Hall, Harber and Stolo Sign with D-I Programs
One of D.J. Whittemore’s main goals each season is to find a home at the next level for each of his Western Nevada College sophomore baseball players.
Whittemore scratched three names off his relocation list on Wednesday when pitcher Christian Stolo, outfielder Conor Harber and middle infielder Jack Hall signed NCAA Division I letters of intent during a ceremony attended by many of their teammates on the Carson City campus.
“Two of the most important days of the year are graduation and national letter intent day,” Whittemore said. “Every time one of them signs, our job gets a little easier. All of the coaches call for the best available players. The longer you have them unsigned, the harder it is to get the other guys scholarships.”
Stolo didn’t have to look far for his next baseball destination. Despite interest from defending NCAA champion UCLA, 2012 titlist Arizona and Atlantic Coast Conference power Virginia, the McQueen High School graduate decided to remain in Northern Nevada. The all-Region 18 pitcher became the eighth Wildcat to sign with the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It means a lot, and it’s dream come true to play for a Division I program that I grew up watching a lot,” Stolo said.
In addition, Harber, the first .400 hitter in program history, signed with one of the Pac-12’s elite, the Oregon Ducks, and infielder Jack Hall became the first Wildcat to earn a scholarship to the University of San Francisco.
Whittemore said Stolo is a key addition to the Wolf Pack’s 2014 recruiting class.
“Christian’s ability to perform under pressure is one of his best assets,” said Whittemore, noting that one of Stolo’s eight wins was a shutout of College of Southern Nevada in last season’s Region 18 tournament. “His desire to win and his selfless nature make him an outstanding leader. Even as a freshman last season, he was one of the team-s most consistent leaders."
During his freshman season at WNC last spring, Stolo was one of four Wildcats to earn Region 18 first-team honors. He posted an 8-3 record and a 1.98 earned run average, striking out 65 hitters in 77 1/3 innings. Among Wildcat starting pitchers, Stolo was the toughest to hit as opponents only generated a .176 batting average against him.
Stolo’s value to the Wildcats didn’t end with his once-a-week start on the mound. He became an everyday player in the outfield, hitting .315, fifth best on the team. He collected seven doubles, two triples and a homer in 89 at-bats.
There was little that Harber didn’t do for the Wildcats in 2013 in finishing runner-up for Scenic West Athletic Conference player of the year honors. Harber became the fourth Wildcat to be named as a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American and set three WNC single-season records with 88 hits, .411 batting average and 11 triples.
“Conor is the best athlete ever to play in our program,” said Whittemore, referring to the Astoria, Ore., native as a five-tool player. “He will be one of the top junior college athletes in the entire country this season.”
Harber is pleased that he will get to share the next step in his baseball career with family and friends.
“It means a lot to me that my family can come watch me play,” Harber said. “And it takes a lot of the stress away knowing that this is knocked off the list and I can mainly focus on school and playing baseball the rest of the way.”
The first-team All-Region 18 player also stole 16 bases, scored 56 runs, totaled 29 extra-base hits, recorded four outfield assists and registered a team-low 0.96 earned run average in five pitching appearances.
“Conor's love of the game and his work ethic, not to mention his talent, make him really fun to watch every day, whether it is practice or a game,” Whittemore said. “He broke three program records as a freshman and his desire to be the best all time make him a good bet to break a few more in his sophomore season."
Oklahoma State and Oregon State also expressed interest in Harber, but he chose the Ducks, who have hosted NCAA tournament regionals the past two seasons.
Improvement and nearly flawless fielding helped Hall land a spot with the San Francisco Dons. Hall made just one error in 36 chances during his freshman season with the Wildcats.
“The biggest gift for me is to give this gift to my mom,” said Hall, noting the sacrifices that she made to allow him to pursue his baseball career.
Serving as a backup to second baseman AJ Hernandez, the Bonneville High School (Ogden, Utah) product overcame a hamstring injury to make solid contributions off the bench.
“Jack is a special athlete capable of making spectacular plays in the field,” Whittemore said. “His range, quickness and knack for making highlight-reel plays have not been seen before John L. Harvey Field.
“He is also an excellent student and carries a 3.9 GPA into his sophomore season."
Hall, however, has made the most improvement among the Wildcats during the offseason, according to Whittemore.
“Jack is one of the most improved players year over year that WNC has ever seen,” Whittemore said. “Jack has come out this year and outplayed nearly everyone on the field.”
Hall hit .214 with three doubles in 42 at-bats in 2013, but Whittemore expects those numbers to rise in his sophomore season.
“He has worked tirelessly on his swing and developed as an offensive weapon,” Whittemore said.
Wednesday’s signing ceremony gave each of the Wildcats a chance to reflect on why they are among the few that get to advance to college baseball biggest stage.
“The biggest thing was the coaching,” Stolo said. “The coaching staff helped me, Harber and Jack become better baseball players. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s not just them helping us become better as a player but as human beings.”
Added Harber, “You figure out your role and work hard at that role.”
For Hall, it all came together when he realized how much pleasure the game gives him.
“When I broke things down to the basics, everything started clicking,” he said. “Focusing on the happiness the game brings to me caused me to play well.”
Consistently one of the country’s top junior college baseball programs with three NJCAA World Series appearances in eight seasons, Whittemore has been able to consistently accommodate NCAA Division I programs with his players. The number of Division I scholarships awarded to WNC players grew to 60 on Wednesday.
“The fun part for the whole program is when the guys’ hard work and great preparation can advance their goals,” said WNC coach D.J. Whittemore. “It sends the right message that if you do the right thing, good things are going to happen to you.”
Press Release: November 14, 2013
|Photos (Click to Enlarge)|
|Jack Halls receives a tip from D.J. Whittemore.||Jack Hall lines up a grounder.||Jack Hall swings away.|
|Conor Harber fields a hit in the outfield.||Conor Harber speeds to first base.||Conor Harber is congratulated at the plate after hitting a postseason homer.|
|Christian Stolo deals to a hitter.||Christian Stolo fires away.|
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