.), infielder Chase Fontaine (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./Nease H.S./Daytona Beach C.C.), first baseman/outfielder Jake Hicks (Molino, Fla./Tate H.S.), outfielder Ryan Lockwood (Lutz, Fla./Jesuit H.S.), outfielder Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla./Seabreeze H.S.) and catcher Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota H.S.).

Right-Handed Pitchers

Bullock will be beginning his fourth year as a member of the varsity for head coach Bill Leiby at Riverview High School and will serve as the team's captain. Chosen as a 2005 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American, Bullock set a single-game school record with 11 strikeouts last spring. However, the right-hander was limited to 18 innings, in which he was 2-0 with a 1.17 earned run average and 19 K, after being sidelined with a rib injury. Bullock was an honorable mention all-county selection for the Sharks as a sophomore, when he was 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and led the team in innings (51) and strikeouts (37).

Franklin proved to be a double threat in helping head coach Bob McCullough's Lyman High School squad to the district championship last season. After completing his junior year, Franklin transferred to Timber Creek, where he will play for head coach Scott Grove. On the mound, he was 7-2, posted the team's lowest earned average (1.33) and collected the most strikeouts (74 in 62 innings). The righty fired a no-hitter and batted .342 with 12 stolen bases on his way to first-team Seminole Athletic Conference accolades. He was a second-team all-league choice after going 7-2 as a sophomore with a 1.21 ERA and notching 70 strikeouts in 69 innings. His Orlando Scorpions team was the runner-up at the World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) tournament in Atlanta, Ga.

Holden helped Majory Stoneman Douglas High School and head coach Dean Florio to a 26-3 overall record last season, when he was 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA and batted .476. He was selected third-team All-Broward County in Class 6A by the Miami Herald, the fifth time he had collected all-country honors. During his sophomore season for the Eagles, Holden was 8-1 with a 1.55 ERA and registered 72 strikeouts in 50 innings. He earned the squad's Cy Young award as Most Valuable Pitcher, suffering his lone defeat to the nation's third-ranked team, Westminster Academy. In 2004, Holden was the lone sophomore to appear on the all-county teams from the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald. That summer, he was chosen to the all-tournament team at the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series in Kissimmee, Fla., in helping the Georgia Stars to the championship. He has played on the varsity since the seventh grade and attends the same high school as former Gator Connor Falkenbach.

After being tabbed an honorable mention all-state selection in Class 4A as a sophomore, Mullaney was sidelined with an injury during his junior campaign at Bishop Kenny. In 2004, he was 8-3 with a 0.76 ERA and recorded 54 strikeouts in 67 innings on his way to a spot on the all-city team. The righty also collected a team pitching award for recently retired coach Bob West and will play this season for former Gator star Tommy Edwards.

One of the hardest throwing pitchers in the class of 2006, Willems participated in the 2005 AFLAC All-American High School Classic held in Aberdeen, Md., and at the Baseball Express Cape Cod High School Classic in Wareham, Mass. He earned the Most Valuable Player Award for the East team at the Cape Cod event by striking out six of the seven batters he faced over two innings of work. Willems was ranked second at the East Coast Professional Showcase and has been a member of the USA Baseball Youth National Team. Competing at John Carroll, Willems has an array of pitches that include a curveball, change-up, cutter and slider. An all-state honorable mention pick, he was 6-2 last season for head coach Lenny Jankowski with a 1.68 earned run average and tallied 69 strikeouts in 53.2 innings on his way to first-team all-county recognition.

Left-Handed Pitchers

A 2005 Louisville Slugger All-American for head coach Rich Hofman at Westminster Academy, Chapman was 8-2 and led the Lions in ERA (0.89), innings pitched (93) and strikeouts (140). A first-team all-state selection in Class 2A and first-team all-county pick last season, he was both the Player and Pitcher of the Year in Broward County while pitching, playing center field and first base. Chapman was chosen as the Best Pitcher at the prestigious National Baseball Classic in 2005 and participated in the Power Showcase Home Run Derby.

Davis earned first-team all-county honors from the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2005, when he was 2-0 with a 1.35 earned run average and had 72 strikeouts in 46 innings. Playing for head coach Paul Herfurth, Davis added a .390 batting average and swiped 10 bases as the Eagles finished 15-10. He played with the All-American Prospects last summer and was 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA and turned in a 4-0 mark with a 2.75 ERA for Team Florida USA.

Position Players

Currently attending Tallahassee Community College and playing baseball for head coach Mike McLeod, Bamberg earned first-team All-Panhandle Conference and second-team all-state recognition in 2005. He led the club in both batting average (.389) and home runs (nine) and drove in 42 RBI as the Eagles finished 37-16. Bamberg was chosen by the Boston Red Sox in the 45th round (1,361st pick) during June's Major League Baseball Draft.

Bamberg played for head coach David Saliba at Winter Haven High School and was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 34th round (1,026th) during the 2004 MLB Draft. A second-team Class 4A all-state selection by the Florida Sports Writers Association as a senior, he batted .410 with 31 RBI and a team-best seven home runs in his final prep season, when he was a first-team all-county choice. The Blue Devils advanced to the state title game that year and had a 28-4 mark.

A starter on the 2005 United States Junior National Team that captured the silver medal at the Pan American Junior Championships, Cardenas sported a .387 batting average as his team won 12 of its 14 games. He has been a three-year letterwinner for head coach Tom Duffin at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami, Fla., and has earned all-state honors two years in a row. As a junior, Cardenas hit .421 with 25 runs batted in, 20 runs and 10 doubles. The previous year, he collected second-team All-America kudos by batting .500 (44-for-88) and helping the Spartans to a 24-2 record. In addition, Cardenas is a standout for the All-American Prospects team and is a hitter with a strong body and power from the left side of the plate.

Playing for former Gator Tim Touma at Daytona Beach Community College, Fontaine played in all 44 games as a freshman this past spring. He earned second-team All-Mid-Florida Conference after batting .318 (55-for-173), scoring 35 runs and registering 26 RBI. His on-base percentage for the Falcons was .404. Fontaine was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round of June's 2005 Major League Baseball Draft, 549th overall. He was a second-team all-state pick in Class 4A for head coach Kevin Fagan at Nease High School in 2004, when he hit .470 and belted nine home runs. Fontaine was a first-team all-county and all-conference choice and also played in the Area Code Games.

Hicks helped Tate High School to the 2005 Florida Class 4A state championship, their first state crown in seven years. A first-team all-state and first-team all-area selection for head coach Greg Blackmon, he batted .420 and drove in 32 runs as his squad finished 28-2. Hicks also sported a record of 5-0 and a 1.50 earned run average as a pitcher. During his sophomore campaign, he hit .409 and led the Aggies with 40 RBI on his way to third-team all-state and second-team all-area accolades. His father, Robert, was selected in the first round of the 1978 Major League Baseball Draft with the 15th pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. Hicks will play his final year at Tate for first-year coach Todd Boyd.

A two-time all-county selection for head coach John Crumbley at Jesuit High School, Lockwood played a key role in the Tigers' run to the semifinals of the 2005 state tournament and the championship of the Bishop Moore Catholic Challenge. In 30 games last season, he had a .400 average with 27 runs batted in and a team-high 23 stolen bases on his way to honorable mention all-state accolades in Class 3A. He was picked as the St. Petersburg Times Prep Athlete of the Month for April and represented the East team at the prestigious Baseball Express Cape Cod High School Classic on July 29, 2005, in Wareham, Mass. As a sophomore, Lockwood hit .370 with 18 RBI and 15 thefts as Jesuit reached the state semis. Competing for the All-American Prospects, his squad claimed the 17-and-Under World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) Championships at East Cobb in Marietta, Ga. Lockwood also participated in the East Coast Professional Showcase.

Pigott was a first-team all-area and first-team all-district selection last season for head coach Anthony Campanella at Seabreeze. He was recently ranked seventh by Baseball America on the list of the top-20 prospects for the Class of 2006 at the East Coast Professional Showcase. Pigott has participated in the Area Code Games at the West Coast Showcase and the Florida Diamond Club Showcase and improved his SPARQ rating 10 points between August and October. The SPARQ rating is a system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism and measures the tangibles of explosiveness, power and speed. The Sandcrabs' '05 Defensive Player of the Year batted .353 and led his club in walks (17) and doubles (six). During his sophomore campaign, Pigott helped Seabreeze to the district championship by hitting a team-best .373 on his way to Offensive Player of the Year, first-team all-area and first-team all-district mention.

Recently named as a 2006 Puma Preseason All-American by Team One and the Baseball Factory, Tignor batted .400 last year as Sarasota enjoyed an undefeated regular season and captured the district championship. Under the direction of legendary coach Clyde Metcalf, the Sailors compiled a 28-1 overall record and were ninth in the final national rankings compiled by Baseball America. Tignor was rated an the ninth-best prospect at the Team One South Showcase held at Georgia Tech and was ranked as the "Top Arm" at the Team One event hosted by UNLV. In addition, he helped Pendleton Baseball to the Georgia Connie Mack State Championship by hitting .375 (27-for-72) with 21 runs batted in and six doubles.

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