UCLA will once again be one of the AppleSox top suppliers of young talent by sending four players to join the team in 2011. Freshman infielder Pat Valaika, along with three high school recruits – right-handed pitcher Joe Ross, infielder Tyler Goeddel, and outfielder Eric Snyder – are set to spend their summer in Wenatchee.
“The relationship with UCLA head coach John Savage goes back to when he was an assistant at USC,” said Knaggs. “He does us a favor each season with the type of players he sends us.”
The Bruins are looking for a return trip to Omaha after losing to South Carolina in the College World Series finals last season. They were ranked as high as the No. 1 in preseason rankings and are currently ranked No. 24.
Valaika has seen action right away for the Bruins. On opening day he was the only freshman in the starting lineup for UCLA and is hitting .190 with 8 RBIs. He comes from a baseball family. Older brother Chris made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and another brother Matt plays in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization. He is a product of Hart High School in Valencia, CA, which is also the alma mater of AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs and UCLA teammate and former AppleSox player Trevor Brown.
“He has been their guy at shortstop most of the season and that’s the position he will play with us this summer,” said Knaggs.
It will be the third summer in a row that the Bruins have sent high school recruits to play for the AppleSox. Cody Keefer (2009) and Zack Weiss (2010) both saw playing time immediately for the Bruins after gaining experience with the AppleSox out of high school.
"Coach Savage likes his incoming freshman to play in our league to get some college level experience before they step on campus," said Knaggs. “With how talented the high school players are there is always a chance that we might not see them here. All three of these guys will be tempted by the MLB draft in June, but it’s a risk we are willing to take.”
Ross, from Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, CA, was rated No. 21 overall in Baseball America's list of the top 100 high school signees during the early signing period in the fall, checking in among the top 10 pitchers on that list. His older brother, Tyson, was a second round pick in the 2008 draft and made his MLB debut with the Oakland A's in 2010.
“Joe is the best right-handed pitching prospect in California. He has a very athletic delivery and a fastball that explodes at the plate. We look forward to watching Joe compete for a weekend job right away at UCLA. His potential as a pitcher is unlimited," said UCLA head coach John Savage on signing day.
Goeddel is one of the star players for St. Francis High School in Mountain View, CA, the No. 1 ranked high school team in the country according to the latest Baseball America poll. He was rated No. 27 overall in Baseball America's list of the top 100 high school signees during the early signing period. As a junior he hit .488 with one home run, two triples, 17 RBI, 13 runs and 10 stolen bases. His older brother Erik pitched for UCLA in 2009 and 2010.
Snyder was also ranked in Baseball America's list of the top 100 high school signees, checking in at No. 74 overall. He attends Edison High School in Huntington Beach, CA, where he earned Sunset League MVP honors and first-team All-CalHiSports All-State underclassman acclaim last season. He hit .500 as a high school freshman, tying a school record held by Jeff Kent for best single-season batting average.
The AppleSox open the 2011 season June 3rd with a three-game home series against the Kitsap BlueJackets. Tickets are available now at www.applesox.com or by calling (509) 665-6900.
Photograph of Pat Valaika courtesy of the UCLA Sports Information Department. Photographs of Joe Ross, Eric Snyder, and Tyler Goeddel provided by Perfect Game USA.