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Arizona baseball hauls in solid recruiting class for 2017-2018 season

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Courtesy Stan Liu | Arizona Athletics

Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson waves to a crowd upon his arrival back to Tucson after winning the NCAA Super Regionals in Starkville, Mississippi. Johnson and the baseball team was just one win shy of its fifth national championship.

Following the conclusion of the National Signing Period that began on Wednesday and ended on Thursday, Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson announced UA’s recruiting class for the 2017-2018 season.

After reeling in a top-10 class for the upcoming season, Johnson is excited about the potential of next year’s class of 14 that consists of 11 high school products and three junior college transfers.

Johnson’s second class at Arizona is focused heavily on pitching, with eight of the 14 players being pitchers—five right-handed, three left-handed). Of the six position players, three are outfielders, two are infielders and one is a catcher.

Here are a few standouts from the class.

The headline of the class is Matt Sauer, a right-handed pitcher from Santa Maria, California. The 6-foot-4 righty went 10-3 with a 0.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 84.1 innings as a junior at Ernest Righetti High School.

Sauer, a member of the 2015 USA 17U National Team Development Program, has what Johnson calls “tremendous arm strength and a wipeout slider.” But it's his intangibles that stood out to Johnson.

“I think the separator is—and we talked about this last year with our run and our team—the guys that pitch at the front end of the rotation or at the end of the game in the most important innings have to have special character, competitiveness and makeup,” Johnson said. “That’s what seals the deal for me the most with Matt.”

The Wildcats are very familiar with infielder Travis Moniot, who started 53 games at shortstop for Oregon last season and tied the Ducks' freshmen record for home runs with five.

Moniot, a 34th round pick by the San Francisco Giants out of high school in 2015, will play for Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California this season. Johnson raved about his high ceiling and fit in the program.

“Unlimited potential, unlimited ability,” Johnson said. “When you look at the guys on our roster, the dynamic of what he can do offensively and defensively fits in extremely well. Anytime you get a player with Pac-12 [Conference] experience, team USA experience, that’s a real positive. So we’re excited about Travis.”

Johnson compared infielder Jacob Blas to a former UA standout and fan-favorite who is flying through the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization.

“He is a San Diego county guy and we had Kevin Newman here before I was here,” Johnson said. “I think defensively and athletically, that is a very good comparison. He may not be the physical offensive player Kevin evolved into as a college sophomore and junior, but that’s why he’s coming to Arizona: to close the gap.”

Blas is coming off a remarkable junior campaign in which he hit .402 with two home runs, stole 16 bases, knocked in 19 RBIs and scored 33 runs in route to a CIF Championship a season ago for San Marcos High School in Carlsbad, California.

To top it off, the former member of Team USA was named Avocado East League MVP.

Johnson is excited about the caliber of the players he recruited and believes this class will fit into the culture he’s creating in the program.

“I think this group will complement the program extremely well to help us keep pushing forward in a very competitive environment,” Johnson said. “Something that I’m always drawn to are high-level performers. I want guys that [are] pitcher of the year in their league or state player of the year because it shows a successful playing experience. I think we did a nice job with that.”


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