AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific baseball program, fresh off a 47-12 season in which the Cougars won their 11th conference title, has signed six players in the early signing period for the 2013 class. The Cougars lost 12 players to the MLB draft or graduation, and are entering their first season as members of the Pacific West Conference in the school’s second year of NCAA Division II candidacy. These six recruits will begin play for Azusa Pacific in the spring of 2014.
The Cougars added a pair of outfielders in Sean Aspinall and Michael Staudinger, and signed four pitcher/position players in Billy Sanford, David May, Seth Gill, and Paul ‘Pablo’ O’Connor.
“Our staff is very excited about our early commitments for the 2014 season. (Assistant coaches) Drew Evans and Matt Venegas have done another excellent job of identifying an outstanding group of not only great baseball players, but great students in the classroom as well. With our current young middle infielders in place, our focus this year was to bring in athletes in the outfield, on the corners, and on the mound,” said head coach Paul Svagdis.
“The position players in this class are very athletic at the plate and have the potential to develop into dynamic hitters over time. Our goal was to identify some young arms that have the potential to impact our pitching staff right away. With the addition of Gill, May, O’Connor, and Sanford we feel with maturity they will develop into front line players for us on the mound. All six of these young men are very physical and have received great praise from their respective coaches.”
DAVID MAY: Segerstrom HS, RHP
May posted a strong junior season for Segerstom High School, recording a 9-1 record behind a 1.45 ERA in 11 starts. The right-handed pitcher allowed just 22 runs in 72 innings and tallied 54 strikeouts to earn First-Team All-Golden West League honors. As a sophomore he tabbed a 3.79 ERA with a 1-4 record in nine starts. He struck out 19 batters in 51 innings and was named Pitcher of the Year in both his sophomore and senior seasons.
“After a visit and an offer I committed to Azusa Pacific. I can’t help but feel that it was God’s hand that gave me this opportunity and opened the door for the next chapter in my life,” said May.
SETH GILL: Yucaipa HS, RHP
Gill helped lead Yucaipa High School to an 18-10 record, and a 12-3 mark in Citrus Belt League play. The reliever appeared in nine games, and finished with a 1.52 ERA in 23 innings. He registered 18 strikeouts, and allowed only five earned runs. In his only start against Palm Springs High School he struck out three batters without allowing an earned run in four innings of work. Opposing batters hit just .193 against him in 2012.
“The moment I stepped on campus I knew Azusa Pacific was the best fit athletically and academically,” said Gill.
PAUL O’CONNOR: Monte Vista HS, 3B/P
Paul O’Connor, known as Pablo on the diamond, is a dual threat third baseman/pitcher. As a three-year starter through his junior season O’Connor has helped turn around the Monte Vista High School program, leading the Monarchs to their first CIF appearance in 10 years. As a pitcher he recorded a no-hitter against Kearny on April 30, striking out 11 batters in an 11-0 win. He was named East County Player of the Week on April 9, 2011, and was selected First-Team All-Grossmont Valley league after posting a 6-1 record with a 2.46 ERA in 37 innings. Offensively he hit .352 with 11 doubles, and 19 RBIs. O’Connor followed up his sophomore season with an even better junior one, boasting a .360 average to go with 21 RBIs and 12 doubles. He tabbed a 2.32 ERA in 53 innings with 51 strikeouts and was named First-Team All-East County and all-league.
“I chose Azusa Pacific because of its fine reputation. The coaching staff was very impressive, and having played in tournaments in Azusa I loved the facilities. Academically the school’s Christian values and class sizes were very appealing in making my decision, and altogether it was just a perfect fit for me,” said O’Connor.
SEAN ASPINALL: Upland HS, OF
A local two-sport athlete from Upland High School, Aspinall excelled on the diamond and the gridiron. As one of California’s top kickers Aspinall was named First-Team All-Baseline League and was a first-team punter in 2011. He has won numerous kicking competitions, and took third place at the Camp Kiffin Place Kicking Competition. The outfielder earned second team all-league recognition as a junior after batting .356 with three triples, four doubles, and 24 RBIs. As a sophomore he received honorable mention status.
“I chose Azusa Pacific because I believe the team has the potential to become one of the best NCAA Division II programs in the nation,” said Aspinall.
MICHAEL STAUDINGER: Eastlake HS (Wash.), OF
The 6-3 lefty from Sammamish, Wash. led the Wolves in home runs, doubles, RBIs, and walks as a junior, and has played on the varsity for all three seasons at Eastlake High School. The outfielder has fared well in the travel circuit, batting clean-up for the Baseball Northwest Tournament Team and the Eastlake Tigers Travel Team. For Northwest he started in center and hit .400 after posting a .485 average for Eastlake while leading the team in doubles, RBIs, and on-base percentage during tournaments in Washington, California, Idaho, and Nevada.
“I chose Azusa Pacific because I believe that the university will help me grow as a student, athlete, and Christian. The coaches know how to develop players on and off the field and create a winning program. I also liked the idea of a smaller school with class sizes that will allow me to personally learn from the professors,” said Staudinger.
BILLY SANFORD: Glendora HS, 1B/P
A local product, Sanford started every game for Glendora last season. The first baseman finished with a .288 average and helped the Tartans to an 18-11 record as a junior. He tabbed 16 RBIs, four doubles, two triples, and two homeruns to earn Second-Team All-Baseline League honors. He notched seven multi-hit games, and got a hit in seven of the final nine games.
“Azusa Pacific was an easy choice for me. When I visited I immediately felt like I was part of the Azusa Pacific baseball family, and I credit that to an amazing coaching staff,” said Sanford.