GHC introduces 10 on signing day
by Jason Greenberg
Apr 22, 2014 | 1380 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the program’s first season, the Georgia Highlands baseball team is currently battling for a playoff spot in the Georgia College Athletic Association and its fate will be determined over the next two weeks.

However, regardless of the outcome in the 2014 season, the future is bright for the Chargers.

That future was on display Monday at the Cartersville campus as head coach Mike Marra introduced 10 signees for the 2015 baseball season.

“We stilll have a couple of guys we’re waiting on that I think will really put us over the top, but I think this group of kids is going to really help us next year to really significantly increase our win total and put us in a position to, not only make the postseason, but have an opportunity to get a pretty good seed,” Marra said. “It can be that good. Once they get here, they have to deal with college life and all that, but talent-wise, I think this is better than the group we had this year.”

Among the signees Monday were Jake Swan, first baseman from Etowah High; Tristan Roberts, pitcher and outfielder from Sequoyah High; Matt Rivera, infielder from Delaware Valley High in Milford, Pa.; Avery Smith, pitcher and outfielder from Creekview High; Austin Smith, catcher from Creekview High; Lane Everett, pitcher from Union County High; Eric Justice, pitcher and infielder from Pickens County High; Cade Douglas, pitcher from Hillgrove High; Noah Hahlobhn, pitcher North Cobb High; and Avery Johnson, infielder and pitcher from Calhoun High.

Marra believes he has recruited talented players, but also feels he filled in positions of need in the lineup.

“It’s a good class because it helped us fill a lot of needs based on what we saw this year, pitching especially and getting some power bats,” Marra said. “We looked at our needs throughout the year to see where we’re going to be short and I think we addressed those needs.”

With two sophomore starting pitchers on the roster, Marra was looking for some starters to fill in next season. The Chargers currently have a 6.46 ERA in conference, placing them eighth out of 10 teams in the GCAA.

Marra believes a few of the players signed Monday can help improve the pitching staff.

“Tristan Roberts, a kid from Sequoyah, he throws upper 80s. He’s going to be very big for us. Avery Smith, righty from Creekview, another big arm. He’s going to be important for us,” Marra said. “Lane Everett is another right-handed pitcher that’s going to help us next year.”

Marra also was able to secure the commitment from pitchers who will help the bullpen.

“Cade Douglas is another submarine guy, so we wanted to shore up the back end because we have [Mitchell] Mannino as the seventh and eighth inning guy right now,” Marra said, “Eric Justice, they both come from that angle, so we figured we strengthened the back end of the bullpen, as well.”

Georgia Highland’s lineup also should get an infusion of talent.

“Avery Johnson from Calhoun hits reall well. He’s probably going to play third base for us,” Marra said. “Matt Rivera, from Pennsylvania, he’s one of the best infielders I’ve ever seen. His hands are unbelievable, he runs well, has a good arm. He’s going to be very exciting to watch next year.”

Marra, a New York state native, was able to draw the interest of prospects from the Northeast, including Rivera, who is originally from New York and went to high school in Milford, Pa.

Rivera, had been considering offers from Division 1 programs Rutgers, Temple, Canisius, Farleigh Dickinson and Lafayette before deciding to play for Georgia Highlands.

“Coach Marra and coach [Gil] Suarez have been following me since my sophomore year, which is pretty nice to see that about them,” Rivera said. “They definitely have a nice campus and it’s a good way to start. I want to be able to come to this program and make a huge impact and move on.

“My whole point in coming here is to continue my baseball career and have the opportunity to play with a well-rounded program, and the coaching staff here is great. They’re definitely going to help me out with furthering my baseball career and potentially get drafted in the next four years.”

Two other players from New York, who were not at the signing ceremony, also have commited to Georgia Highlands, giving the program 12 for the 2015 season.

Zach Nierstadt, an outfielder from Elmira, and Justin Pedone, a pitcher from Staten Island, are the two New Yorkers.

“[Nierstedt] is a power bat,” Marra said. “Zach is on the watch list for the draft from New Yorkers, so what’s neat about that is, if you look at the Perfect Game website, it says he’s committed to Georgia Highlands. From that respect, it’s good for Georgia Highlands.”

Marra also likes what he sees from Pedone.

“[Pedone] has got a mid-upper 80s fastball and he should help us out,” Marra said.

Marra exects to have some more signees before next season, including some Bartow County players, who are considering the school.

As of Monday, Marra likes who has signed both on and off the field.

“None of them get in trouble in school, they’re goood members of the community and their coaches speak very highly of them,” Marra said of his new players. “We recruit talent. We manage character. Obviously it’s their talent that catches our eye but we have to do a good job of keeping tabs on them and making sure they’re doing the right thing, but I think it’s a good group.”