GREENWOOD - The 2012 Lander baseball team has seven senior pitchers. So recruiting efforts are focusing on building the future pitching staff, and the latest signees are a step in the right direction.
The early signing period group comes from as far north as Ontario, Canada all the way down to Sarasota, Fla., and includes three promising pitchers and an infielder.
"There is no doubt that pitching is an important part of any recruiting class," Bearcats head coach Kermit Smith said. "This year though, pitching is even more important for us. We graduate seven seniors and have a couple of underclassmen receiving pro interest (and may forego their senior years in 2013)."
"We feel good about these three arms that we signed early to come in and add to the guys we have returning, not to mention the ones we can still go out and sign," he said.
The latest signees are Cameron Hokanson of New Port Richey, Fla.; Steve Sommerville of Ajax, Ontario, Canada; Tyler Broome from USC Sumter; and Zach Giczewski of Sarasota, Fla.
Hokanson is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-handed pitcher who is a senior at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey. He finished his junior season with a 3-1 record, one save, and a 1.73 ERA. He struck out 35 in 24.1 innings.
Hokanson is a big projectable right-hander who possesses a couple of out pitches, Smith said.
"We are really excited about Cam," Smith said. "Coming in with the frame that he has, he is going to have a chance to make gains right away. We got on him early in the fall and were all real excited to hang on until the commitment.
"He went down to Jupiter (Florida) and threw some 90's and got some late interest rolling down in Florida," Smith said. "In the end, it came down to his interest in our family atmosphere and the developmental side of our program."
Sommerville is a 6-5, 210-pound right-handed pitcher who attends Pickering High School in Ajax, which is near Toronto. Over the last two seasons, he has struck out 225 batters in 179.2 innings while throwing three no-hitters. Sommerville throws consistently in the mid to upper 80's.
"Steve will carry on the tradition of the great Canadian players that have come through our program in previous years," said Smith, referring to current Bearcats pitcher Ben Runyon, recent graduate Brandon Farquhar and Brad Hay, Adam Strongman and Ryan Roeder among others.
"He is an extremely athletic pitcher that throws three pitches for strikes. We have extremely high hopes for Steve and think that he will fit right into our system on the mound. Steve is a guy that you look at and say 'wow' right when you see him," Smith added. "Then you see him throw the baseball and get even more excited.
"He does a lot of things the way we already do it on the mound, so I think that there will be a smooth transition for him. Steve and Cam have a chance to be a big part of our pitching staff over the next four years."
Broome is a 6-3, 180-pound right-hander at the University of South Carolina at Sumter. He was named to the All-Region X second team last year, while going 8-2 with a 4.00 ERA, striking out 41 in 51.2 innings.
"One of the things that is so intriguing about Tyler is that he brings college game experience to a staff that will need it," Smith said. "He has played for a winning culture in high school and junior college. He has a slim build and has a lot of deception in his delivery of the baseball."
Smith added that the Sumter native who played high school baseball at Wilson Hall has won at every level and "we are pumped to get him. Going forward in the recruiting process this year, he was a big get to keep us on track for an elite class. He has a chance to carry a lot more strength in his frame and with that comes more velocity. With that and his current repertoire, he can be a great pitcher in the Peach Belt Conference."
Giczewski is a 6-foot, 165-pound switch-hitting shortstop. Last season, he hit .422 with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, 18 RBI, and had a.575 on-base percentage as a junior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota.
"Defensively, he makes plays, has good range and great hands," Smith said. "Zach has a strong throwing arm and a great feel for the game. Offensively, he has just started to scratch the surface of his capabilities. He will be playing (this spring) for new head coach John Bennett at Cardinal Mooney."
While pitching is a future need, Lander's current starting shortstop AJ Nunziato is a senior.
"Zach is going to ease the loss of AJ this year," Smith said. "There are a lot of things that come real easy to Zach and he just jumps off the field at you. What he is going to be able to accomplish through our strength and conditioning program is going to be tremendous.
"Zach came on his official visit and really fit in with our position players right away. That is usually a good sign for being very successful in our program. He not only plays for a great high school program, he also played for one of the elite travel teams SWFL. He is a big get for our program."
SWFL (Southwest Florida) alumni include many professional players, highlighted by Prince Fielder.