* SS Charles LeBlanc (Laval, Que.) of the Pittsburgh Panthers had six at-bats in the season opener in an 18-1 win over the St. Louis Billikens in the Snowbirds Challenge at Charlotte Sports Park, in Port Charlotte, Fla. LeBlanc reached base four times with a singled two walks and he was hit by a pitch, scoring twice.
By Bob Elliott
Of the roughly 700 Canadians playing the majority of their schedule south of the border this spring 119 are on NCAA Division I teams.
And 31 Canucks received mentions in the team by team conference by conference breakdowns by the Perfect Game Scouting Service and the highly-respected Baseball America.
INF Charles LeBlanc (Laval, Que.) is with the Pittsburgh Panthers. He played with coach Joel Landry and the Academy Baseball Canada. RHP Marc Berube (Trios Pistoles, Que.) was charged with the loss in Game 2 of the season as Pitt lost 7-0 to the Kansas State Wildcats at the Snowbirds Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. Berube allowed three runs — one earned — in three innings on three hits and three walks, while fanning two.
SS Daniel Pinero (Toronto, Ont.) who homered for the Virginia Cavilers Friday — his first UVA homer — in a 3-1 win over East Carolina. Pinero played for the Ontario Blue Jays and coach Danny Bleiwas.
INF-C Cole Peragine (Belle Ewart, Ont.) of the Stony Brook Seawolves, a former Ontario Terriers who played for coach Scott Van de Valk.
INF Johnny Caputo (Toronto, Ont.) of Stony Brook, a Toronto Mets grad after playing for coach Ryan McBride.
OF Toby Handley (Whitby, Ont.) of Stony Brook, a former Terrier who played for Van de Valk.
OF Brian Doran (Ayr, Ont.) from the Maine Black Bears who played for Van de Valk and the Terriers.
RHP Jake Marks (Bright’s Grove, Ont.) from Maine, a former Sarnia Braves under coach Jim Bigras.
LHP Ben Onyshko (Winnipeg, Man.) of the Stetson Hatters, a Vauxhall Academy Jets alumn, who pitched for coach Les McTavish.
OF Cole Bauml (Fort Saskatchewan, Sask.) of Northern Kentucky Golden Norse. Bauml played for Team Saskatchewan, coached by Greg Brons and Roger Anholt, as well as the Saskatoon Giants coached by Ron Bauml and Mark Dolan.
LHP Adam Jafine (Toronto, Ont.) of Northern Kentucky, who pitched for the Toronto Mets and coach Ryan McBride.
C Chris Shaw (Winnipeg, Man.) of the Oklahoma Sooners, who played for Midland, the Okotoks Dawgs and coaches Brett Thomas, Allen Cox and AJ Fystro.
2B-RHP Michael Foster (Pickering, Ont.) of the Northeastern Huskies. Foster played for Bleiwas and the Ontario Blue Jays.
3B Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.) of the Canisius Griffs. Panas played for the Mets and coach McBride.
OF Michael Krische (Langley, BC) of Canisius, a Langley Blaze grad where he played for Doug Mathieson and Jamie Bodoly.
OF Brett Siddall (Windsor, Ont.) of Canisius. Siddall played for coaches Chris Soulliere and Joe Siddall the Windsor Selects.
RHP Devon Stewart (Maple Ridge, BC) of Canisius. Stewart pitched for coaches Bodoly and Mathieson with Langley.
RHP Josh Shepley (Windsor, Ont.) of Canisius, who played for Souliere.
LHP J.P. Stevenson (New Glasgow, PEI) of Canisius, who took the mound for McTavish at Vauxhall.
RHP Iannick Remmillard (Valleyfield, Que.) of Canisius, who pitched for Landry at the ABC and Les Ailes.
INF Greg Rodgers (Surrey, BC) of the Niagara Purple Eagles after he played for Langley and Mathieson.
RHP Liam Stroud (Maple Ridge BC) of Niagara grad, who pitched for Langley and Mathieson.
RHP Kevin Lucas (Mississauga, Ont.) of Niagara, after his days pitching for Van de Valk and the Terriers.
C Chris Robinson (Uxbridge, Ont.) of the Morehead State Eagles. He played for Team Ontario and coach Murray Marshall.
RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) of the Stanford Cardinal. He is a former Terrier who pitched for Van de Valk.
RHP Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) of the Kentucky Wildcats. Pop pitched for the Ontario Blue Jays and Bleiwas.
RHP Chad Hodges (Medicine Hat, Alta.) of the South Dakota Jackrabbits, who pitched at Vauxhall for McTavish.
RP J.D. Moore (Mississauga, Ont.) of South Dakota. Moore used to pitch for Bleiwas and the Ontario Blue Jays.
3B Mattingly Romanin (Burlington, Ont.) of the Chicago State Cougars. He`s a former Terrier, who played for Van de Valk.
RHP Eric Hall (Oakville, Ont.) of Chicago State. He’s another Terrier, who pitched for Van de Valk.
1B Brendan Hendriks (Cochrane, Alta.) of the San Francisco Diamond Dons. Hendriks is a Vauxhall grad who played for McTavish.
Conference-by-conference break downs …
Virginia: Last year’s national runner-up, coach Brian O’Connor and crew are poised to make yet another run this spring, returning numerous important pieces. Daniel Pinero and John La Prise make quite the duo up the middle, as Pinero shows advanced all-around tools with a plus arm across and La Prise has an advanced feel for the barrel from the left side with some pop to his pull side.
Pittsburgh: The 2015 edition of the Panthers shows an even distribution of underclassmen and upperclassmen and looks to build on their 22-win season from last spring. A new impact player is freshman Charles LeBlanc, a big-bodied shortstop who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers last June. A physical defender, LeBlanc will start up the middle and shows plenty of range along with pop in his bat, a tool that will continue to develop.
Virginia, ranked No. 4: Sophomore Daniel Pinero will play shortstop with an additional 15 to 20 pounds to his frame.
America East Conference
Team to Beat: Stony Brook. Senior Cole Peragine is the only player still at Stony Brook who played on the 2012 College World Series Squad, and he will again play a huge role for the Seawolves in 2015, potentially moving behind the plate to replace 2014 league player of the year Kevin Krause.
Stony Brook: The Seawolves are coming off a 2014 season in which they captured the America East regular season championship, their third in four seasons. Cole Peragine was a First Team All-Conference selection last spring due to his defensive abilities up the middle and what he is capable of doing with the bat; .287 average with 11 extra-base hits, 36 RBI, and a team-high 13 stolen bases. Fellow senior Johnny Caputo will join Peragine in the heart of the order, showing the best strength on the team. Toby Handley is a speedy player who will be at the top of their lineup and is coming off a very strong summer season.
Maine: The Black Bears return two prominent bats from the 2014 lineup in Scott Heath and Brian Doran, both of whom will serve as key pieces again this year. A senior outfielder, Doran started all 53 games last spring and was an extra-base machine hitting 15 doubles and three triples, finishing the season with a .314 average and 20 RBIs. Joining Doran in the outfield is Sam Balzano. Junior righthanders Logan Fullmer and Jake Marks both return with starting experience.
Atlantic Sun Conference
Stetson: The Hatters return a key piece to their offense with 6-foot-3 lefthanded hitting catcher Patrick Mazeika, a player who has garnered all sorts of awards since stepping foot on campus. The pitching staff also welcomes in talented freshman lefthander Ben Onyshko, a 16th round selection Winnipeg, Man. by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014 out of the Vauxhall Academy.
Northern Kentucky: With a relatively young team last year, Northern Kentucky finished with 14 wins and look to build off that mark as a number of key players return. Leading the charge for the Norse are junior catchers Logan Spurlin and Cody Kuzniczci and senior outfielder Cole Bauml who garnered Second Team All-Conference honors last spring. Bauml looks to return to the middle of the lineup after hitting .337 last spring with seven home runs of his own, leading the team with 38 RBI while swiping seven bases. The pitching staff brings back their three top starters from last season — senior lefthander Cody Cooper, senior righthander Wendell Wright, and sophomore lefthander Adam Jafine — who combined for 190 innings last spring.
Freshman of the Year: Ben Onyshko, lhp, Stetson. Milwaukee drafted Onyshko in the 16th round in the 2014 draft, but he chose to take a detour to Stetson instead. Onyshko possesses a low-90s fastball, a sharp-breaking curve and plus athleticism.
Big 12 Conference
Oklahoma: After hitting .289 last spring, Anthony Hermelyn took his batting to the next level on the Cape hitting .323 while demonstrating advanced plate discipline. He swings a quick bat from the right side and moves very well defensively behind the plate where he and junior Chris Shaw will both see time. Shaw, a JUCO transfer from Midland College, put up big numbers last spring with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs, making up for some of the offensive production lost from last season.
Northeastern: The Huskies have several key pieces lined up for 2015, particularly with their weekend rotation. Two-way star Michael Foster will provide a valuable and versatile bullpen arm, featuring the best fastball on the team, and will also be an offensive force, starting at shortstop and batting in the three-hole while showing the best all-around tool set on the team.
Metro Atlantic (MAAC)
Canisius: The top team in the MAAC last year, the Golden Griffins are primed for another big year in 2015. Leading the offense once again is the reigning conference player of the year, Connor Panas. The senior third baseman is coming off a big 2014 in which he hit .362 with six home runs, 51 RBIs, and even swiped a team-high 16 bases. Joing Panas in the middle of the order is outfielder Brett Siddall, a physically built junior who is coming off a strong spring hitting .333 while showing some of the team’s best strength, and continued to swing a hot bat during the summer season. Senior outfielder Mike Krische will set the tempo of the offense at the top of the order, showing above average speed, evidenced by his team-high 18 stolen bases last spring. Another big-time arm to watch for is Devon Stewart, a senior righthander who works in the low-90s with his fastball and shows the staff’s best breaking ball with a hard, tight slider. Rounding out the rotation is sophomore Josh Shepley who has taken steps forward since working in a mid-week role as a freshman and shows increased velocity on the mound. Freshman lefthander J.P. Stevenson has a long, projectable build and shows command of three present pitches and is slotted for a mid-week position. Senior Brandon Bielecki and junior Iannick Remillard are two quality options at the back end of the game and have plenty of experience from 2014 in that role.
Niagara: Though the Purple Eagles will be relatively young with 12 freshmen and nine sophomores on their roster, Niagara returns their top offensive performers from 2014. Infielder Greg Rogers started all 50 games and hit .308 last spring with a team-high nine doubles while playing solid defense as well. Back for 2015 is sophomore righthander Liam Stroud who jumped into the weekend rotation as a freshman last spring, starting 12 games while finishing the year with a 4.76 ERA in 56 2/3 innings. Another sophomore arm who returns is Kevin Lucas, who made 11 appearances out of the ‘pen, saving a pair of games.
Player of the Year: Connor Panas, 3B, Canisius
Team to Beat: Canisius. The Golden Griffins won 18 games in a row before suddenly losing a double-header to Siena in the 2014 MAAC tournament. Head coach Mike McRae brings back most of last year’s starters. In the middle of the order, pro prospects 3B Connor Panas and OF Brett Siddall will give fits to the rest of the conference, while RHP Devon Stewart’s mid-90s heat will propel him to the top of Canisius’s rotation. Stewart and junior LHP Alex Godzak, a 10-game winner in 2014, give the Griffs arguably the best 1-2 punch in the conference.
Player of the Year: Connor Panas, 3b, Canisius. Panas, the reigning conference player of the year, has outstanding raw hitability, with tremendous timing and a line drive stroke. He hit .362/.443/.574 last spring and enjoyed success in the competitive Northwoods League last summer, and could put up video game numbers as a senior for the Griffs this year.
Freshman of the Year: J.P. Stevenson, lhp, Canisius. His fastball won’t overpower hitters, but Stevenson possesses maturity and pitchability beyond his years. The southpaw out of Prince Edward Island dominated in his time with the Canadian Junior National Team, and could contribute at the back of the rotation immediately in 2015.
Morehead State: Led by a high octane offense that may very well be the envy of the conference, Morehead State is going to be a tough task for even the best pitching staffs in the conference. Highly athletic senior catcher, Chris Robinson also returns to the lineup in 2015, following a spring in which he hit .332 with one home run. Robinson has plus speed, moves well behind the plate and is arguably the team’s best overall base runner.
Arizona State: Tracy Smith became the fifth head coach in the history of the Sun Devil program, leaving Indiana after a 2013 College World Series appearance and a 2014 season in which the Hoosiers earned a Top 8 National seed. On the mound, the Sun Devils’ three juniors match up with anyone: lefthanders Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg and closer Ryan Burr. A healthy Lilek projects as a first-rounder with a loose arm, easy delivery and a dominating fastball that will touch 94 mph. Kellogg is the grinder of the group featuring advanced command of four average pitches and he has already racked up 19 wins in his career. While Kellogg will flash low-90s velocity he is typically more effective in the upper-80s.
Stanford: The Cardinal took future national champion Vanderbilt to Game 3 of a Super Regional in 2014 but must replace seven hitters in the everyday lineup. The Stanford pitching staff is deep and experienced, as all 61 starts from 2014 are back. This group is led by sophomore righthander Cal Quantrill, the son of 14-year Major Leaguer Paul Quantrill. Quantrill was outstanding as a freshman and he couples a low-90s fastball with one of the best righthanded changeups in the nation.
Arizona State No. 18: The Sun Devils boast a formidable one-two punch atop their rotation in LHPs Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg, both of whom were all-Pac-12 picks a season ago. Lilek has the bigger arm, touching up to 95 mph in the fall, along with a three-pitch mix. Kellogg doesn’t throw as hard, but coach Smith quickly became a fan of his fearless nature on the mound.
Kentucky: To win in the SEC, particularly in 2015 alongside juggernauts like Vanderbilt and Florida, it’s going to take things going very right for teams like Kentucky. But, the good news for Wildcats fans is that they have the pieces in place to make that happen. What sort of contribution they receive from much ballyhooed freshman Zack Pop could also be a a major factor in the early weeks of the season. Pop has opened eyes in his early time on campus, showing off an easy 91-95 mph fastball and a big league 6-foot-4 frame.
The Summit League
South Dakota State: Led by one of the top pitching staffs in the conference, South Dakota State is going to do an excellent job of keeping the opposition off the scoreboard in 2015. Returning to the staff will be 6-foot-4 senior righty Chad Hodges. Hodges is also coming off a strong 2014, a season in which he posted a 3.00 ERA over 81 innings of work. The Jackrabbits also will boast one of the elite closers in the conference in 6-foot-2 senior righty, J.D. Moore. Moore posted a 3.07 ERA over 29 1/3 innings of work in 2014.
Chicago State: The Cougars have some work to do this spring, coming off a 2014 in which they went 17-37. Returning is third baseman, Mattingly Romamin, who is also coming off a big 2014. Romanin hit .312 and swiped 13 bases in 2014. Chicago State will need more pitching in 2015, but they do return some experienced arms. Leading the staff will be senior righthander, Eric Hall, who logged 86 innings in 2014 and posted a 3.45 ERA. He relies on his command, and will provide a leadership role on the staff in 2015.
San Francisco: The Dons always seem to be in the WCC tournament mix and have earned three NCAA Regional bids since 2006. Fifth-year senior outfielder Derek Atkinson led the team with 44 RBI last year and provides consistency. Senior first baseman Brendan Hendriks slugged .493 in 2014 and brings legitimate presence and pop from the left side.