Middle Tennessee Head Baseball Coach Jim McGuire has announced the addition of five transfers who have signed letters of intent to continue their careers with the Blue Raiders.
All five signees are transfers and are expected to help make an immediate impact in the program following the loss of nine seniors who exhausted their eligibility following a 32-win season in 2015.
Incoming players include Riley Delgado, infielder, Columbia State CC; Will Jackson, RHP, Georgia Perimeter College; Cody Puckett, LHP, Columbia State CC; Vaughn Shapen, catcher/infielder, Bosier Parish CC; and Chaz Vesser, catcher, Chattanooga State CC.
Delgado (5-10, 175) was recently named first-team All-TJCAA and All-State, as well as earning an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his flawless effort in the infield for Columbia State. Delgado made no errors in 132 chances at shortstop and third base during 2015 and earned his gold glove at shortstop. He was named Spalding Baseball NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year Tuesday.
Delgado, the younger brother of former Blue Raider middle infielder Dustin Delgado, will likely play either shortstop or third base for Middle Tennessee. He hit .370 with only 11 strikeouts and a .492 on-base percentage for Columbia State in 2014.
“We know how great of a fielder Riley is,” McGuire said. “He is a very similar player to his brother, Dustin, in that he is a very patient hitter, a top of the lineup type of guy. He is a plus defender and can play second, short or third. He will make a big impact for us next year. The biggest we signed Riley was to give us more experience, more stability and not have to depend on all freshmen or sophomores right away. He will help solidify our infield.”
Puckett is another Columbia State transfer who will fill an immediate need as a left-handed pitcher. Blue Raider southpaws Johnathan Frebis and Nathan Foriest exhausted their eligibility following the 2015 campaign.
Puckett (6-0, 190), who starred as a pitcher/outfielder at nearby DeKalb County High School in Smithville, Tenn., posted a 9-4 record and registered more than 125 strikeouts in two seasons at Columbia State. Puckett was a member of the weekend rotation both seasons at Columbia State and helped lead the team to the JUCO World Series in 2014 when he posted a 5-0 record.
Puckett was the District 8-AA Pitcher of the Year as a junior at DeKalb County, where he led the Tigers to two Class AA state tournament appearances.
“With the left-handed pitchers we are losing we felt we needed to add another lefty to the class,” McGuire said. “Cody can start or relieve for us. He will definitely help us from the left side. He has a strong body, strong arm and could be a draft pick before his career is complete at Middle Tennessee.”
Another pitcher with high expectations is Jackson (6-4, 200). The hard-throwing righty pitched in the Tallahassee Regional in 2014 while at Georgia Southern before transferring to Georgia Perimeter for his sophomore year.
Jackson posted a 5-1 record with a 3.86 ERA in 46-2/3 innings of work. He allowed 38 hits and struck out 35 batters. Jackson made 14 appearances as a freshman at Georgia Southern. He was named to the 2013 Georgia All-State High School team after leading Milton HS to the state tournament and region championship.
“Will knows what Division I baseball is all about and he is a good competitor,” McGuire said. “Losing Frebis as a weekend starter and losing the depth we lost, we felt we needed someone like Will Jackson, who has pitched at the Division I level and has pitched in a regional.”
Shapen (5-11, 180) and Vesser (6-1, 183) will add depth behind the plate and in the lineup.
Shapen is a catcher/infielder who hit .411 in 20 games at Bosier Parish CC. The Shreveport, La., native connected for two home runs and drove in 16 runs, while striking out just four times.
Vesser (6-1, 183) is a catcher who hit .322 at Chattanooga State in 2015. The former Alcoa High School standout displayed a strong arm behind the plate and a strong bat offensively.
“It was important to add depth at catcher,” McGuire said. “Shapen can give us depth at different positions in the infield and he can also catch. Vesser will come in as a catcher. He is more experienced behind the plate and, along with (returner Will) Schnure will give us much-needed experience there.”