Baseball inks six during early signing period

Nov. 15, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The JU baseball team announced the signing of six student-athletes during the early signing period, including local products RHP Carson Andrew and shortstop Chuck Opachich (Jacksonville/Episcopal), as announced Tuesday by the Dolphin coaching staff. The local duo will join RHP Glenn Witkowski (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), shortstop/RHP Matt Gardner (Livermore, Calif.), catcher Alex Swenson (Alexandria, Va.) and RHP Jason Hooper (Lake Mills, Wis.) in 2006.

"Our immediate needs were to find power arms and a middle infielder and we were successful in doing that," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "The added bonus is that each one of these recruits is hungry, they want to overachieve and are willing to run through a brick wall. We are looking to bring in guys who have a blue collar attitude when they come to the ballpark."

The signees marked the beginning of the first recruiting class under recruiting coordinator/pitching coach Tim Montez. Montez, who joined the Dolphins after a three-year stint with Fresno State, had nine nationally ranked recruiting classes in 12 years as a recruiting coordinator.

Andrew (6-2, 185), currently a senior at Episcopal High School, earned all-conference honors after going 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA last season. He also plays for head coach Mike Jones, who was a LHP with the Kansas City Royals from 1980-85.

"Carson is one of the most highly touted local products to come out of the area and has a good chance of getting drafted in June," said Montez. "He is a prototype power pitcher, who throws comfortably in the 87-91 range with a curve ball and a change-up."

Opachich (5-10, 160), currently a senior at Episcopal High School with Andrew, has stolen 24-of-26 bases in two varsity seasons. As a junior, he batted .340 from the plate with a .460 on-base percentage. He earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a sophomore after hitting .507 on the year.

"Chuck is a hard nosed, scrappy infielder who plays the game like David Eckstein of the St. Louis Cardinals," Montez said. "He is a plus defensive player and a solid contact hitter who loves the short game."

Gardner (6-0, 185) was an All-Central Conference selection last season as a utility player at Chabot Junior College after sitting out the year as a redshirt at Fresno State. Gardner, who was invited to the Area-Code Games out of Granada High School, is currently the starting shortstop at Chabot and will also be used in the starting rotation in 2005.

"Matt is a good defensive shortstop and a polished right-handed pitcher, who throws in the 87-91 range with a plus curveball," said Montez. "He will get the opportunity to be one of our starting infielders and possibly a weekend starter."

Hooper (6-5, 235), currently a senior at Lake Mills Public High School, went 6-1 with a 0.71 ERA in 49 innings as a junior. He also led the conference with seven home runs on the year, while earning honor roll accolades with a 3.9 gpa.

"Jason is a big, physical right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball in the 87-90 range and his curveball between 73-76 mph," said Montez. "He has a tremendous upside and has a good chance of being drafted in June."

Swenson (5-9, 175), currently a senior at Mount Vernon High School, earned Northern Virginia all-district and all-region honors after batting .431 with seven doubles and 20 RBI as a junior. A four-year starter on the varsity squad, he is also in the top 15 percent of his class academically.

"Alex is a scrappy catcher who brings a lot of character to the program," said Montez. "He is a solid defender with an above average arm and we believe he will thrive in the environment here at JU."

Witkowski (6-0, 175), currently a senior at Charles Flanagan High School, earned first team all-state honors as a junior after leading the squad to a Florida 6A State Championship with a 12-0 record, a 0.93 ERA, 85 strikeouts and only nine walks in 85.0 innings.

"Glenn is one of the top five pitchers in the Miami area and if his velocity improves over the spring, he will be a possible draft pick in June," said Montez. "He has phenomenal control of a two-seamed fastball to go along with a slider and a change-up. He is a fierce competitor who will get a lot of innings as a freshman next year."

The Dolphins will open the 2006 season at Florida A&M on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 2 p.m.