Nov. 21, 2006
Last year the University of San Francisco turned in its most successful season, qualifying for the program's inaugural NCAA Regional berth after winning the first West Coast Conference title in school history. Now, USF head baseball coach Nino Giarratano, a two-time WCC Coach of the Year, announces the 2008 signings for what could be the team's most talented recruiting class, just one season removed from landing a class ranked in the top-40 by Baseball America.
Connor Bernatz (Mater Dei HS, Newport Beach, CA), Sean Burns (Clayton Valley HS, Concord, CA), Matt Chavez (Burlingame HS, Burlingame, CA), Chris Escobar (St. Mary's HS, Stockton, CA), Ryan Lipkin (Solano CC, Vacaville, CA), Garrett Luippold (Reno HS, Reno, NV) all signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) to join the Diamond Dons for the 2008 season.
"This is a great class for us," Giarratanon said. "It answers a lot of questions for us and provides the depth we are going to need to stay successful in this conference. The quality of this class is a direct result of the season we had last year that allowed us to sign the caliber of players we need to compete at the highest level. We're really excited about the 2008 class and we think it will be a marvelous addition to a program on the rise."
Connor Bernatz (OF, 6-2, 170) Newport Beach, CA / Mater Dei HS:Connor Bernatz is a tremendous athlete with a huge upside. He will flourish at the University of San Francisco with his versatility and speed and figures to be a big part of the program's plans in the outfield. A three-year varsity player at powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Southern California, Bernatz was named to the West Coast Classic All-Tournament Team and as a Diamond Kings Southern Section All-Star. Mater Dei Head Coach Burt Call said that Connor "is a tremendous athlete who possesses the speed, arm strength and offensive ability to be am impact player at the next level." Bernatz hit .385 with 15 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 52 at-bats during summer league.
Giarratano on Bernatz: "Connor will give us versatility as an infielder and outfielder and will provide great speed, agility, and athleticism for the program. We are fortunate to have a player of Connor's status and from a quality program such as Mater Dei High School."
Sean Burns (RHP, 6-0, 175) Concord, CA / Clayton Valley HS: Sean Burns' addition to the program brings one of the most polished pitchers as a freshman in recent years to USF. The right-handed pitcher throws three pitches for strikes and boasts gaudy statistics at Clayton Valley in the Bay Valley Athletic League. As a sophomore, Burns had an ERA of 0.75 with 43 strikeouts in 37 innings. Not many pitchers could improve on that ERA the next year, but as a junior, Sean had an ERA of 0.65 with 75 strikeouts in 64 innings. He was awarded All-BVAL honors during that junior campaign. The right-hander combines poise and aggressiveness with a fastball clocked in the high 80's and owns a devastating slider. Clayton Valley Head Coach Casey Coakley says that "Sean is an extremely hard-worker who knows how to pitch. He will be a valuable asset to the program." His classroom resume is just as impressive as his on-field achievements as Sean maintains a 3.3 GPA and is on the school honor roll.
Giarratano on Burns: "Sean is a very talented right-handed pitcher who has great tools and understanding of how to pitch. Look for Sean to provide stability to the pitching staff and in the same manner that (2006 WCC Pitcher of the Year) Patrick McGuigan did."
Matt Chavez (RHP/INF, 6-3, 190) Burlingame, CA/Burlingame HS: Matt is a two-way player with a huge upside on the mound and at the plate. His two-way potential is enhanced by his above average arm and great power. In addition to his raw talent as a player, Matt is an extremely hard worker on the field, in the classroom, and in the weight room. As a junior at Burlingame High School in 2006, he batted .476, with a .500 batting average during league play. Burlingame's head coach Rich Sciutto had this to say about Chavez; "Matt has worked hard at all his skills, making him a competitive player. Matt will be a big part of our program and should have an outstanding senior year. Matt will be a good fit for USF and be a big part of their program in the future."
Giarratano on Chavez: "Matt does things than most players cannot. He has a wonderful future in the game of baseball with his power arm and power bat. He is a great sign for the University of San Francisco as a person and athlete."
Chris Escobar (SS, 5-10, 160) Stockton, CA/Saint Mary's HS:Chris Escobar is a switch-hitting infielder out of Stockton, CA. The athletic Escobar was an All-Tri-Cities Athletic League selection in 2006, in addition to being named Pitcher of the Year. He batted .301 with 27 runs and an on-base percentage of .468 during his junior year. Besides his athleticism, strong arm, and on-field skills, Chris has a great work ethic and is extremely coachable. Saint Mary's High School head coach Pete Pijl said this of Chris, "He's extremely talented athlete that possesses the tools to be a difference-maker at the Division I level and beyond." In line with Coach Giarratano's emphasis on well-rounded individuals, Escobar has achieved other high school honors such as a Junior Student-Athlete Award and Scholar Athlete Award.
Giarratano on Escobar: "Chris is a wonderful addition to the University of San Francisco as a middle infielder. He is a great athlete that will provide depth up the middle and as a quality switch-hitter. Chris comes from a great program at Saint Mary's-Stockton, and will be a wonderful addition to USF in the Jesuit tradition."
Ryan Lipkin (C, 6-0, 210) Vacaville, CA / Solano CC: Ryan Lipkin joins the USF program as one of the top junior college catchers in the state. He possesses an explosive arm, an excellent work ethic, and is a great manager of the game behind the plate. Lipkin owns natural power at the plate which will be a force in the middle of the Dons line-up for years to come. As a senior at Vanden High School, Lipkin was an all-league selection with a batting average of .512. He continued to put up big offensive numbers in the summer of 2005 for the Suisun City Sultans hitting .462. Solano Community College Head Coach Scott Stover said that Ryan is a great kid both on the field and off, and was highly recruited at his school.
Giarratano on Lipkin: "Ryan is a talented catcher with many tools as a player including his throwing ability and power. We look for Ryan to step in and play right away with the graduation of Norfolk and Morales after this year. Ryan will carry on the tradition of great catchers at the University of San Francisco."
Garrett Luippold (LHP, 6-0, 195) Reno, NV / Reno HS: Luippold is another pitching addition to the program with outstanding talent and credentials. Garrett is a left-handed pitcher who possesses a high 80's fastball, and the ability to throw three pitches for strikes. He also has the uncanny ability to pitch in pressure situations. In 56.2 innings pitched during his junior year, Garrett had an ERA of 0.62 (0.00 in league) with 82 strikeouts and 14 walks. These numbers helped him earn a 10-0 record during his junior season. A Louisville All-American selection after his junior season, Luippold's baseball resume also includes a All-State First Team selection by the Reno Gazette Journal and was named Sierra League Pitcher of the Year. Reno High School head Coach Pete Savage had this to say on the lefty; "Garrett Luippold is an outstanding left-handed pitcher who has excellent command of three pitches. He has been an exceptional leader on our team by his daily work ethic. He works extremely hard in practice which in turn allows him to have his success on the field. His outstanding junior season in which he gave up zero runs (either earned or unearned) in league play is a state record. Garrett also exemplifies excellence in the classroom as he is a great student."
Giarratano on Luippold: "We are fortunate to have a pitcher of Garrett's caliber as he is one of the top pitchers in the West. Look for Garrett to be a pillar of the pitching staff for the next four years to come."