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Niagara baseball announces twelve newcomers


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Niagara baseball head coach Rob McCoy has announced 12 newcomers to the baseball program. Joey Battaglia, Tommy Bednarski, Jacob Bruning, Marty Cole, Max Giordano, Josh Marchese, Bryce Moore, Cole O'Connor, Drew Patton, Cal Theal, Yohn Zapata-Baez and Alex Zulia enrolled at Niagara in fall 2018.

"We are really excited about this year's class," said McCoy. "Coach Matt Spatafora worked tirelessly to identify and sign players that not only had the requisite ability, but were all-in with regard to our core values and the culture we are trying to maintain. We challenged every recruit to be true to themselves when deciding to commit to the Niagara baseball program because we expect a lot out of our players and they needed to be sure they wanted every bit of it. We feel we have exactly what we were looking for and we can't wait to start developing them as players and people."

Joey Battaglia | Catcher/Infielder | 5-foot-11/175 lbs.| Williamsville, NY | Williamsville North High School

Battaglia, younger brother of Niagara first baseman Peter Battaglia, joins the Purple Eagles from Williamsville North High School. He served as the captain of his school's varsity baseball team in his senior year. In his final season, he batted .333 and recorded 15 hits, nine RBIS and 17 runs with a .530 on-base percentage. Battaglia was an All-Bee Baseball First Team selection, an All-Western New York (WNY) honorable mention and was awarded the Jim Rusin Student-Athlete Leadership Award. Battaglia competed at the club level with the Niagara Junior Thunderwolves and head coach Jeff Ziemecki. In summer 2018, Battaglia played summer ball for the Olean Oilers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, where he batted .333 with eight hits, four doubles and five RBIs.

"Joey will provide us a wealth of versatility," said McCoy. "He will primarily catch, but can play anywhere on the field. Like his brother, he has a solid bat and will produce offensively at this level."

Tommy Bednarski | Right-Handed Pitcher | 6-foot-1/170 lbs. | Alden, NY | Lancaster High School

Bednarski comes to Niagara after a decorated high school baseball career. He was a two-time First Team Erie County Interscholastic Conference (ECIC) IV selection and was a First Team ECIC III honoree and, following his senior season, he was named ECIC IV Player of the Year as well as ECIC III Player of the Year. He was also selected to the ECIC I First Team. Bednarski was a First Team All-WNY pitcher in both his junior and senior seasons and was named to the All-WNY Second Team as a designated hitter following his sophomore season. In his senior season, Bednarski had three wins and fanned 35 batters in 31.0 innings pitched. He finished the season with an ERA of 2.94. Bednarski competed at the club level with Full Circuit Power and head coach Charlie Karstadt and was a four-year honor roll student.

"Tommy features a mid-to-upper 80's fastball and can mix his pitches well," McCoy said. "He's got an outstanding desire to perfect his craft that will help him succeed here."

Jacob Bruning | Left-Handed Pitcher/Outfield | 6-foot-1/175 lbs. | Lockport, NY | Royalton-Hartland

Bruning was a three-year starter for the Royalton-Hartland varsity baseball team. In his senior year, the team were state semi-finalists. Bruning finished the season with six wins and 83 strikeouts in 55.2 innings pitched and had an ERA of 1.51. As a hitter, Bruning posted a .438 average with nine doubles and two triples his senior season. He was named the Niagara-Orleans League Player of the Year following his senior season and was selected to the All-WNY First Team and the Class B All-State First Team. He was a First Team All-League selection in both his junior and senior years. Bruning starred on the hardwood as well, earning First Team Niagara-Orleans All-League honors in 2018. Bruning played at the club level with the Niagara Junior Thunderwolves for head coach Jeff Ziemecki.

"Jacob is one of the wild cards of this class," McCoy said. "He was a bit under the radar, but with a quick arm, tough angle and room to grow, he is an outstanding addition to this class."

Marty Cole | Infield | 6-foot-1/175 lbs. | South San Francisco, CA | Sacred Heart Cathedral

Cole comes to Niagara from the prestigious Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory school in San Francisco, Calif., where he had a highly decorated career. In his junior year, Cole was selected to the All-West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) First Team and was a San Francisco Chronicle All-Bay Area honorable mention. He was the Joe DiMaggio Award winner for San Francisco Player of the Year and was his high school team's MVP, as well as serving as captain of his club team, the California Warriors, coached by Niagara baseball alum Anthony Firenzi ('15). In his senior season, Cole batted .345 with 30 hits, 14 RBIs and 10 runs. Prior to the start of his senior season, Cole was named to the Perfect Game Preseason All-California honorable mention. Following the season, he was an All-WCAL Second Team honoree. He was a San Francisco Athlete of the Year finalist and was a San Francisco Chronicle All-Bay Area honorable mention selection.

"Marty brings a wealth of playing experience," McCoy said. "Coming from California, he has logged tons of game experience. Working with Niagara alum Firenzi, Marty has developed his hit tool and we expect him to develop into a solid college ball player."

Max Giordano | Shortstop/Right-Handed Pitcher | 6-foot-0/165 lbs. | Lancaster, NY | Lancaster High School

Giordano joins the Purple Eagles from Lancaster High School in Lancaster, N.Y. On the diamond in his senior season, he threw 29 innings, went 3-0, put up a .483 ERA and struck out 44. At the plate, he hit .392 with five doubles, two triples and three homeruns. He racked up 21 RBIs and 23 runs in league games.  Following the 2018 season, Giordano was an All-WNY First Team selection and was named to the New York All-State First Team. He was also named the 2018 Bee Pitcher of the Year. He finished his career with a .362 average, 59 hits, 53 RBIs, 57 runs and a .449 on-base percentage. For his stellar senior seasons in baseball and football, Giordano was awarded the 2017-18 Lancaster Bee Male Athlete of the Year. On the gridiron, he caught 53 passes for 770 yards and five touchdowns. He was also impressive on defense and special teams, scoring eight return touchdowns. He earned New York All-State First Team in football. He played club ball for the Niagara Junior Thunderwolves and head coach Jeff Ziemecki. Giordano excelled in the classroom as well as on the field and was a four-year honor roll student.

"Max has been one of the premier players in Western New York for the last three years," said McCoy. "We are incredibly excited about his upside and we look for him to make an immediate impact this spring in the field and on the mound."

Josh Marchese | First Base | 6-foot-1/230 lbs. | Burnaby, BC | St. Thomas More   

Marchese hails from Burnaby, BC and attended St. Thomas More. He played in the prestigious British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) for the Langley Blaze and coach Jamie Bodaly. Marchese finished second in the BCPBL in hitting with a .374 average, 12 doubles, two homeruns and 37 RBIs. Marchese represented British Columbia in the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, MB. Prior to Langley, Marchese competed with the Whalley Chiefs, also in the BCPBL, in 2017 and recorded 46 hits, 19 runs scored, 31 RBIs, five doubles and two homeruns, while batting .351.

"Josh is a middle of the order hitter with good pop in his bat," said McCoy. "He gives us depth at first base and we expect him to log plenty of at-bats this spring."

Bryce Moore | Third Base | 5-foot-11/170 lbs. | North Syracuse, NY | Christian Brothers Academy

Moore, who was a three-year member of the Christian Brothers Academy varsity team, finished his career batting .363 with 78 hits, five homeruns, eight doubles, three triples and 61 RBIs. In his senior season, Moore batted .455 with 30 hits, four homeruns, three doubles and 29 RBIs and was named First Team All-League. Moore was a 2018 Rawlings Preseason All-Northeast Region honorable mention. In 2017, he was named a Rawlings Preseason Underclass All-America honorable mention and in 2016, he competed in the Power Showcase homerun derby at Marlins Park. Moore competed at the club level with the South Troy Dodgers.

"Bryce is a switch-hitting infielder who projects as a third baseman," McCoy said. "He makes consistently solid contact and will hit for power as he develops physically."

Cole O'Connor | Third Base | 5-foot-10/180 lbs. | Hamburg, NY | St. Francis High School

O'Connor enjoyed a stellar career for the St Francis Red Raiders and coach Paul Bartell. Following his senior season, O'Connor was named the 2018 Monsignor Martin Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-WNY First Team. O'Connor hit .609 as a senior with 39 hits and 25 RBI and led St. Francis to the Georgetown Cup Championship in 2018. He was a three-time All-Catholic First Team honoree and was an All-WNY Second Team selection in 2017. O'Connor was also an All-WNY Scholar Athlete honorable mention. He played club ball for the Academy Stars and head coach Justin Santonocito.

"Cole earned All-Catholic Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and was an All-WNY First Team selection," said McCoy. "He has excellent bat control and, with work on defense at third base, looks to be a very solid player for us."

Drew Patton | Right-Handed Pitcher | 6-foot-3/170 lbs. | Dallas, PA | Dallas High School

Patton had an impressive senior season on the mound, going 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA in over 24 innings pitched. He fanned 46 batters. Patton, a four-year varsity letterman, was a 2018 Perfect Game All-Region honorable mention and First Team Wyoming Valley Conference selection. He was also a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) 4A District II runner-up. Patton's high school team was PIAA 4A state champions in 2017 and he was a PIAA 4A PA District II champion. Patton played club ball for the MVP Bluejackets and the East Coast Sandhogs. He was also a four-year honor roll student.

"Drew is a three-pitch guy who has the ability to keep hitters off balance," said McCoy. "He's not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch and get hitters out. He's got a ton of upside and we look forward to his development here."

Cal Theal | Right-Handed Pitcher | 6-foot-2/180 lbs. | Niagara Falls, ON | A.N. Myer

Theal joins the Purple Eagles from A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls, Ont. Theal pitched in the Canadian Premier Baseball League in 2018 and was on the leaderboard for ERA. He also led his high school's pitching staff in strikeouts and ERA and led the Canisius Junior Griffs in innings pitched and ERA in 2017. Theal was a Perfect Game All-Tournament Team selection. He led in innings pitched for two provincial championship teams and was the 2016 MVP for his regional team. Theal played at the club level for the Great Lake Canadians and coaches Adam Stern and Chris Robinson.

"We are excited about Cal's potential," McCoy said. "His fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 80's range and he has a good slider to compliment. His compete level is his best quality and it allows him to be very effective."

Yohn Zapata-Baez | Right-Handed Pitcher/Outfield | 6-foot-3/185 lbs. | Bani, Dominican Republic | Niagara County Community College

Zapata-Baez comes to Niagara after one season (2017-18) at Niagara County Community College. In 2018, he made seven appearances, started one game and had one save. He struck out 12 batters in 10.1 innings pitched and finished the season with a 6.10 ERA.

"Yohn is an upper 80's to low 90's arm that projects as a starting pitcher," said McCoy. "We are excited about adding him to an already deep pitching staff and will look for him to log significant innings this spring."

Alex Zulia | First Base/Outfield | 6-foot-1/175 lbs. | North Tonawanda, NY | St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute

Zulia was a two-year starter for St. Joe's and coach Paul Nasca. He finished his senior season in 2018 batting .457 with 32 hits, 22 RBIs, 28 runs scored and a .542 on-base percentage. He was named to the 2018 All-Monsignor Martin First Team and was a Second Team All-WNY selection. Zulia was the 2017 Monsignor Martin Offensive Player of the Year. On his career, Zulia batted .426 with 58 hits, 52 runs, 41 RBIs, 12 doubles, eight triples and a .654 slugging percentage. Zulia excelled in the classroom and was a four-year honor roll student.

"Alex is a dynamic athlete with a ton of aptitude to learn the game who, once developed, should contribute significantly in our outfield and in the line-up," said McCoy.

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