In addition to the eight players USC Aiken baseball coach Kenny Thomas signed during the early signing period, he has added three transfers so far this spring, including two with local ties.
South Aiken grad Jared Felix, with his time complete at Spartanburg Methodist, will join Trevor Hutto, a North Augusta grad who spent his junior college days at Florence-Darlington Tech, in a Pacer uniform.
Rounding out the group is infielder Rob Youngblood, who is transferring from Georgia after his freshman year.
Felix is another in a line of South Aiken players to make their way around the bypass to Roberto Hernandez Stadium, most recently Ben Donath, Caleb Smith, Grayson Smith and Cory Bryant.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of guys from there,” Thomas said.
He described Felix, who will serve as a reliever for the Pacers after notching a 3.34 ERA with three saves for the Pioneers, as the “craftiest lefty you’ve seen.”
“He’s just continually gotten better,” Thomas said. “It was great for him to go to Spartanburg Methodist.”
Hutto, a right-handed pitcher, is at the opposite end of the spectrum. His velocity could allow him to fill a variety of roles for the Pacers.
“He’s more of a power-pitching type guy,” Thomas said. “I’m not sure what role we’ll use him in.”
The same could also be said of Youngblood. The 6-foot, 186-pound freshman is best suited to play second or third base, but Thomas even noted that Youngblood could play the outfield if need be. The Lilburn, Georgia, native was originally recruited by USCA but chose to go the Division I route before eventually finding himself outside the plans of first-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
“He brings us a pretty good full package,” Thomas said of Youngblood. “He’s a line-drive guy, but he’s pretty athletic.”
Pitching was also the main theme of the early signing period for Thomas. In addition to signing Collin Beasley, a pitcher out of Harlem High School in Georgia and younger brother of graduating Pacer lefty Derek Beasley, the Pacers brought in three junior-college transfer hurlers from Georgia Perimeter College – Erik Davis, Joseph Marlow and Brad Taylor.
Marlow and Taylor served primarily as starters this season, going 10-1 and 9-2 respectively. Marlow had a 3.36 ERA with 60 strikeouts and also notched a complete game, while Taylor walked just 22 batters in 59 innings. Davis had more of a mixed role, striking out 19 batters in 20 innings with a 2-0 record.
“Those guys have a chance to have big-time impact quick,” Thomas said of the trio.
The class also includes position players Robert Ard, Ryan Hunt, Zachary Trombley and Ben Utley. Ard is a catcher transferring from USC Salkehatchie, while Trombley (Bloomfield, Colorado) and Utley (Lawrenceville, Georgia) are infielders fresh out of high school.
Hunt is also coming to Aiken from high school, and it’s one that is familiar to Pacer fans. Like current Pacers Ryan Metzler and Sean Miller, Hunt is a middle infielder from Archbishop Spalding High School in Maryland.
Thomas said Hunt is defensive-minded shortstop, similar to the way Miller played when he first came to USCA.
“One of the things, when you get in an area like that, it’s easy to go back,” Thomas said of the trio of players from the same school more than 500 miles from Aiken. “Guys see the former guys from there doing well at USC Aiken, and USC Aiken makes a name for itself there.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.