Matt Buschmann

Vanderbilt head coach Roy Mewbourne announced Saturday the signing of one of the deepest and most talented recruiting classes during his tenure. Eight highly touted high school prospects, which will play for the Commodores starting in the 2003 season, signed national letters of intent during the opening week of the signing period which runs through Nov. 21.

The class includes the No. 1 prospect from the states of Arizona, Ohio and Tennessee and six of the nation's top players according to several recruiting services.

The class consists of outfielder Jeff Boutwell from Panama City, Fla., right-handed pitcher Matt Buschmann from Wildwood, Mo., infielder Warner Jones from Nashville, right-handed pitcher Jensen Lewis from Cincinnati, Ohio, catcher Matt McGraner from Germantown, Tenn., left-handed pitcher Ryan Mullins from Nashville, right-handed pitcher Blake Owen from Cross Plains, Tenn., and outfielder Jason Pridie from Prescott, Ariz.

"We've added an outstanding group of pitchers, more versatile position players and more team speed," Mewbourne said. "This ranks among one of the better classes we've put together, especially with the number of players we're bringing to Vanderbilt."

Boutwell, who will add speed and power to the Commodore lineup, earned honorable mention All-State and All-Bay County honors last season at A. Crawford Mosley High School after batting .326 with 11 home runs 29 RBI and six stolen bases.

Buschmann served as Lafayette High School's top pitcher last season, striking out 62 batters and posting a 5-3 record and 2.59 ERA in 46.0 innings. This summer he registered a team-low 1.74 ERA while earning a 10-1 record and 76 strikeouts in 68.1 innings pitched with the Ellisville Redbirds of the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association. Buschmann could serve as a starter or reliever immediately.

Jones, a senior at Montgomery Bell Academy ranks as the top high school player in Tennessee and No. 46 in the nation according to Prospects Plus. He also ranks No. 65 nationally according to the web site TeamOneBaseball.com. As a shortstop last season, Jones batted .511 with 46 hits, four home runs, 31 RBI and 24 stolen bases in as many attempts. He has received All-Region honors for the past three years and All-Mid-Region and All-State recognition as a sophomore and junior. The versatile Jones selected Vanderbilt over national powers Georgia Tech and South Carolina. According to the Vanderbilt coaching staff, Jones will add speed, power and defensive skills to the infield.

Lewis signs with the Commodores as the top high school player in the state of Ohio and No. 36 according to Prospects Plus. TeamOneBaseball.com selects Lewis as the No. 28 prospect in the country. Last season at Anderson High School Lewis compiled a 2.36 ERA and 5-2 record with 76 strikeouts in 44.0 innings. He earned second-team All-Fort Ancient Valley Conference honors and honorable mention All-City accolades. As a sophomore, Jensen was undefeated at 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA. The VU coaching staff says Lewis has command of three pitches and could be a featured starting pitcher in the Southeastern Conference.

The lone catcher in this year's recruiting class, McGraner helped Germantown High School to the state championship last season batting .340 with three home runs and 40 RBI. He was named All-District and was listed in the top five of "Best of the Preps" by The Memphis Commercial Appeal each of the past two seasons. McGraner will add much needed depth behind the plate.

Mullins earned All-Region, All-Mid-Region and consensus All-State honors at Father Ryan High School last year. He posted a 9-3 record and 0.90 ERA with 111 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 78 innings pitched last year as a junior. Listed among the top 200 high school prospects (No. 172) by TeamOneBaseball.com, Mullins could boltser a developing pitching staff as another left-handed hurler.

Owen ranks as the No. 4 prospect in Tennessee and No. 81 player nationally according to Baseball America. He is also ranks No. 89 nationally by Prospects Plus. He registered a 12-1 record and 0.90 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 59 innings last season as a junior at East Robertson High School, earning All-District honors. Known as fierce competitor, Owen could see immediate action as a starter or key reliever. Pridie ranks No. 11 in the country by Baseball America, No. 1 in Arizona and No. 12 in the country according to Prospects Plus, and No. 22 nationally according to TeamOneBaseball.com. He was also named a Second Team High School All-American by ESPN The Magazine.

Pridie was chosen as the only junior on the 2001 All-Arizona team by the Arizona Republic. Pridie led the state with a .592 batting average while recording 10 homers, 12 doubles and 11 triples at the plate for Prescott High School last year. He is projected as a starter in the outfield.

Last year's recruiting class, consisting of current freshmen Jeremy Sowers, Scott Shapiro, Tony Mansolino and Jeff Sues was ranked in some publications as high as the seventh-best class in the country. Mewbourne says the 2003 class may received even more accolades.

"It's another great class to match the freshmen that are now on our campus," Mewbourne said. "In fact, this recruiting class is probably deeper with more quality players and I expect it will be ranked as good or better than last year's group."

Vanderbilt Baseball Signees for 2003 Baseball Season
Name Position B/T Ht. Wt. Hometown (High School)
Jeff Boutwell OF R/R 6-2 175 Panama City, Fla. (A. Crawford Mosley HS)
Matt Buschmann RHP R/R 6-2 175 Wildwood, Mo. (Lafayette HS)
Warner Jones INF R/R 5-10 165 Nashville, Tenn. (Montgomery Bell Academy)
Jensen Lewis RHP R/R 6-2 180 Cincinnati, Ohio (Anderson HS)
Matt McGraner C R/R 6-2 210 Germantown, Tenn. (Germantown HS)
Ryan Mullins LHP L/L 6-4 200 Nashville, Tenn. (Father Ryan HS)
Blake Owen RHP R/R 6-3 195 Cross Plains, Tenn. (East Robertson HS)
Jason Pridie OF L-R 6-1 175 Prescott, Ariz. (Prescott HS)


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