Following a disappointing 2016 season, the Rock baseball team received some good news earlier this month when junior Tyler Walters was named a preseason All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA). Outfielders Frankie Jezioro and Luca Fuscardo were designated as “players to watch.”
Walters, a Saegertown native, said that it is nice to have all his hard work pay off.
“It’s satisfying knowing that all the hard work I’ve put in from when I was nine, ten years old has come to fulfill these honors while I’m in college. It’s definitely more worthy after the season to get it than the preseason but obviously, people know who I am now and whatnot.”
Walters has had two successful seasons so far at The Rock, being named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference freshman of the year in 2015 and a second team All-American in 2016. So far, Walters has played in 92 games, batting .403 with 25 homes runs and 81 runs batted in.
Rock baseball head coach Jeff Messer said that even when recruiting Walters he was expecting things like this.
“He was probably one of the top two or three players coming out of high school that we have ever recruited,” Messer said. “He was recruited by major Division I schools and chose Slippery Rock. It’s still a jump, I don’t care how good you are, going from high school to college, but he’s been unbelievable. Offensively he’s done some unbelievable things for us.”
Walters came to Slippery Rock as a catcher and played there most of his freshman season, but he had shoulder surgery that following summer which limited his ability to play the position in 2016.
“He’s a catch guy,” Messer said. “But when you play 50 games and you play them so condensed you don’t want your guys catching every single day, otherwise it wears and tears on them.”
Walters said that he has really focused on being able to stay healthy for 2017 in the offseason, traveling all the way to Alaska to train and play in a summer league.
The players to watch, Jezioro and Fuscardo, will both be looking to make an impact on the team in 2017.
Jezioro, a sophomore from MacMurray, Pa, started 44 games as a freshman at The Rock, batting .310 with 48 hits and nine stolen bases. Messer said that Jezioro is the fastest player on the team and is looking for him to continue improving his skills for this season.
“Frankie’s coming off a great freshman year where he was learning because he was an infielder until his senior year in high school and then last year for us he played centerfield,” Messer said. “He’s a switch hitter, the fastest guy on the team. He has major league speed, he’s that fast. He’s only a sophomore so we’re expecting him to continue to get better.”
Fuscardo, a junior, will be playing his first year with The Rock after playing for Division I Kent State University as a freshman and Calhoun Community College last year. At Kent State he started in 29 games, going 25 for 104 (.240) with 12 runs scored.
Messer said that Fuscardo will player either right or left field, taking over for Ty Zimmerman who graduated last year.
Jezioro and Fuscardo, paired with senior Jimmy Divosevic and junior Kyle Wise will make up one of the most talented outfields in the region, according to Messer.
“With those four guys, I don’t know if there’s a better outfield in the region,” Messer said. “Now we just have to get the infield and the pitching, everything else, to equal them.”
Walters said that the individual accolades are nice, but he only really wants to win games.
“The big goal, I just want to win,” Walters said. “My first year we had a good season, but last year was almost embarrassing for us because we had so much talent, It almost feels like your season was wasted, even if you have a good season, it was like I couldn’t even enjoy it. So this year I’m hoping we all succeed and all have fun.”