KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the sixth consecutive year, Head Coach Dave Serrano and the Tennessee Baseball staff have put together a Top 20-ranked recruiting class during early signing period. Through Tuesday, a total of 12 commits have announced their plans to join the Volunteer Baseball program for the 2017-18 academic school year.
ByPerfect GameandD1Baseball.comreports, Tennessee's 2017 signing class ranks 14th in the nation. The Volunteers' newest class was also tabbed No. 18 in the country byBaseball Americathis fall. UT's 2016 class was ranked No. 15 and its 2015 class earned a No. 12 national ranking byPG, while the 2014 class was named No. 13 in the country by the same outlet.Baseball Americaput Tennessee's 2013 class as No. 15 overall and Serrano's first recruitment class as No. 20 overall in 2012.
"I'm excited to announce and welcome our next class to Tennessee," Serrano said. "I feel that we have addressed some needs with pitching, power bats and speed in this class. More importantly, all of these young men come in eager and ready to be Volunteers. Led by Recruiting Coordinator Aric Thomas along with Assistant Coach Larry Simcox and staff, these players were recognized as great fits to come in alongside the last great recruiting class that's on campus now."
Of the 12 new Volunteers, eight are native to the state of Tennessee. Two are products of Georgia, while the class also brings in one player from Virginia and one from Florida.
Below is a breakdown of the newest additions to the Vol Baseball family, with comments from Recruiting Coordinator Aric Thomas.
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|Donovan Benoit||RHP/1B||6-4||196||R/R||Pensacola, Fla. (Pensacola Catholic)|
|Morgan Copeland||C||6-2||240||R/R||Loganville, Ga. (Loganville HS)|
|Zach Daniels||OF||6-1||195||R/R||Stockbridge, Ga. (Eagles Landing Christian Academy)|
|Evan Gilliam||OF||5-10||170||R/R||Lexington, Tenn. (Lexington HS)|
|Sean Hunley||RHP||6-5||230||R/R||Mount Juliet, Tenn. (Mount Juliet HS)|
|Joshua Plummer||OF/RHP||6-3||190||S/R||Mechanicsville, Va. (Hanover HS)|
|Gunnar Ricketts||OF||6-0||180||L/R||Hixson, Tenn. (Baylor HS)|
|Evan Russell||UTL||5-11||190||R/R||Lexington, Tenn. (Scotts Hill HS)|
|Brandon Trammell||IF||6-5||205||L/R||Knoxville, Tenn. (Bearden HS)|
|Chase Wallace||RHP/IF||6-2||200||R/R||Sevierville, Tenn. (Sevier County HS)|
|Hunter Wolfe||IF||6-0||185||R/R||Mt. Carmel, Tenn. (Walters State/Dobyns Bennett HS)|
|Nicholas Woods||IF/RHP||6-2||192||R/R||Chattanooga, Tenn. (East Hamilton HS)|
Pensacola, Fla. (Pensacola Catholic)
Donovan Benoit, RHP/1B (Pensacola, Fla.)
A strong, versatile player with the ability to contribute on both sides of the ball, right-handed pitcher and first baseman Donovan Benoit joins the Volunteer program from Pensacola Catholic in Pensacola, Florida. Ranked the No. 9 right-hander and No. 43 overall player out of the Sunshine State, Benoit enters his senior season with the Crusaders as a Top 100 pitcher (No. 60) and Top 200 player (No. 190) in the nation by Perfect Game reports. As a junior at Pensacola Catholic in 2016, Benoit went 6-0 with a 0.55 ERA and 60 strikeouts. He also hit a career-best .355 with one homer, 15 RBI and six stolen bases on the year en route to earning All-County honors.
Benoit played travel ball for the Orlando Scorpions Prime and is a member of the 2017 Minnesota Twins Scout Team. Perfect Game listed him as a 2016 Underclass Second Team All-American and entering his senior year, the Florida native has earned eight All-Tournament Team selections.
Thomas on Benoit: "Donovan is a dynamic two-way player. Originally, we recruited him to be a power arm and really contribute on the mound. But as his bat has developed, especially his power, we truly believe he will provide a power bat to our lineup as well as a power arm to our pitching staff. He's also very athletic for his size, which allows him position flexibility when he isn't pitching. He runs sub-7.0 seconds in the 60-yard dash, which allows him to not only play first base, but also the outfield."
Loganville, Ga. (Loganville HS)
Morgan Copeland, C (Loganville, Ga.)
A four-year letterman from Loganville High School in Loganville, Georgia, Morgan Copeland is labeled as the No. 6 catcher in Georgia and the No. 32 catcher in the nation by Perfect Game. As a junior in 2016, Copeland hit .380 with eight home runs for his Red Devils.
Also listed as a Top 30 player in the state of Georgia entering his senior year in 2017, Copeland played summer travel ball with Team Elite, a premier travel ball organization out of Georgia, and the Game On Red Devils. Since 2012, the catcher has competed in more than ten showcase tournaments and national championships with Perfect Game, including his most-recent appearance at the 2016 WWBA Southeast Qualifier in Georgia. Voted a 2016 Underclass Second-Team selection and a 2015 Underclass High Honorable Mention, Copeland was also a member of the 40-man roster for the 2013 USA Baseball 15U National Team.
Thomas on Copeland: "Morgan is one of the top high school catchers in the country. He is very flexible with his strong, physical body which allows him to be a great receiver. He can shut down any opponent's running game with his tremendous arm strength and great exchange (catch to throw). Offensively, Morgan will provide our offense with another power bat. He has the power to hit the ball out to any field."
Stockbridge, Ga. (Eagles Landing Christian Academy)
Zach Daniels, OF (Stockbridge, Ga.)
Ranked as the No. 9 outfielder in the state of Georgia and a Top 50 outfielder in the nation by Perfect Game, Zach Daniels is a four-year letterwinner and two-year captain hailing from Eagles Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Georgia. Named an All-State player and two-time All-American (PG and Under Armour), he received 2015 Underclass High Honorable Mention honors and hit .405 with five home runs during his junior campaign with his ELCA Chargers.
As the No. 19-overall rated player in the state of Georgia entering 2017, Daniels played summer ball with the East Cobb Astros, winning an 18U WWBA Championship and PG Invitational in 2016. In 2015, he also helped his Astros to a CABA World Series title. Daniels spent his most-recent fall season with the Los Angeles Dodgers Scout Team as well as East Cobb and has participated in over 30 showcase tournament events since his 2012 WWBA 14U National Championship appearance in Georgia.
Thomas on Daniels: "Zach is one of the best pure athletes in the 2017 class. Offensively, he has an incredible combination of speed and power. He projects to be a power bat in the middle of our lineup, with the ability to steal a lot of bases as well. Defensively, he has really good arm strength to play a corner outfield position, but also has the speed to play center field."
Lexington, Tenn. (Lexington HS)
Evan Gilliam, OF (Lexington, Tenn.)
A product of Lexington High School in Tennessee, Evan Gilliam is a four-year letterwinner in baseball and football for the Tigers. Ranked as the No. 7 outfielder and No. 36 overall player in Tennessee by Perfect Game, Gilliam helped Lexington to a 2015 14-AA District Championship and a Region 7 Runner-Up finish. That year, he hit a career-best .437 with 55 hits and 41 runs scored, securing spots on Lexington's Top 10 all-time list in each offensive category.
Gilliam played travel ball for the Dulin Dodgers, alongside fellow recruiting classmate Evan Russell, and participated in the 2016 WWBA 17U National Championship. He also played in the 2016 18U Perfect Game East Cobb Invitational with the Dodgers and made his first travel ball appearance with PG at the 2013 WWBA 14U National Championship.
Thomas on Gilliam: "Evan is another great athlete that we are adding to this class. He is a two-sport (football and baseball) standout in the state of Tennessee. His leadership skills have helped take both teams to deep playoff runs. He is a prototypical, top-of-the-order offensive player with his excellent speed and great feel to steal bases. He also has a very strong arm to go along with his speed, which gives him the ability to play any outfield position."
Mount Juliet, Tenn. (Mount Juliet HS)
Sean Hunley, RHP (Mount Juliet, Tenn.)
A native of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, right-hander Sean Hunley is a three-year varsity letterman for Mount Juliet High School's baseball program and led his school to a District 9-AAA Championship in 2016. Ranked as the No. 15 right-handed pitcher in the state by Perfect Game, he went 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA and 22 strikeouts as a junior, while hitting .297 with 13 RBI for the Golden Bears. Following his 2016 season, he was named to the 9-AAA All-District Tournament team.
Listed as the No. 28 overall player in Tennessee by PG reports, Hunley was a 2016 PG Underclass High Honorable Mention and member of the 17U WWBA All-Tournament Team with his summer ball team, Game of Stealth. During the 2016 USSSA Global World Series, Hunley was the winning pitcher in a two-hit shutout victory for the championship title. A 2015 Under Armour Preseason All-American, the righty spent the 2015 and 2016 fall seasons as a member of the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals Scout Teams. Over his high school career, Hunley has also compiled 2015 All-District, 2014 Under Armour National Team and 2014 CABA World Series MVP honors.
Thomas on Hunley: "Sean is a big, physical right-handed pitcher that we are excited to be adding to our pitching staff. Because of his height and arm slot, he creates a really tough angle for opposing hitters. He compliments his power fastball with a good breaking ball and change-up. He commands all three pitches which gives him the ability to work as a starter or pitch out of the bullpen."
Mechanicsville, Va. (Hanover HS)
Joshua Plummer, OF/RHP (Mechanicsville, Va.)
A talented, multi-sport athlete from Hanover High School in Virginia, Joshua Plummer hails as the No. 4 outfielder and No. 22 overall player from the state of Virginia by Perfect Game rankings. A three-year varsity letterman and All-Academic student-athlete in baseball and basketball, Plummer helped lead his Hawks to a state championship title in 2016, hitting .330 with 17 RBI and 13 stolen bases on the year. On the court, the 6-foot-3 rising senior was also voted a Second-Team All-Conference selection for Hanover's basketball program in 2016.
Plummer earned fall ball experience as a member of the Doubleday Dodgers, participating in the 2016 WWBA National Championship and the 17U WWBA Elite Round Robin. He took part in the 2016 Perfect Game National Showcase as well as the Sunshine Southeast Showcase in Cartersville, Ga.
Thomas on Plummer: "Josh is another very talented two-sport (basketball and baseball) athlete that we are looking forward to having on campus. We feel he will have the ability to contribute offensively and on the mound for us. Offensively, he is a switch-hitting outfielder that can provide power from both sides of the plate with good enough speed to also be a good base stealer. On the mound, he is a little raw but has a good delivery with the arm strength to work in the 90s."
Chattanooga, Tenn. (The Baylor School)
Gunnar Ricketts, OF (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Listed as the No. 3 outfielder and No. 22 overall player in the state of Tennessee, Gunnar Ricketts is a four-year starter for baseball and football at The Baylor School in Chattanooga. He has served as baseball team captain for two years and during his junior campaign in 2016, hit .335 while leading his school in triples, runs scored and stolen bases. Named a 2015 All-State selection from The Baylor School, Ricketts recorded a career-best .392 batting average and led his team in home runs as a sophomore.
Ricketts played travel ball with Exposure Baseball, winning a 2015 Perfect Game Championship, and was named a 2016 PG Underclass High Honorable Mention player. He participated in the 2016 Junior Sunbelt Classic (Okla.) and helped his Team Tennessee to a tournament title alongside fellow classmate Nicholas Woods. Since appearing in the PG Super25 15U Georgia Regional in 2014, Ricketts has played in more than a dozen showcase and travel ball tournament events across the Southeast and began his travel ball career as a member of Bandits Baseball's 10-year-old squad.
Thomas on Ricketts: "Gunnar is terrific two-sport (football and baseball) athlete. He has game changing speed that can be disruptive both offensively and defensively. He's been clocked under 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Gunnar bats from the left side and is an ideal fit for the top of the order. His power is developing and he will also have the ability to hit some home runs to compliment his speed and base stealing ability."
Lexington, Tenn. (Scotts Hill HS)
Evan Russell, UTL (Lexington, Tenn.)
As an All-State player for Scotts Hill High School in both baseball and football, utility man Evan Russell comes to Rocky Top as Perfect Game's No. 2-rated catcher and No. 29 overall player in Tennessee. A native of Lexington, Tennessee, Russell led Scotts Hill to a state championship baseball title in 2016, hitting .428 with a .537 on-base percentage and a .624 slugging percentage. He also posted a 2.80 ERA with 93 strikeouts over 63.0 innings pitched for the Lions. Ranked as a Top-10 academic student-athlete among his Scotts Hill graduating class, Russell showcased his athletic ability on the football field as a junior in 2015, earning All-State honors with 1,009 total receiving yards.
Russell played summer ball for the Dulin Dodgers, one of the top travel ball organizations in the state of Tennessee, and earned a 2016 Underclass Honorable Mention nod from Perfect Game.
Thomas on Russell: "Evan has earned All-State honors in both football and baseball. He is a tremendous leader that makes everyone around him better. Last summer, he won the MVP of the Sunbelt Classic helping lead Team Tennessee to the Championship. He possesses a high-level hitting tool that will allow him to push to be in the lineup when he steps on campus as a freshman. He's got great versatility and has played just about every position on the field."
Knoxville, Tenn. (Bearden HS)
Brandon Trammell, IF (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Son of former Major Leaguer and 1994 Tennessee Baseball All-American Bubba Trammell, Knoxville native Brandon Trammell joins the Rocky Top family as a four-year varsity letterman from Bearden High School. Rated as the No. 1 position player and No. 10 overall player in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game, Trammell hit .395 with three home runs and 45 RBI as a junior for his Bearden Bulldogs. While splitting time between the mound and third base as a sophomore, he also hit .294 with 32 RBI.
Trammell played travel ball for Diamond Baseball of the Simcox Academy and spent his most-recent fall campaign as a member of the Kansas City Royals Scout Team. In 2016, he earned Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention honors and is currently listed as the No. 58 position player in the nation (No. 288 overall) by PG.
Thomas on Trammell: "Brandon is a left-handed hitter with tremendous power. He projects to be a big run producer in the middle of the lineup. He has really good power now, but that should continue to increase as he matures into his tall, lanky, projectable body. He's also very athletic for his 6-foot-5 frame and has the ability to play both corner infield and outfield positions."
Sevierville, Tenn. (Sevier County HS)
Chase Wallace, RHP/IF (Sevierville, Tenn.)
A four-year letterman and three-sport athlete from Sevier County High School, Chase Wallace is labeled as the No. 9 right-handed pitcher and No. 13 overall player in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game reports. A former teammate of current Vol pitcher Zach Linginfelter and younger brother of Vanderbilt quarterback Deuce Wallace, the incoming freshman hit .350 with one homer and 26 stolen bases as a junior in 2016. On the mound, the righty compiled 61 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA for his Sevier County Smoky Bears.
Wallace played on the travel ball circuit for Diamond Baseball of the Simcox Academy and participated in the 2016 Perfect Game WWBA National Championship, as well as the PG/Evoshield National Championship and WWBA World Championship.
Thomas on Wallace: "Chase is another incredible athlete that has played multiple sports (football and baseball) in high school. He made a big jump on the mound this past summer and we really look forward to the strength he will add to our pitching staff. His fastball, breaking ball and change-up each have great movement. His ability to command all three and his athleticism are what separate him from most pitchers."
Kingsport, Tenn. (Walters State CC/Dobyns Bennett HS)
Hunter Wolfe, IF (Kingsport, Tenn.)
A product of Dobyns Bennett High School, Hunter Wolfe comes to Rocky Top having spent a redshirt 2016 season at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee. Voted a Big 7 Conference Player of the Year during his senior season at Dobyns Bennett in 2015, Wolfe also earned Tennessee Sports Writers Association, TBCA, Tennessee Baseball Report First Team All-State and All-Region honors while helping his school to a regional title. He hit .475 with 11 doubles, six triples, seven home runs, 36 RBI and 56 runs scored for the Indians and struck out just seven times in 140 plate appearances that season, including a 28-game hitting streak.
Thomas on Wolfe: "Hunter is a plus defending shortstop who complements his defense with a good offensive skill set. He will be able to impact the game both offensively and defensively. He is a sure-handed defender with great range and a very strong arm. Offensively, he has gap strength with the ability to hit the ball out of the park at times and has the speed to be a front line base stealer."
Chattanooga, Tenn. (East Hamilton HS)
Nicholas Woods, IF/RHP (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Rated as the No. 13 right-handed pitcher and No. 23 overall player in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game, Chattanooga's Nicholas Woods is a four-year varsity letterman and team captain hailing from East Hamilton High School. During his junior campaign with the Hurricanes, Woods hit at a .387 clip with 28 RBI and 14 stolen bases to earn All-District 5-AAA and All-Region 3-AAA nods for a third consecutive year. As a three-year letterman and team captain on the East Hamilton football team, he also took home Region 4A Quarterback of the Year honors in 2016 and helped the Hurricanes to two Regional Tournament berths.
A two-time Underclass High Honorable Mention by Perfect Game, Woods spent travel ball time with the Team Tennessee, the Georgia Rebels and Exposure Baseball, participating in over 10 showcase and national championship competitions since 2014. He was selected to the TBCA Underclassman Showcase in three consecutive years and was one of just three players to participate with Team Tennessee in the Junior Sunbelt Classic (Okla.) in back-to-back years (2015, 2016 - Championship).
Thomas on Woods: "Nick is another two sport (football & baseball) standout that is one of the best athletes in the state of Tennessee. He will bring great leadership qualities and great versatility to our program. As an infielder, he is a front line defender that is fundamentally sound. Offensively, he is a run producer that has the ability to drive the ball to all fields and compliments that with good speed. His offensive skills provide him the ability to bat anywhere in the line-up. Nick also possesses the skill set to pitch at this level. He has a clean delivery with a good fastball and a power breaking ball."