RICHMOND – The VCU Rams and Head Coach Shawn Stiffler look to continue gaining momentum off of three consecutive successful seasons of eclipsing 37-plus wins. Those wins gave the Rams a spot on a list of 14 programs in the country to have achieved that feat. The Black and Gold have once again reloaded for 2017, adding six players from Virginia, two from Arizona, and handpicking players from Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, and Ohio. The nine freshmen and four JUCO transfer class will add strength to the already deep 2017 Rams.

"I cant say enough about the job our assistants Kurt Elbin, Steve Hay, ML Morgan, and Josh Tutwiler did in identifying and building relationships with these young men and their families," said Head Coach Shawn Stiffler. "All of these guys have the skill level and work ethic to come in and contribute right away.  Beyond potential on the field every one of these guys come from great families and are committed to positively impacting both our program and University."

With the addition of eight position players and five pitchers for 13 total signees, let's take a look at the newcomers for the 2017 season:


Steven Carpenter, INF, Quinton, Va./New Kent – Cousin of current senior Darian Carpenter, Steven finds himself no stranger to VCU. He set a school record at New Kent with a .542 batting average last season as a senior, and grabbed All-State honors. He is also a three-time All-Conference selection and ranked as the third best shortstop prospect in Virginia according to Perfect Game. He also played on one of the best travel baseball teams in the state, the Virginia Cardinals, for Head Coach Rich Graham.

Coach Stiffler on Carpenter: 

"Steven's ability and baseball mind will allow him to be a key contributor as a freshman. He can play any infield position at a high level and has an advanced offensive approach. He can create runs in multiple ways, making him valuable to our program."

Ryan Fox, RHP, Dayton, Ohio/Centerville (Parkland (Ill.)) – A proven winner on the mound, Fox looks to continue the same pattern in Richmond. His Parkland CC team won a Region XXIV title and went to the JUCO World Series in Oklahoma. He was named NWAC Second Team All-Conference last year. In 14 appearances last year (13 starts), he went 8-1 in 76.1 innings pitched with a 2.00 ERA and 71 strikeouts.

Coach Stiffler on Fox:

"Ryan is a big, strong right-handed pitcher out of Parkland Community College. His ability to throw strikes, experience going deep in games should add depth to our starting rotation. He has an upper 80's fastball and great command of multiple off-speed pitches."

Connor Gillispie, RHP, Earlysville, Va./Miller School – A product of the Miller School, the same high school as reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year and teammate Michael Dailey, Gillispie is a big time competitor. Learning from former MLB closer, high school coach Billy Wagner, he was named VIC Player of the Year and was First-Team All-State his junior and senior years.  He is the No. 17 pitcher in Virginia according to Prep Baseball Report. He also played travel baseball for the Richmond Braves and Head Coach Eddie Jones.

Coach Stiffler on Gillispie:

"Connor possesses a low 90's fastball along with a plus breaking ball that he can throw in any count, and a solid changeup. With those tools, he makes a great addition to our staff. Those three out pitches will give him the opportunity to make an impact and contribute right away."

Austin Gregory, OF, Stafford, Va./North Stafford – Another member of the Richmond Braves and Head Coach Eddie Jones in his summers, Gregory comes in as the number eight outfielder in Virginia according to Prep Baseball Report and No. 10 in Virginia according to Perfect Game. He was First Team All-State his sophomore and junior years, and was also a First Team All-Conference member as well.

Coach Stiffler on Gregory:

"Austin came to our team hitting camp for years and became a target early in our recruiting class. He is extremely athletic and can play all three outfield positions. He will be one of the fastest players in our program and possesses gap power, which fits the mold of our outfielders here at VCU."

Christian Maggi, OF, Phoenix, Ariz./Bropity College Prep (Yavapai (Ariz.)) –Maggi is a proven winner, as two of his older brothers have ran through the minor leagues (Drew, currently at AAA Oklahoma with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Beau, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals but is now retired) and has a JUCO World Series title of his own with Yavapai. In 60 games last year, he hit .381 with two home runs, 31 RBI, 66 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases.

Coach Stiffler on Maggi:

"We are excited to get Christian so late in the process. He comes from a winning program in Yavapai who won the Division I NJCAA World Series this past year. He comes from an athletic family with a baseball background. His athleticism will allow him to play all three outfield positions, as well as handle the bat and hit for power will make him versatile in our batting lineup."

Hayden Moore, RHP, Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover – Black and Gold runs through the blood of this righty, as his father, Matthew, was also a product of the VCU Baseball program. At local Hanover High School, he won three state championships, and picked up First Team All-Metro, All-State, and All-Conference honors along the way. He is ranked the No. 24 right-handed pitcher in Virginia, and No. 25 by Perfect Game.

Coach Stiffler on Moore:

"Hayden grew up as a VCU fan, wanting to be a Ram. His father's legacy pitching in Black and Gold gave Hayden the drive to become part of our program. His low 90's fastball and plus slider will make an impact in our bullpen right away. He is a proven winner coming from a great local high school program in the Richmond area."

Ben Nelson, LHP, Phoenix, Ariz./Dowling Catholic (IA) (Johnson County (KS)) – A transfer from Johnson County CC, he earned Second Team All-Conference honors. In 21 appearances out of the bullpen last year, he went 5-0 with three saves in 48.1 innings pitched with a 2.05 ERA and 48 strikeouts. Nelson will feature three pitches, all working off of an exceptional breaking ball he can throw and control in all counts.

Coach Stiffler on Nelson:

"Ben is going to be able to come in and fill a variety of roles for our pitching staff. He has the ability to extend himself and be stretched out and continue to add strength to our starting rotation. However, his experience pitching out of the bullpen last year at Johnson County will add a key left-handed component that we felt we were missing in our bullpen."

Sam Ryan, RHP, Fairfax, Va./Fairfax – Ryan struck out an outstanding 103 batters his senior year, including tossing a no-hitter versus Langley with 16 of those strikeouts. Named Co-Pitcher of the Year in the Liberty Conference, Ryan is the number 14 right-handed pitcher in Virginia, and the number 32 according to Perfect Game. He played travel ball for Stars Baseball and Head Coach Carson Carroll.

Coach Stiffler on Ryan:

"We are excited about the potential in Sam's arm and we are excited to watch him develop within our program. He has a great frame and we are excited to add to his upper 80's fastball. He is a very competitive strike thrower and we feel that Sam will have a very successful career in our program."

Josh Simon, C, Laurel, Md./St. John's College HS (DC) – A product of the same high school as teammate Garrett Pearson, Simon won the WCAC Conference Championship last season. He is the number one catcher in the state of Maryland, and number six ranked player in the state according to Perfect Game. He was a Rawlings Perfect Game All-American in 2016, and also earned First-Team All-Met honors. He is also a three-time All-Conference selection. He played travel ball with Diamondskills and Head Coach Jon Sidilau.

Coach Stiffler on Simon:

"Catching was an important need to address and we found a good one in Josh. He plays at one of the top private schools in the country and has challenged himself with competition, winning three straight WCAC championships. Being a successful wrestler in high school, he brings an extra toughness that comes with the position."

Matt Stallings, C, Alexandria, Va./West Springfield – Another Virginia product, Stallings earned All-Met Honorable Mention, as well as Second Team All-State and First Team All-Region honors. He is ranked as the No. 10 catcher in Virginia. He played travel ball with Stars Baseball and Head Coach Carson Carroll.

Coach Stiffler on Stallings:

"We feel that Matt will become an offensive force in the program. His plus size and athleticism will enable him to handle the loads of catching everyday. We project him to be a middle of the order hitter for his career." 

J.P. Vail, INF/OF, Stony Point, N.Y./North Rockland (Harford (Md.)) –A switch-hitting, corner outfielder who can also play first base, Vail helped set the Harford CC record for wins in a season, and helped them win the Maryland JUCO Championship last year, earning himself First Team All-Region XX honors. In 50 games last year, he hit .346 with 10 home runs, 53 RBI, 45 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases.

Coach Stiffler on Vail: 

"J.P. is going to be able to fill a number of roles defensively and offensively for us next year. He has proven that he can hit for average and power, driving in runs. But, he is also someone who creates runs by having a high on-base percentage, stealing bases, and smart baserunning." 

Brett Willett, INF, Middletown, Del./Appoquinimink – Willett was named both an All-State and All-Conference selection in his high school career. He ranks as the number two shortstop in Delaware, and the fifth overall player in Delaware according to Perfect Game. He played travel ball for both Arena Starz and Head Coach Barry Pyle, along with Youse's Orioles and Head Coach Tim Norris.

Coach Stiffler on Willett:

"Brett is a very versatile player who we feel will be able to play all over the field during his time at VCU. We are most excited about his big, projectable left-handed bat. He has an advanced feel for hitting and we feel the power will come as he continues to grow."

Paul Witt, INF, Harpers Ferry, W.Va./Jefferson HS – The number one shortstop and overall player from West Virginia will be looking to earn the starting shortstop position this year for the Black and Gold. Witt was named West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year last season. He played travel baseball for the Stars and Head Coach Mark Fleischer.

Coach Stiffler on Witt: 

"We believe Paul was one of the best high school shortstops on the east coast. He has the tools and the knowledge of the game to keep him in the middle of the field during his career at VCU. We also feel that his bat will allow him to be put in a position to play right away." 



February 13, 2017 2017 BASEBALL PREVIEW