University of Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson and the coaching staff has announced the signing of seven student-athletes to make-up their incoming class. Nolan Burchill and Alex Farley have signed National Letters of Intent, while Sam Bridges, Drew Hmielewski, Gabe Knowles, Jack Wassel and Eli Wilson have each inked an Acceptance of Admission. All seven will step foot on campus in the fall of 2016 and be set for the 2017 season.
"The 2016 recruiting class represents a group of young men who are great matches for the University of Minnesota and hold the right personal values that match the culture of our Golden Gopher Baseball family," said Anderson. "Assistant head coach, Rob Fornasiere, leads our recruiting efforts and partners with pitching coach Todd Oakes to evaluate and identify the players we are looking for in each class. Once again they have worked extremely hard to assemble this special group of seven young men and I am grateful for their efforts. We are extremely excited about the talent level of this class and the significant contributions they will make to the success of the program on the field and in the classroom as we help prepare them for the next 50 years of their lives."
Nolan Burchill (Sioux Falls, S.D./Sioux Falls Lincoln) - RHP | 6-2 | B/T: R/R
Burchill, a first team all-state and all-region selection in 2015, hurled 32.1 innings during his junior campaign. Burchill averaged an astounding 1.6 strikeouts per inning, totaling 51 last season. He maintained a 1.51 ERA and held a 3-1 record, allowing only 10 total hits. Burchill was also tabbed all-state and all-region during his sophomore season when he went 4-0 without allowing a single run. He threw 18.1 innings and struck out 17.
Fornasiere: "Nolan has shown us a quick arm, good size, and a solid array of pitches to indicate he can help soon. Nolan is a strong competitor, really wanted to attend Minnesota and is a proven strike thrower. He had a great Prospect Camp performance which confirmed his abilities."
Burchill: "I chose the University of Minnesota because the coaches made me feel like I was becoming part of a family, and I feel like I can fit in there. As well as having a great baseball team, U of M has excellent academics and isn't too far for my family to come see me play."
Alex Farley (Anoka, Minn./Anoka) - LHP/1B | 6-3 | B/T: L/L
Farley touted impressive numbers both on the mound and at the dish during his last two seasons with Anoka High School. As a junior, he held a 2-0 record with a 1.35 ERA to go along with 35 strikeouts while toeing the rubber. Farley hurled a no-hitter and a two-hitter in starts against Princeton and Coon Rapids, respectively. The All-Section Tournament Team honoree also belted four homers. During his sophomore campaign, Farley was a first team all-conference choice after hitting .385 with 10 doubles and a pair of homers. Under the tutelage of head coach Shannon Blansette, he went 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA pitching.
Fornasiere: "We targeted left-handed pitching help as a strong need in this class and Alex showed the fastball/slider combination to get college hitters out. He has good size, strength and is also a versatile player capable of playing first base. His best baseball is still in front of him"
Farley: "As a little kid, my dream was to play Division I baseball. I feel extremely honored to be playing for the Golden Gophers and I can't wait to compete at the highest level."
Sam Bridges (South St. Paul, Minn./South St. Paul) - LHP | 6-5 | B/T: L/L
Bridges has been a key component to the Packers starting rotation. He accumulated a 5-2 record with a 0.92 ERA in over 44 innings pitched last season. Bridges touted an impressive 12.3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a total of 74 send-downs compared to just six walks during his junior campaign. For his efforts, Bridges was named Metro East All-Conference and all-section by local publications. During his sophomore season, he held opponents to a .120 batting average during regular season play. Bridges also showed some talent at the dish with 17 hits, including six doubles, and 13 RBI last summer.
Fornasiere: "Sam also fills a void for left-handed pitching talent in our program. He has great size and projects very well for a strong, downhill type pitcher. Sam really wanted to be at Minnesota and is a good fit academically and athletically."
Bridges: "There are a few reasons why I am choosing to go to the U of M. The first one is the incredible coaching staff. I believe that Coach Oakes will give me all the tools and the instruction to make me the best pitcher I can be. Under his coaching he will give me the best chance to go to the next level and follow my dream of professional baseball. Another reason is the outstanding competition I'll face in trying to earn a starting spot. The competition will only make me better, force me to push myself, and work hard to earn a starting spot. I also wanted to go to the U because of its great academics. Earning a degree from the U will give me a great chance in trying to have a successful career outside of baseball. I've wanted to go to the U ever since I went to their youth camp when I was 10. I am truly blessed and excited to be attending school there next year and playing baseball for them."
Drew Hmielewski (Marshall, Minn./Marshall) - OF | 6-2 | B/T: L/R
Hmielewiski tore up the Big South Conference playing for the Tigers during his junior season. In 107 at-bats, he tallied 50 hits for a .467 batting average (school record) to lead Marshall to the No. 5 ranking in the state in class 2A. Hmielewski recorded eight doubles, eight triples, one homer and 29 RBI while crossing the plate 35 times himself. On the mound, he went 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA and struck out 59 in 52 innings pitched. Hmielewski is a decorated prep having accumulated multiple all-state, all-conference and all-section honors. In 2014, he was tabbed as the Conference Player of the Year. Hmielewski also an NLI to play football for the Gophers.
Fornasiere: "We feel Drew is one of the best athletes in Minnesota in his class. We are very excited to partner with Gopher Football to help Drew develop his skill as a two-sport athlete. He reminds us all of former Gopher two-sport star Eric Decker, displaying a rare combination of speed, power and strong throwing arm."
Hmielewski: "I chose Minnesota because I have a passion for both football and baseball and [the Gophers] are allowing me to do both. I feel at home at Minnesota. I've always wanted to be a Gopher, so it is a dream come true."
Gabe Knowles (New Ulm, Minn./Cathedral) - OF | 6-2 | B/T: L/R
One of the top players in the state, Knowles has seen his batting average improve every season for Cathedral. After hitting .393 as a freshman, he hit at a .438 clip as a junior and touted an impressive .483 batting average last season. The three-time all-conference selection has totaled 73 RBI with eight home runs in his time at the prep level. Knowles was also active on the base paths having stolen 44 bases in three seasons. He recently had a successful legion ball season after hitting .472 with 24 RBI, 13 stolen bases and six homers. Knowles also plays football and basketball.
Fornasiere: "Gabe is a multi-sport athlete with a strong swing and plus throwing arm. He is an excellent student with high goals academically. We felt he was a great fit for our program and is an emerging talent."
Knowles: "I chose the Gophers because they reached out to me like a family. They made me feel welcome and I think that's very important to be a part of a successful team."
Jack Wassel (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) - INF | 6-2 | B/T: L/R
Wassel saw the field early in his career, earning playing time at the varsity level as a freshman in high school. Most recently, Wassel capped his junior season hitting .413 with 18 RBI. He also got on base at a .509 clip and swiped a team-best 16 bases. Wassel crossed the plate 25 times during the season. He proved to be a valuable commodity for Geneva, playing shortstop, third base and in the outfield. Wassel was tabbed all-conference and all-area by local publications. He also saw time on the gridiron, playing receiver for the Vikings.
Fornasiere: "Jack is very athletic and another multi-sport athlete. We liked his arm, swing and running speed. Jack can play all over the diamond, but projects right now as an infielder. He is another student that really wanted to be at Minnesota. We are thrilled to have Jack join our program."
Wassel: "I chose the University of Minnesota for many reasons, among them the great education, the very rich and historic baseball program that made me feel accepted and part of a family, and especially the coaching staff. Minnesota has everything to offer and I couldn't be happier to be part of the Golden Gopher baseball tradition."
Eli Wilson (Seattle, Wash./Garfield) - C/INF | 6-1 | B/T: R/R
Wilson has played on the varsity squad early and often at Garfield High School. Most recently, he appeared in 26 games at catcher and infield during his junior campaign. He hit .356 after compiling 31 hits, including five doubles, three triples and one homer, to go along with 18 RBI. Wilson was a rock defensively with a fielding percentage of .981 in 108 total chances. He also was active on the basepaths with four stolen bases. For his efforts, Wilson was tabbed all-area by the Seattle Times. Throughout his first two seasons on varisty, Wilson played in 27 games and touted 45 assists with 29 putouts in the field. Wilson also was a member of the Seattle Mariners scout team.
Fornasiere: "Eli has the athletic ability and academic goals to be a great fit for Minnesota. He projects as a catcher, but has played extensively in the infield. Eli has improved a great deal in the past year and we are very excited to help him develop. "
Wilson: "I was very thankful and excited to receive an opportunity to play at Minnesota. Growing up with two parents who attended the U, it has always a dream of mine to play at Minnesota. The tradition of strong academics and athletics at Minnesota are very important to me, and lead my decision to become a Gopher."
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