NC State Baseball Inks Banner Recruiting Class

<B>RALEIGH, N.C. - </B> With three national top 100 players serving as headliners, including the No. 1 player in the country, NC State baseball coach Elliott Avent and his staff wrapped up the fall signing period with a nine-man class that ranks among the best in program history.

In addition to signing three national top 100 prospects, the Wolfpack signed two of the top 25 lefthanded pitchers in the country, two of the top four players in the state of North Carolina, and two highly regarded players from the Northeast. In fact, NC State's list of signees includes nothing but blue-chip prospects. All in all, Avent and staff may have signed more high-profile prospects than NC State ever has landed in the fall signing period.

"It would be an understatement to say that we're very excited about this recruiting class," Avent said. "This is a very talented and very deep class, but the thing that we are most proud of is the character of the young men we recruited. These are outstanding young people who come from outstanding families. I think the caliber of players that we signed speaks very highly of NC State baseball and how our program is perceived, both in North Carolina and across the country."

An outstanding recruting class already was in place when the Wolfpack received a late verbal commitment from shortstop Justin Upton of Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Va. Baseball America ranks Upton, the 2003 AFLAC National Player of the Year, as the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. The Durham-based publication is hardly alone in that assessment. Upton joined outfielder Marcus Jones of the Landon School in Bethesda, Md., and lefthanded pitcher Andrew Taylor of Wake Forest-Rolesville High School in Wake Forest, N.C., as top 100 players who signed with NC State. Baseball America ranks Jones No. 47 nationally and has Taylor ranked No. 71.

Upton is the second No. 1-ranked prospect to sign with NC State in the last six years. Josh Hamilton was the No. 1 prospect in the country when he signed with NC State in November 1998.

The remaining members of the class all were highly recruited and have glittering credentials of their own:

• Lefthanded pitcher Eric Surkamp of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, is ranked as the No. 23 lefthanded pitcher in the country by

• Infielder Jeffrey Bianchi of Lancaster, Pa., is a two-time all-section pick in Pennsylvania and a two-time participant in Pennsylvania's Keystone Games.

• Infielder Drew Martin of Ashbrook High School in Gastonia, N.C., is a three-time all-conference pick and is the No. 23-ranked player in North Carolina.

• Outfielder Jason Rago of Fairfield College Prep in Fairfield, Conn., was an all-conference pick as a junior and played in the 2004 AFLAC National High School Baseball All-Star Classic this summer.

• Infielder Jeffrey Synan of Northeast Guilford High School and Brown Summit, N.C., was a second-team all-state performer last season and is ranked as the fourth-best player in North Carolina.

• Outfielder Erik Lovett of Louisburg Junior College and Goldsboro, N.C., led Louisburg in home runs and RBIs as a freshman in 2004 and was drafted by the San Diego Padres.

"The true measure of any recruiting class won't be taken until several years down the road, obviously but this is a very talented and highly regarded group of players," Avent said. "We felt all fall that our recruiting was going very well and that we had a chance to put together a really outstanding class. A lot of factors worked in our favor. We've been very successful on the field the last two years, and that helped. Doak Field has been completely renovated and is one of the nicest facilities in the country. I'm sure that played a major role. And let's face it, we have a great product to sell at NC State. This is a great university and a great city. And I believe the young men we recruited sensed that and acted on that."

Following are thumbnail sketches of NC State's nine baseball signees:

Jeffrey Bianchi • SS/2B • Lampeter-Strasburg High School • Lancaster, Pa. Earned first-team all-section for the second year in a row after batting .514 with 10 doubles, seven home runs, 31 runs scored, 27 RBIs and eight stolen bases as a junior in 2004 ... Set school single-season records for hits (38), batting average and doubles ... Appeared in numerous showcase camps and all-star games ... Attended the Perfect Game Showcase at the 2004 AFLAC Classic ... Was team MVP and helped his team finished third at the USSSA World Series in Nashville, Tenn. ... Was a member of the 2004 Mid-Atlantic Rookies Fall Showcase Team ... Was a member of the 2004 Maryland Patriots Summer Showcase Team ... Batted .455 with 12 doubles, two home runs, 32 runs scored, 20 RBIs and eight steals as a sophomore in 2003, earning first-team all-section honors ... Played in the 2003 Keystone State Games ... Was an American Legion all-star in Pennsylvania's District 10.

Marcus Jones • OF • Landon School • Washington, D.C. Batted .299 with three doubles, two triples, one home run and nine RBIs as a junior in 2004 at the Landon School in Bethesda, Md. ... Drew 19 walks and was hit by five pitches for a .484 on-base percentage ... Stole six bases in seven attempts ... Ranked as the No. 47 high school prospect in the country entering the 2005 season by Baseball America and Perfect Game ... Listed as the No. 8 high school outfielder in the country by ... Was listed as a Rookie All-American as a freshman in 2002 by ... Helped Landon to a third-place finish in the Interstate Athletic Conference as a sophomore in 2004 by hitting .405 with 11 doubles.

Erik Lovett • 1B/OF • Louisburg Junior College • Goldsboro, N.C. Showed big-time power at Louisburg, leading the Hurricanes with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs in 52 games played ... Also belted nine doubles ... Batted .222, but made great strides in the fall, batting close to .400 in Louisburg's intersquad season ... Showed a sharp eye at the plate, drawing 29 walks while striking out 36 times ... Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 37th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft ... Was an all-state performer as a senior in 2003 at Southern Wayne High School in Goldsboro ... Was a two-time all-conference performer, and played in the State Games of North Carolina as a junior and senior.

Drew Martin • SS/3B • Ashbrook High School • Gastonia, N.C. A three-time all-conference selection in the Big South 3-A Conference ... Enters the 2005 season ranked as the No. 23 high school prospect in North Carolina by Impact Baseball ... Batted .429 with 13 doubles, four home runs and 31 RBIs as a junior in 2004 ... Batted .354 with nine doubles, one home run and 24 RBIs as a sophomore in 2003 and helped lead Ashbrook to the state 3-A championship ... Named to the all-metro teams by The Charlotte Observer and The Gaston Gazette in both 2003 and 2004 ... Played in the State Games for Region 6 in 2003 and 2004 ... Played in the World Wood Bat Association World Championships in Jupiter, Fla., in 2003 and 2004 ... Played in the Perfect Game Showcase Camp in East Cobb, Ga., in 2003 and 2004.

Jason Rago • OF • Fairfield College Prep • Fairfield, Conn. Earned all-conference in the Southern Connecticut Conference after hitting .449 with eight doubles, two triples, five home runs, 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored as a junior in 2004 at Fairfield College Prep ... Batted .625 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs in the state playoffs ... Attended the 2004 Perfect Game National Showcase camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., and played in the 2004 AFLAC Classic ... Participated in the World Wood Bat National Tournament in Atlanta, the Best Baseball World Championships in Fort Myers, Fla., the Top 96 National Showcase in Lowell, Mass., World Wood Bat Championships in Fort Myers ... Ranked the No. 30 prospect for the Class of 2005 at the Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase in January 2004.

Eric Surkamp • LHP • Moeller High School • Cincinnati, Ohio A first-team all-conference selection as a junior after helping lead Moeller to a 28-3 record and the Ohio Division I state championship ... Had a perfect 8-0 record and a 0.43 ERA, which was the 12th best ERA in the history of Ohio high school baseball ... Allowed 28 hits, walked 26 and struck out 81 in 48 2/3 innings ... Started and got the win in the state championship game, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning before allowing one earned run on two hits in 5 2/3 total innings ... Enters the 2005 season ranked as the No. 23 lefthanded pitcher in the country by ... Was an honorable-mention all-league pick as a sophomore after compiling a 2-0 record with one save and a 0.32 ERA in 22 innings ... Allowed just one earned run on nine hits in 22 innings while walking seven and striking out 25 ... Played for Team Ohio in the 2004 Sunbelt Classic ... Was a teammate at Moeller of current Wolfpack baseball and basketball player Andrew Brackman.

Jeremy Synan • SS • Northeast Guilford High School • Brown Summit, N.C. Earned second-team all-state honors after batting .538 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBIs as a junior in 2004 ... Made first-team all-conference and all-area for the second consecutive season ... Helped lead Northeast Guillford to a 22-4 overall record, a 15-1 record in the Piedmont 3-A Conference, and the team's eighth conference championship in nine years ... Enters his senior season ranked as the No. 4 high school prospect in North Carolina, the top lefthanded hitter, and the No. 2 hitter overall in North Carolina by Impact Baseball ... Participated in Impact Baseball's 2004 World Wood Bat Association World Championships.

Andrew Taylor • LHP/OF/1B • Wake Forest-Rolesville High School • Wake Forest, N.C. Earned all-conference honors in the Cap 6 4-A Conference as a junior in 2004 after compiling a 5-3 record with a 3.11 ERA for Wake Forest-Rolesville ... Allowed 41 hits, walked 32 and struck out 67 in 47 1/3 innings ... Helped lead Wake Forest-Rolesville to a 14-9 overall record, 7-3 in the Cap 6 Conference ... Ranked as the No. 71 high school prospect in the country by Baseball America and Perfect Game ... Listed as the No. 2 high school prospect in North Carolina by Impact Baseball ... Ranked the No. 18 high school lefthanded pitcher in the country by ... Went 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA as a sophomore in 2003 ... Worked 23 1/3 innings and allowed 17 hits and 12 walks while striking out 25.

Justin Upton • SS • Great Bridge High School • Chesapeake, Va. The No. 1 high school prospect in the country, a concensus first-team high school All-American as a junior in 2004, and the 2004 AFLAC High School Player of the Year ... Batted .569 with nine doubles, eight home runs, 35 runs scored, 23 RBIs and 30 stolen bases for Great Bridge High School ... Played for the junior national team at the World Junior Championships and batted .417 with a home run and five RBIs in six games ... Paced the Team USA juniors in runs scored (8), hits (10), triples (4), total bases (21) and slugging percentage ... Ranked as the top prospect at the Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Association Fall Championship at Fort Myers, Fla., in October ... Is the younger brother of Tampa Bay Devil Rays infielder B.J. Upton.

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