Baseball inks five during early signing period

Dec. 4, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The JU baseball team announced the signing of five student-athletes during the early signing period, including local products Baker Chapman (Stanton) and Jimmy Howick (Bishop Kenney).

Along with Chapman and Howick, OF Joey Belviso (Plantation, Fla.), RHP/IF Clay Kollenbaum (Dunedin, Fla.) and OF/LHP Kyle Kriech (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.) will make up the first members of the Dolphin 2008 signing class.

A two-headed monster, associate head coach Tim Montez and recruiting coordinator Chris Hayes have had back-to-back recruiting classes that have received national accolades. The 2008 class marks the third collaborative effort with the dynamic duo.

"This class is the first recruiting class I've had where every player has a chance to fit in the puzzle right away and make an impact," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "This is not a large recruiting class but it is an extremely talented one. We are not just pleased with these guys, we are ecstatic."

Chapman (6-0, 185), currently a senior pitcher at Stanton College Prep, earned second team all-city and all-Gateway Conference honors after finishing 5-3 with a 0.97 ERA, three saves and 60 strikeouts in 72 innings as a junior. In his sophomore campaign, he received all-conference accolades after finishing 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA, three saves and 48 strikeouts in 45 innings. He also became the first freshman to play on the varsity squad under head coach Joel Davis.

"Baker is a very intelligent young man with a high aptitude on the hill," said Hayes. "While playing for Coach Davis, one of the most highly respected pitching minds in town, Baker developed into an outstanding pitcher who could make an immediate impact as a freshman."

Howick (6-1, 180), currently a senior shortstop at Bishop Kenney High School, led the Crusaders to a district title as a junior while batting .405 to rank in the top 10 in Jacksonville. He was also selected to play for USSSA Team Florida in the Caribbean World Series. As a sophomore, he helped the squad to a second place finish in the state.

"Jimmy is a young man we are very excited about," said Hayes. "He possesses a great deal of versatility and enthusiasm towards the game. Coming from Bishop Kenny and playing for head coach Tommy Edwards, Jimmy has blossomed into a force at the plate and in the field."

Belviso (6-1, 185), currently a senior at American Heritage High School, is a four-year starter for the Patriots and has led the squad to the regional semifinals each season while also being named to the academic honor roll. As a junior, he batted .330 with 17 runs, 17 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

"Joey is a dynamic athlete from one of the most talented and highly rated high school programs in the country," Hayes said. "There is not much in this game that he can't do. He is a tremendous athlete, but more importantly, he works very hard in the classroom. We feel JU is a great fit for him."

Kollenbaum (6-5, 215), currently a senior at Dunedin High School, has led the Falcons to back-to-back district titles and Pinellas County Athletic Conference Championships with a combined 43-13 overall record. As a junior, he went 9-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 69.2 innings and tallied consecutive no-hitters against Dixie Hollins and East Lake High School. He also batted .329 with three home runs as a first baseman.

"Clay is another extremely intelligent young man with a very high ceiling," Hayes said. "He has a tremendous amount of arm strength and is eager to jump into our program to continue his growth. Clay's coach, Tom Hilbert, runs a very highly respected and successful program at Dunedin High School. We know Clay will be ready when he arrives on campus."

Kriech (6-3, 200), currently a sophomore at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, earned all-Panhandle Conference honors after posting a 3.19 ERA, a .173 opponent batting average and 22 strikeouts in 35 innings during his freshman campaign with the Raiders.

"Kyle is a two-way junior college player that can compete at a high level on the hill and at the plate," Hayes said. "He brings a tremendous amount of discipline and work ethic to the table, along with his versatility. He will be ready and prepared to compete for us immediately after playing in the Florida Panhandle Conference and with Coach Keith Griffin at Okaloosa Walton College."

The Dolphins will open the 2008 season by hosting the JU Invitational at John Sessions Stadium on Feb. 22-24.