Baseball — Demons announce 17-player signing class, includes Taitano of NCHS

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NATCHITOCHES – In five seasons as the Northwestern State baseball coach, Bobby Barbier has welcomed in both large and small signing classes.

His 2021 class falls on the larger end of the spectrum as Barbier and his staff announced Monday a 17-player newcomer group for the 2022 season. Included in the cohort are 10 high school signees, six junior-college transfers and one four-year transfer.

Seamless Gutters

One key difference was how this class was built.

“I am so proud of our coaches for putting together this class,” Barbier said. “We faced tremendous challenges with the new normal, and I believe we have put together one of the best classes we have ever had during those challenging times. I am so proud of and thankful for (associate head) coach (Chris) Bertrand, (assistant) coach (Spencer) Goodwin and (assistant) coach (Dan) Hlad. We are excited to get to work with this new group.”

2021 Northwestern State Baseball Signing Class

Jesse Taitano Jr.
#22 Jesse Taitano pitched four innings Saturday…Times file photo

Jesse Taitano, LHP, R/L, 5-11, 160, Natchitoches, La. (Natchitoches Central HS)

High School: Three-year letterman for coaches Richard Partridge and Regan Kaufman’s Chiefs … second-team all-district selection as a senior after pitching to a 2.84 ERA in 56 innings … helped lead the Chiefs to playoff appearances as a sophomore and as a senior … graduated with a 3.5 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Taitano: “Jesse played right at Natchitoches Central for coach Regan Kaufman’s Chiefs. He can spin a breaking ball and throws a lot of strikes. We think once Jesse gets in our system, he can really flourish.”

AJ Bailey, INF, R/R, 5-10, 200, Zachary, La. (Zachary HS)

High School: Three-year letterman for coach Jacob Fisher’s Broncos … helped Zachary reach the state playoffs as a senior and as a sophomore … graduated with a 3.8 grade point average.

Associated head coach Chris Bertrand on Bailey: “AJ makes our position player group more athletic. He’s an athletic infielder with the ability to play multiple positions while giving us some speed and power.”

 

Darnell Bayonne, INF, R/R, 6-0, 160, Pineville, La. (Pineville HS)

High School: Three-year letterman for coaches Keith Hood and Lane Noakes … honorable mention all-state selection as a senior and earned All-CENLA honors from The (Alexandria) Town Talk … helped lead Pineville to a 22-11 mark as a senior … lettered in football for coaches Dennis Dunn and Darren Moore … graduated with a 3.2 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Bayonne: “Darnell comes from right down the road in Pineville. He’s a special athlete. It’s good for us to get guys from Alexandria and Shreveport to stay at home. It’s good for our fan base, and it’s nice when they’re really good players, too. Darnell’s going to be a good player for the Demons.”

 

Gus Collins, RHP, R/R, 6-4, 224, Pryor, Oklahoma (Pryor HS/NE Oklahoma A&M/Arkansas)

Summer 2021: Pitched for the Fond du Lac Dockspiders of the Northwoods League.

Prior to NSU: Spent one season each at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Arkansas … went 1-1 and struck out 41 batters in 31 innings for the Norsemen.

High School: Four-year letterman in both baseball and football for the Tigers … helped Pryor and coach Gerald Osborne win the state championship in 2019 as the Tigers went 31-9 … helped lead Pryor to the state championship game and a 29-9 mark in 2018 … was part of back-to-back state quarterfinalists in his freshman and sophomore seasons … graduated with a 3.7 grade point average and was part of the National Honor Society.

Assistant coach Spencer Goodwin on Collins: “We are excited to have added Gus. He is a competitor and a proven commodity in junior college and had a really good summer in the Northwoods League. He’ll have an immediate impact on our pitching staff based on his experience and his track record.”

 

Dawson Flowers, RHP, R/R, 6-4, 210, Brookhaven, Mississippi (Brookhaven Academy/Mississippi Gulf Coast CC)

Prior to NSU: Pitched two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College … went 4-4 with a save and pitched to a 4.20 ERA in 68 innings, striking out 61 and tossing four complete games in 2021, earning honorable mention all-state honors … had a save and 11 strikeouts in five innings during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

High School: Three-sport standout at Brookhaven Academy, playing football, baseball and basketball … four-year baseball letterman helped coach Tyler Parvin’s Cougars win state titles in his junior and senior seasons … earned first-team all-state honors in baseball as a junior, nabbing MVP honors as a senior and pitching MVP honors as a junior … first-team all-district pick as a sophomore and second-team honoree as a freshman … four-year basketball letterman for coach Josh Watts was the MAIS AA Player of the Year as a senior and a three-time, first-team all-district selection … named Defensive MVP in basketball as a junior and was the district and team MVP as a senior … second-team all-district basketball player as a freshman … two-year football letterman helped coach Ron Rushing’s Cougars to a state semifinal berth as a senior … earned first-team all-state honors in both seasons on the gridiron … collected team offensive MVP honors as a senior and the MVP award as a junior … named the MAIS Scholar Athlete of the Year as a senior … class valedictorian graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and was part of the 30+ ACT Club.

Coach Goodwin on Flowers: “Dawson had a really good year for Mississippi Gulf Coast. He can come in and provide valuable innings for us. He has good command and pitchability. He’s someone we expect to come in and compete right away.”

 

Grayson Gates, RHP, R/R, 6-2, 185, Benton, La. (Benton HS)

High School: Three-year letterman for coach J.D. Stephens’ Tigers … three-time Perfect Game Preseason All-American and participated in the 2020 New Balance Future Stars Series International Week at Fenway Park … went 9-1 on the mound, earning District 1-5A Pitcher of the Year, LBCA Region I Pitcher of the Year, Shreveport Times All-City Pitcher of the Year and LBCA first-team all-state honors and helping Benton win the district title as a senior … went 3-0 in his pandemic-shortened junior season … went 3-1 for the district champions and state semifinalists as a sophomore, earning all-district honors … graduated with a 3.92 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Gates: “Grayson is one of the highly recruited high school arms in the state. We established a relationship early on with him and his family. He had a great year and a great summer last year. He pitched at Fenway in one of those big events. Grayson’s going to be a really good Demon for a few years.”

 

Broch Holmes, OF, L/R, 5-8, 195, Livingston, Texas (Dallardsville Big Sandy HS/Howard College)

Prior to NSU: Played two seasons at Howard College … earned first-team all-region honors in 2021, batting .350 with 15 home runs and 72 RBIs … was hitting .438 with five home runs and 11 RBIs when COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the 2020 season … graduated with a 3.6 grade point average.

High School: Four-year letterman for coaches Jacob Hooker and Jeff Ashen’s Wildcats … named state tournament MVP and Class 2A Player of the Year as a senior as Dallardsville Big Sandy won the state title … Class 2A Player of the Year as a junior led the state in home runs as Dallardsville Big Sandy captured the state championship … helped Dallardsville Big Sandy to a state runner-up finish as a sophomore.

Coach Barbier on Holmes: “Broch put up some really silly numbers, video-game numbers, in junior college. He’s what we stand for. He’s blue collar. He’s tough. He’s the guy you circle in the lineup when he comes up. He’s really strong and can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

 

Bryce Holmes, UT, L/R, 6-0, 205, Livingston, Texas (Dallardsville Big Sandy HS/Sam Houston)

Prior to NSU: Played two seasons at Sam Houston and two at Cisco Junior College … batted .272 with six doubles, two triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs in 2021 at Sam Houston in 34 games … batted .250 with a pair of doubles and six RBIs in 13 games of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season at Sam Houston … batted .343 with 18 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs and 43 RBIs at Cisco in 2019, slugging .670 and posting an OPS of 1.059.

High School: Four-year letterman for coaches Jacob Hooker and Jeff Ashen’s Wildcats … helped Dallardsville Big Sandy finish as the state runner-up as a senior, earning first-team all-state honors … first-team all-district utility selection as a sophomore … graduated with a 3.6 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Holmes: “We played against him a lot at Sam. He was a good player at Sam Houston. He wanted to play with his brother. They’ve got a great family. Bryce is a dynamic athlete who can play multiple spots. He’s a left-handed hitter who should come in and make an immediate impact.”

 

Hayden Knotts, INF, R/R, 6-1, 188, Bossier City, La. (Parkway HS)

High School: Four-year starter for coach David George’s Panthers … named second-team all-district as a senior … earned all-district, all-city and all-state honors as a sophomore when he also was named Class 5A Regional Pitcher of the Year, helping Parkway post a 31-6 record … honorable mention all-district pick as a freshman as Parkway went 26-10 … graduated with a 3.86 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Knotts: “What stood out about Hayden early in his recruiting process was he was a dynamic infielder. He can make every play. He played for a Parkway program that has produced a lot of good players lately. He’s been on the mound some, but he’ll be an infielder for us.”

 

Mason Langdon, LHP/OF, R/L, 6-0, 192, Shreveport, La. (C.E. Byrd HS)

High School: Four-year letterman for coach Greg Williams’ Yellow Jackets … named to the LBCA All-State Team as a utility player as a senior as Byrd reached the state championship game … batted .459 with three home runs and an .803 slugging percentage as a senior to earn first-team All-City honors from the Shreveport Times … also played football for coach Mike Suggs … graduated with a 3.93 grade point average, ranking in the top 10 percent of his class … named a Top Jacket and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Coach Bertrand on Langdon: “We’re excited about what he brings to the table. He’s a left-handed arm who has the potential to take our left-handed relief to another level. With the bat, he’s somebody who can do damage. He has bat speed and a little pull-side pop. We’re excited for the skills and tools he brings with him, and we’re excited to see him at 100 percent.”

 

Jardy Montgomery, OF, S/R, 6-2, 180, New Orleans, La. (St. Augustine HS)

High School: Lettered in baseball and track and field for the Purple Knights …  part of two state championship relay teams in the 4×200 … graduated with a 3.7 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Montgomery: “I got a call last year and said Nick Heath was playing at St. Aug. That’s why we offered Jardy Montgomery. People I trusted down there said this guy could really play. You could see it on the video. He’s a dynamic athlete who can really, really run. He’s a really good athlete and will be a really good player for us.”

 

Chase Prestwich, RHP, R/R, 5-11, 200, Frederick, Colorado (Frederick HS)

High School: Three-year letterman for coaches Ray Garza and Collin York … was selected to the Future Stars National Combine … earned first-team all-conference and first-team Boulder County All-Region honors as a senior, striking out 65 hitters in 34 innings and pitching to a 2.04 ERA … junior season was wiped out by COVID-19 … earned first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore and a freshman … honorable mention Academic All-State as a senior and graduated with a 3.3 grade point average.

Coach Barbier on Prestwich: “Chase comes from Colorado. He’s got really good stuff. A lot of those guys from that area of the country don’t play as much ball as the guys here. He’ll strike you out. He can run the fastball up to 92-93. He’s part of that really good young pitching group we have this year.”

 

Gray Rowlett, 1B, R/R, 6-5, 215, Keller, Texas (Keller HS)

High School: Two-year letterman for coaches Rob Stramp and Jarret Stafford’s Indians … District 4-6A MVP earned first-team all-area honors from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and second-team all-area honors from The Dallas Morning News after Keller went 36-8 and finished as the Class 6A runner up … ranked among the top 10 first basemen in Texas … produced at a top-200 level among Texas 6A players in hits, doubles, triples, home runs and runs … graduated with a 3.5 grade point average and was nominated for the Letter K and God Star Student awards.

Coach Barbier on Rowlett: “He has some family ties to the area, but he’s here because of his athletic ability. Gray played for a state runner-up in Texas 6A. He was all-district player of the year in a fantastic baseball district. Physical kid, who can run. Hitter who should hit a lot of doubles and homers in his career.”

 

Bailyn Sorensen, C/INF, R/R, 6-2, 210, Rayville, La. (Riverfield Academy)

High School: Four-year baseball letterman helped Riverfield capture a state baseball championship as a senior … named first-team all-district, all-state, All-MAIS and was the district MVP and a MAIS All-Star as a senior … first-team all-district pick as a sophomore and was a second-team honoree as a sophomore … helped Riverfield post a 57-9 baseball record in his final three seasons … four-year football letterman for coaches Kyle Stracner and Jerry Ginn … helped lead Riverfield to back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior … named MAIS All-Star, first-team All-MAIS, all-state and all-district as a senior and earned Defensive MVP honors … district MVP and defensive MVP as a junior when he also was named first-team All-MAIS, all-state and all-district … first-team all-district football selection as a sophomore and was a second-team honoree as a freshman … member of the Beta Club and graduated with a 3.3 grade point average.

Coach Bertrand on Sorensen: “Bailyn is a real Demon type of player. He really made noise both in high school and on the travel circuit. He’s a very strong, very hard-working, hard-playing, gritty type of catcher and offensive player. He has the ability offensively to push some of our veteran position players early on.”

 

James Starnes, C, L/R, 5-11, 190, Spring, Texas (Oak Ridge HS/Paris JC)

Summer 2021: Played for Extreme Heat in the Five Tool Collegiate League.

Prior to NSU: Played two seasons at Paris Junior College … helped lead the Dragons to their first regional championship in more than two decades … graduated with a 3.88 grade point average.

High School: Two-year letterman for coaches Mike Pirtle and JJ Pierce’s War Eagles … team offensive MVP as a senior, hitting .357 with five home runs to earn honorable mention all-district honors … Oak Ridge went 23-11 and won the district title in his senior season … graduated with a 3.4 grade point average.

Coach Bertrand on Starnes: “James is a left-handed hitting catcher who comes from a quality junior college program. His best tool is his baseball IQ. He really knows how to manage and call a game and how to manage a pitching staff. He does the things you look for in your leader behind the plate.”

 

Miguel Vega, 1B, R/R, 6-3, 230, Tyler, Texas (The Brook Hill School/Tyler JC)

Prior to NSU: Played three seasons at Tyler Junior College … first-team All-American helped TJC win the 2021 national championship and was named the National Player of the Year, the ABCA Player of the Year and the JBB Player of the Year … set the school record with 21 home runs in 2021, driving in 70 runs and batting .389 … graduated with a 3.05 grade point average.

High School: Four-year letterman for coach Brock Lemire’s Guard … earned first-team all-district and all-state tournament and second-team all-state honors as a senior, helping The Guard finish as state runner-up …  four-time all-district selection was an honorable mention all-state pick as a junior as Brook Hill won the district title … helped Brook Hill finish as the state runner-up as a sophomore and as a freshman … named the All-East Texas Newcomer of the Year as a freshman … lettered in basketball for coach Jacob Agnew.

Coach Barbier on Vega: “Miguel comes in with all the accolades. He was the (junior college) Division III Player of the Year, MVP of the College World Series, MVP of the league. He’s a hitter our Demon fans are going to love to see hit. He has power to all fields.”

 

Bo Willis, C, R/R, 6-1, 210, Magnolia, Texas (Magnolia HS/Weatherford College)

Summer 2021: Played for the Arroyo Seco Saints of the California Collegiate League.

Prior to NSU: Played one season at Weatherford College … batted .306 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 25 RBIs in 2021 … posted a 3.2 grade point average.

High School: Two-sport standout for the Bulldogs … earned team MVP honors as a senior for coach Taylor Shifflet’s baseball team … earned honorable mention all-state, first-team all-county, first-team all-district and first-team all-decade honors as a sophomore on coach Sterling Doty’s football team.

Coach Bertrand on Willis: “He went from Texas Tech out of high school to an extremely good junior college at Weatherford, so he’s earned his stripes at some high levels of baseball. He’s a really big hit and throw guy. He gives you some toughness and grit behind the plate. He can do some special things with the bat and with his arm behind the plate.”