Billiken Baseball Adds Eight for 2014 Season

Courtesy: Saint Louis Athletics
          Release: 11/28/2012
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Courtesy: Saint Louis Athletics
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ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis head baseball coach Darin Hendrickson and his staff welcome eight newcomers to the Billiken squad. Michael Cusenza (Wellington, Fla.), Zach Girrens (Spring Hill, Kan.), Danny Mannion (St. Louis, Mo.), Danny Murphy (St. Louis, Mo.), Robert Plohr (St. Louis, Mo.), Matt Ryan (Hawthorne Woods, Ill.), Brett Shimanovsky (Highland Park, Ill.) and Nick Vichio (Lombard, Ill.) will begin competition at SLU in the fall of 2013.

"The 2013 class is very talented and deep," Hendrickson said. "Our assistant coaches did a great job of securing quality and quantity as our needs are quite large. This group has the ability to continue the success of Billiken baseball on the field, in the classroom and in the community."

Michael Cusenza, MI, Wellington, Fla. (Wellington High)
Cusenza comes to the Billikens from Wellington, Fla. The slick-fielding middle infielder displayed top-level defense for the Wolverines. Cusenza can play either second base or shortstop and will compete for playing time as a freshman.

"We are excited about Michael coming in," assistant coach Kevin Moulder said. "He is a guy who can play the left side of the infield on the collegiate level. He is a very talented defender. We think Michael can be a championship caliber shortstop. He is a very good athlete. We saw him in the 2012 Perfect Game showcase in the Metrodome, which is a very prestigious high school talent showcase."

Zach Girrens, RHP, Spring Hill, Kan. (Spring Hill High)
Girrens is a right-handed pitcher from Spring Hill, Kan. As a junior, Girrens was 6-1 with a 3.23 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 34 innings pitched. Though Girrens will pitch for the Billikens, he was an All-State honoree at first base for Spring Hill. At the plate, he hit .583 with seven home runs and set a school record with 42 RBIs.

"Zach a very projectable pitcher," Moulder said. "His best days are ahead. Zach is already in the upper-80s with downward plane and sink on his fastball. He reminds me of our current ace, Alex Alemann, but with better velocity. His velocity and secondary pitches will develop in time. We think he can be a weekend pitcher down the road. Zach is also an exceptional student and has ambitions of attending medical school."

Danny Mannion, UTIL, St. Louis, Mo. (Marquette High)
Mannion is a local product out of Marquette High in St. Louis. In 2012, he posted a .507 batting average, a .768 slugging percentage and a .609 on-base percentage. In addition to his prowess on the field, Mannion is an honor student and owns a 4.0 GPA.  

"Danny is a versatile athlete, which should help him get on the field as a freshman," Moulder said. "We view him as one of the top hitters in the St. Louis area. Danny is extremely gifted in the classroom, which makes him a great fit at SLU. His high school team should be one of the top prep teams in the area during his senior campaign."

Robert Plohr, RHP, St. Louis, Mo. (CBC)
Plohr is another St. Louis-area recruit, and he could pitch right away for Saint Louis. As a junior, he posted a 5-2 record with a 0.95 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. Plohr struck out 55 batters while limiting opponents to 19 walks and a .199 batting average.  At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, he also drew attention as a football player, as he starts at tight end for the Cadets.

"Robert is another projectable pitcher," Moulder said. "He comes from one of the best prep programs in the state in CBC. Robert is a gifted athlete; he was also a Division I football recruit as a tight end. Robert is a big, physical kid. We think he will be able to pitch right away, and he has a great future ahead of him. Robert has the potential to be a top-tier starter in our conference. He is one of the top prep pitchers in the area. He has a great three-pitch mix and a fastball in the upper-80s and can touch 90 mph."

Matt Ryan, IF, Hawthorne Woods, Ill. (Carmel)
Ryan is a versatile athlete from Carmel High in Illinois. In his junior campaign, he hit .475 with a .508 on-base percentage and a .797 slugging percentage. Ryan is very disciplined at the plate, with only eight strikeouts in 118 at-bats. He is also a standout on the mound. Ryan has a 7-1 record with four shutouts for the Corsairs.

"We saw a lot of Matt this summer," Moulder said. "He came to our Billiken baseball camp. He can play three spots on the infield. Matt is a very physical kid who has a good chance of hitting for us in the future. We think he can develop into an offensive infielder for us."

Brett Shimanovsky, LHP, Highland Park, Ill. (Highland Park)
Shimanovsky is a southpaw from Highland Park, Ill.  He ranked No. 21 in Illinois' Class of 2013 by Prep Baseball Report. Shimanovsky competed in the Fall Prospect Program where he displayed a three-pitch repertoire, including a mid-80s fastball. As a sophomore in 2011, he went 5-1 with a 3.38 ERA, which earned him All-Conference honors.

"Brett was the first guy to commit to the class," Moulder said. "We saw him in a showcase of some of the top prep talent in the Chicago area. Brett's a lefty with a good feel for a slider, and ever since he committed his velocity has gotten better and better into the upper-80's. He is also a great fit academically for Saint Louis."

Nick Vichio, RHP, Lombard, Ill. (Glenbard East)
Vichio comes to Saint Louis from Lombard, Ill. For the Rams of Glenbard East, he posted a 5-1 record with a 2.23 ERA. Vichio's fastball touches upper-80s and as a junior, he was named to the conference All-Star game.

"Nick's a tough kid with great mound presence," Moulder said. "He is the type of competitor you want all of your players to be like.  He has good stuff and will be a fun one to watch over the next couple of years."

Danny Murphy, OF, St. Louis, Mo. (Jefferson College)
Murphy comes to the Billikens from NJCAA powerhouse Jefferson College. He led the 2012 Vikings to the Junior College World Series, a 51-10 record and a No. 2 NJCAA ranking. In the JUCO World Series, Murphy went 5-for-12 with two runs, an RBI and a triple. On the season, he hit .401 with 14 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 64 RBIs.

"Danny comes from one of the top junior colleges in the country and a key signing for us," Moulder said. "We will have a lot of seniors in the lineup this season. Danny will provide an experienced bat in the middle of our lineup in 2014. He hit in the middle of the lineup at Jefferson College and led them to the JUCO World Series last season. We think he will be a reliable corner outfielder for Saint Louis."

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