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WSU baseball: Lees signs top recruiting class

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D1Baseball.com ranks the Cougars’ class as one of the nation’s best for the first time.

Marty Lees

Washington State baseball landed the No. 28 recruiting class in the country for the 2016 cycle, according to D1Baseball.com ($). It’s the first time the Cougars have been nationally ranked by the college baseball service.

“This is a high quality and high upside class that has head coach Marty Lees very excited,” D1Baseball.com said of the second-year skipper’s second recruiting class. “[He’s] comparing his class to some of the powerhouse recruiting classes he had as an assistant at Oregon State and Oklahoma State.”

Seven of the 12 players Lees signed in the latest recruiting class hail from the junior college ranks, while two freshmen — LHP A.J. Block (Cubs, 39th round) and INF Danny Sinatro (Indians, 40th round) — were chosen in this year’s MLB Draft but chose to forgo a professional career and suit up for the Cougars.

“We are very excited about this class that is full of talent and depth,” Lees said. “We were able to get some power arms, build up our rotation and bullpen, and we also improved our athleticism on defense and at the plate.

“A lot of these players chose to play at Washington State in the Pac-12 over the MLB Draft. This is one of our best and most talented recruiting classes and we are excited to see them take the field this spring.”

Several of the junior college transfers will be counted on the play a big role immediately, as noted within a WSU release Wednesday afternoon:

6-7 right-hander Joe Rosenstein who expected to pitch in a big role out of the bullpen, sophomore shortstop Andres Alvarez who was an All-Region selection at Trinidad State Junior College last season and another 6-7 righty in sophomore David Wallum who is expected to pitch in the starting rotation.

A couple other junior college transfers expected to contribute immediately are outfielder Blake Clanton who combined to hit 32 home runs in his two seasons at Western Oklahoma State College and first baseman James Rudkin who recorded 25 doubles, 10 home runs and drove in 85 runs in his two seasons at McLennan Junior College in Texas, also helping his club to the JUCO World Series as freshman where he was named to the All-Tournament Team.

On the mound, 6-6 lefthander Cody Anderson out of Bellevue Community College is expected to serve in a number roles, from starter to closer after leading the NWAC with 114 strikeouts last season. Another junior college infielder to watch for will be Ryan Ramsower who was an All-Region Second Team selection after hitting .360 with 15 doubles for Pima Community College in Arizona last season.

Lees has always been known as a top recruiter during his previous stops, where he served as the recruiting coordinator at Oregon State and Oklahoma. However, there was always some uncertainty about whether he’d be able to recruit well to a place with the worst facilities in the conference, something he touched on during his introductory press conference last June.

“I think there is something out there kids are turning to,” Lees said. “However, I was just at two places that were built from scratch. When I think about facilities and I see the way recruiting is going, I think about a parent investing. I think about them investing in a coach. Those things to me are the most important things. Everything you have that’s nicer than someone else is good. (Parents) want a good experience and a good education. Those are the things I know we’re going to provide.”

It appears that Lees’ message is getting through to recruits and their parents, regardless of the program’s current limitations. And while it’s just one ranking, people are already noticing the job he’s doing on the Palouse.

Lees finished 16-27 in his first season as a head coach, going 10-17 in Pac-12 play. WSU opens their 2017 season on February 17 at Sacramento State.