BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb signed a strong, 10-man baseball recruiting class during the early signing period, infusing the program with quality talent across the board.

“This group of young men represents the most impressive recruiting class we’ve been able to sign so far at Gardner-Webb,” said head coach Rusty Stroupe. “Our assistant coaches, Kent Cox and Jason Burke, are to be commended for their efforts in bringing in this incredible class of student-athletes. We believe we will reap the benefits of this class for years to come.”

The Diamond ‘Dogs most important position of need for the early period was pitching, and the GWU staff added six quality arms.

Brandon Boling
, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound righty from Lexington, Ky., forged a 6-3 record and 2.04 ERA for Bryan Station High – and starred for the Kentucky Baseball Club on the summer wooden bat circuit. He was an All-City selection as a junior, and is considered one of the Bluegrass State’s top senior pitching prospects.

Boling, who boasts a fastball that reaches into the low 90s and a devastating split finger pitch, also spent time with the Giants Scout Team during the Summer of 2008 – and dominated a talent-laden Dallas Tigers summer wooden bat lineup at the 2008 World Wood Bat Association Championships in Jupiter, Fla., earlier this fall.

Boling was also named the best pitching prospect at the 2007 Perfect Game Midwest Underclass Showcase. He chose Gardner-Webb over Marshall, and also considered Louisville and Winthrop. Boling was also recruited by a host of top Division I programs, including Stanford, Virginia, LSU, Kentucky, Iowa, Boston College and Indiana.

Michael Hanzlik, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-handed pitcher from Blythewood (S.C.) High, is rated as one of South Carolina’s top-40 seniors by The Diamond Prospects recruiting service, and as one of the state’s top-20 right-handed pitchers. Hanzlik is considered a pitching prospect with considerable upside, and helped Blythewood to a Region title last season, forging a 6-2 record to go with a 3.96 ERA. He posted a 1.40 ERA and fanned 15 batters in 15.0 innings for the Sand Gnats summer program in 2008 as well. Hanzlik’s fastball velocity reached into the upper 80s this fall.

Local product Jeff Howell starred at nearby Kings Mountain (N.C.) High on the mound and at the plate. The RHP/3B prospect was an All-Conference choice as a junior, going 9-5 with 130 strikeouts in just 84.2 innings of work. He also picked up a pair of state playoff wins. Howell’s fastball reaches easily into the upper 80s and compliments a strong breaking pitch.

Emilio Pagan is another two-way prospect, and the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder is expected to play both ways in college. An infielder and right-handed pitcher by trade, he went 4-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 36 innings of work, allowing just a .225 opponents batting average as a junior. He earned 2008 All-Region honors at J.L. Mann (S.C.) High and was an All-Conference selection.

This past summer, Pagan played for a S.C. Diamond Devils team that captured the 2008 Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association national title in Marietta, Ga. Pagan, who has added considerable size since his junior season of prep baseball, saw his fastball touch 89 mph this fall, and has an array of strong off speed pitches to work with. Pagan chose the Diamond ‘Dogs over several Division I programs.

Conner Scarborough pitched well as a junior at High Point Christian (N.C.) Academy, forging a 10-2 record to go with 2.25 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. The 6-0, 185-pounder was a second-team All-America selection by the NCSAA and earned private school All-State honors as well.

Scarborough is another hard-throwing right-hander, who throws a lively fastball well into the upper 80s with great command. He is rated as one of the top-50 seniors in North Carolina by Impact Baseball and was a member of the Region 5 State Games team. He chose Gardner-Webb over Liberty.

Brock Wilson, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound RHP/1B prospect, has shown tremendous potential already at the high school level, starring as a junior for Lynchburg Christian Academy (LCA) in Virginia.

A 2008 preseason Under Armour All-American, Wilson is one of the more highly regarded players to sign with the Diamond ‘Dogs in recent memory. Perfect Game rates the tall righty as the No. 10 senior prospect in Virginia and as a national top-250 prospect. Wilson’s fastball tops out in the low 90s and is just one of several dominant pitches in his arsenal.

Wilson went 5-2 with 62 strikeouts in 42 innings to go with an 0.68 ERA as a junior for LCA, and batted .559 with seven home runs and 40 RBI at the plate. He was named team MVP, first-team All-Conference, first-team All-Area and first-team All-State.

Wilson chose Gardner-Webb over Liberty and Campbell, among others. Clemson, Charlotte, Richmond, Marshall and Kentucky also recruited the highly regarded righty.

Gardner-Webb also added four position players for its recruiting Class of 2009, including Justin Gullickson (Spartanburg, S.C. / Spartanburg HS), Benji Jackson (Huntersville, N.C. / Home School), Casey Johns (Stafford, Va. / North Stafford HS) and Josh Shabram (Fayetteville, N.C. / Pine Forest HS).

Gullickson (5-11, 175) is rated as South Carolina’s fifth-best third baseman in the Class of 2009 and has shown steady improvement that is expected to continue – both in the field and at the plate.

Jackson (6-3, 190) is an athletic outfielder who wields a potent bat from the left side to go with above average speed and an electric arm from the outfield. He was outstanding at several showcase camps over the summer, and drew considerable interest before deciding on Gardner-Webb.

Johns (5-10, 160) is rated as the state of Virginia’s No. 25 senior prospect by Virginia Preps and No. 23 by Impact Baseball, and batted .394 as a junior shortstop. He played summer baseball in 2008 for the strong Maryland Oriolanders traveling team. Johns considered Towson, VMI, Army and Rider before deciding on Gardner-Webb.

Shabram (5-11, 170, INF) is another solid infield prospect who is a two-time State Games participant and a two-time All-Conference selection at the plate for Pine Forest. He is reputed to be a slick-fielding shortstop with excellent defensive instincts.

Gardner-Webb opens the 2009 season on February 20 at home vs. Canisius.

Gardner-Webb’s 2009 Baseball Recruiting Class (Early Period)

Pitchers
Brandon Boling * 6-4 * 185 * RHP * Lexington, Ky.
Michael Hanzlik * 6-3 * 185 * RHP * Blythewood, S.C.
Jeff Howell * 6-1 * 195 * RHP/3B * Kings Mountain, N.C.
Emilio Pagan * 6-2 * 175 * RHP/INF * Greenville, S.C.
Conner Scarborough * 6-0 * 185 * RHP * High Point, N.C.
Brock Wilson * 6-6 * 195 * RHP * Lynchburg, Va.

Position Players
Justin Gullickson * 5-11 * 175 * INF * Spartanburg, S.C.
Benji Jackson * 6-3 * 190 * OF * Huntersville, N.C.
Casey Johns * 5-10 * 160 * INF * Stafford, Va.
Josh Shabram * 5-11 * 170 * INF * Fayetteville, N.C.