Blair Lewis chose the ACC and the University of Pittsburgh over several other nationally respected programs, including an SEC school. In doing so, Pitt may have landed one of the top closers in the country. USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel, finds it hard to find the right adjectives to describe his star pitcher. “Bulldog, competitor, gamer. I’m not sure if there is one word to describe Blair. He’s all of that, and more! I can honestly say that we have never had a player make more big pitches in crucial situations than Blair. He was simply lights out this past year for us. As his confidence grew, he became virtually unhittable. He threw in the mid to upper 80’s but his spiked curve ball was a devastating out pitch. He literally dominated some of the best teams in the country”.
Lewis who has had an illustrious high school career at Lower Dauphin High School. In three years his record is 23-1 and lead his team as a sophomore to the PIAA state title game. This summer he put up simply gaudy numbers. In 15 appearances and 34 innings he had an ERA below 1, only gave up 7 hits and had 50K’s and only 9 walks. While in Georgia agains the best teams in the country he did not allow a hit or run in 11 innings pitched.
Lewis says he chose Pitt for a number of reasons, “Playing in the ACC is going to be a great challenge and something I’m looking forward to. I’ll get to pitch against some of the best teams in the country and compete against the best hitters. The coaches at PItt made me feel very welcome. I liked the campus, their stadium and the players were very friendly. Besides baseball, a degree from Pitt is among the best in the country and I am very serious about my academics”.
Helsel says he hopes to get Blair in front of his organization’s younger players at some point in the future. “We need our younger players to emulate guys like Blair. When the game was on the line, Blair wanted the ball. In the toughest of situations, Blair had the ability to stay calm. He focused and he competed so his team could win. I’m not sure how much of that you can teach, but want our younger guys to learn what that looks like”.
Scouts talk about the “looks test” and Niko Hulsizer certainly passes the test. “He’s just one of those kids that you take one look at and say, ‘that kid is a player’ says USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel. “The good thing about Niko is he backs it up with how he plays”.
Hulsizer recently gave Coach Adam Brown (Recruiting Coordinator) the good news. “It felt great to make my decision. I had a lot of interest from schools and its never easy to tell them no. But, in the end, Morehead State is the perfect fit for me. I’m confident that I can make an impact there my freshman year and getting a chance to play early was very important to me”. Hulsizer will be a teammate of Colton Coss, another USA Elite player who recently committed to Morehead State.
Helsel says Hulsizer is a great example of a player who developed in his organization. “There was never a question about Niko’s ability. He’s a 5 tool player. But, I saw him develop and mature in many ways during his time with us. We gave him some tough love, and to his credit he responded. He’s a very solid kid and someone I personally enjoyed being around. He’ll be a kid I really miss”.
Hulsizer will finish up this fall with Coach Strange’s team in Jupiter at Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Championships. “I’m looking forward to that event. This organization opened many doors for me and I’m very grateful for those opportunities. USA Elite had my back the whole time. I have nothing but good memories from playing here”. Fortunately for Morehead State, Hulsizer will be making many more memories.
One season with USA Elite is all it took for Gavin Hellman to get the attention of D1 schools looking for a projectable RHP. Hellman recently committed to UNC-Charlotte after a successful summer season on Coach Hoenstine’s 2015 team. Hellman (Hummelstown, PA) took full advantage of the exposure he got this past summer. “There were college coaches at every event I pitched. It was the first time I had ever pitched in front of college coaches so at first I was a little nervous. But, after awhile, I kind of got used to just pitching and not thinking about who was watching”.
Hellman pitched in the low to upper 80’s, but it was his projectable 6’5” frame and easy arm action that got him the looks. “It’s easy to project Gavin, said USA Director, Mark Helsel. All he needs is strength. He’ll be a low to mid 90’s guy in college”.
Hellman said UNC Charlotte is everything he is looking for. “I just love the campus and that area. I really wanted to play in the south, so this is definitely my dream. I also want to thank Coach Murtha for working with me and giving me the confidence that I could do this. Being new to all this was very different, but Coach Murtha never stopped believing in me”.
Dakota Graham became the first player from the state of Delaware to play for USA Elite and earn a D1 scholarship. Graham recently announced that he will continue his academics and baseball career at Eastern Kentucky University. EKU is located in Richmond, Kentucky and competes in the Ohio Valley Conference. “I’m really excited about the opportunity I will have at EKU. I love everything about it there. The coaches did a great job recruiting me and making me feel like I could be an impact player. I love the campus and the academics will be a very good fit for me”.
USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel says Graham is a talented player with a big upside. “Dakota is a five tool player. There is really nothing he can’t do. Players like that are hard to find. He’s a great kid and plays the game the right way. We have enjoyed having him in our program and I’m sure he will have a successful college career at EKU.
Graham says playing for USA Elite taught him alot about how to play the game right. “The program stresses hustle, energy and respect. I really liked that and it taught me alot more about the small things that matter. I’m glad I played for USA Elite”. Graham will finish up with Coach Strange’s 2015 team in Jupiter this fall at the World Wood Bat Championships.
Kyle Ajjan 2015 OF/LHP from gave the coaches at Monmouth University some good news when he informed them he would be playing baseball there and continuing his academic career as a Hawk. Monmouth is located in West Long Branch, NJ and competes at the D1 level in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Ajjan says academics played a huge role in his decision. “Monmouth is a very high academic school with a great reputation. Naturally, I want to play baseball as long as I can and I’m excited about their baseball program. But, ultimately I want a great education and a fun and rewarding professional career”. Ajjan plans to major in Psychology and minor in Exercise Science. He plans to be a Sports Psychologist.
USA Director, Mark Helsel, says Ajjan was a model player in his organization. “Kyle is a gentleman and great kid. He is everything we want our players to be. On the diamond he’s a legit two way player because of his athleticism. He is a solid OF and hitter and he also is a very competitive left handed pitcher. That’s a great skill set to take to college. Monmouth is getting a very solid kid. I’m excited to watch him develop as a college player”.
Ajjan says his time with USA Elite was a great experience. “I almost started playing with them when I was 14 but things on my end made it impossible to commit. But, last year I was in a position to play for USA Elite and it really worked out well. Coach Hoenstine and my teammates were great and the organization did what they said they would do. I played in great events and got a lot of exposure”.
Garrett Zoukis lives a double life. He is a very talented baseball player, as well as an accomplished musical artist. Somehow he seems to manage both very well. “I love both. They are so different and I like that variety in my life”. Zoukis recently gave the University of Cincinnati the good news that he will continue his baseball career there, as well as pursue his musical interests. “Cincinnati is the right fit for me. I visited other schools but felt most comfortable there. They have a great baseball program and a really nice stadium. Academically, I’ll be able to pursue my musical interests at a great university".
USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel, remembers the first time he saw Zoukis play. “We played against his team and he destroyed us. He crushed everything we threw at him. I knew he was player immediately”. At the time Zoukis was playing on a local travel team and realized he needed more exposure. “Coach Helsel asked me if I wanted to play in college and, of course, I said yes. The rest is history”.
Zoukis has played two years for Coach Strange’s 2015 team and has been a leader on that team in many ways. “He’s an energy giver, says Helsel. “He plays hard and has a knack for web gems. He does some things you can’t teach”.
Zoukis says playing in the USA Elite organization has helped him in many ways. “There is alot of discipline built in to this program. I like that alot. Coach Strange was a big league infielder so I’ve learned alot from him. He’s been a great coach. I’ve played on a great team for two years and we all have gotten a ton of exposure. It’s been everything I hoped it would be”.
Colton Coss became the second player from the state of West Virginia to play for USA Elite and get a scholarship to a D1 school. Last year 2016, Logan Goodnight (Wheeling, WV) committed to Penn State. Coss, who played middle infield on Coach Hoenstine’s 2015 team this past summer got interest from other D1 schools but felt Morehead State was the right fit. “Their coaches made me feel very comfortable. They were upfront with me and told me what they were looking for and fortunately for me I was a good fit for their program”.
Coach Helsel says the future is very bright for the talented infielder. “Colton has the actions of a shortstop. He glides to the ball and has very soft hands and a strong arm. We saw him play last fall and knew he would get D1 interest if he got the exposure he needed. Morehead State will help him add some size and strength and he’s going to be a good one for them. I couldn’t be happier for Colton and his family”.
Coss says playing for Coach Hoenstine this summer was a great experience. “Coach Hoenstine was a professional middle infielder so he was able to give me really good instruction. That, along with the exposure we got, made this summer a great time”.
Joey Lancellotti says committing to national power, UNC, was a dream come true. "It was very unexpected. I knew they had interest in me, but I didn't know it would happen that fast". Lancellotti, a 2017 grad from Bensalem, PA, is a legit 2 way prospect at the D1 level. He touched 91 this past summer on the mound and also hit in the 3 hole for Coach Mike Capaldi's 2017 team that is ranked 26th in the country by Perfect Game. Lancellotti is the number 2 ranked player in PA in the 2017 grad year and the number 40 ranked player in the country, according to Perfect Game.
USA Elite, Director, Mark Helsel, says he is excited for Lancellotti. "He is a great kid and comes from a great family. He started getting a lot of attention last fall as a freshman when he hit 86 when his team played at the Perfect Game Freshman showcase in Florida. After that, things just started rolling for him. His outing while playing at UNC's stadium this summer sealed the deal". Helsel is referring to an outing where Lancellotti struck out 11 out of 12 batters he faced against a very good nationally respected team.
Lancellotti gave high praises for his summer team and coaches. "I love my team. They are great teammates and we have fun together. Coach Capaldi, Coach McKay and Coach Helsel have all been very supportive and helped me in the recruiting process. The program they have put together has been everything I hoped it would be".
Lancellotti will join several other former USA Elite players at UNC. 2014 LHP Nick Racquet is there now. 2015 MIF/RHP Kyle Datres and 2016 C Brandon Martarano will also be there by the time Lancellotti gets on campus.
The University of Maryland coaching staff got some good news from USA Elite 2016 catcher, Ty Friedrich, when he gave them the news that he would accept their scholarship offer. “I have been in close contact with them for over a year now, said Friedrich. Coach Helsel encourages us to build relationships with the coaches who are recruiting us. Over that year I have learned alot about the school, the coaches and their baseball program. I have a lot of confidence in what they are doing at Maryland. I wanted to be a part of that”.
Friedrich has been in the USA Elite program since he was 13 years old and says the program has helped him in many ways. “I started with them my first year out of little league. They were running a developmental league for 13U players. It was very different because it focused more on individual development than winning trophies. Looking back, I think that helped put me in the right mindset to work hard to develop myself, both on and off the field.”
USA Director, Mark Helsel, has watched Friedrich develop over the last 3 years. “Ty followed the plan to becoming a D1 player. Even at 13 you could see he had the tools to be an elite level player. But, like most kids, developing those tools is the key to success. Ty did that. He was a tall, lanky kid that needed to add strength and quickness. He did that. As a catcher, he continued to hone his skills. He stayed hungry and was a tireless worker. Getting a D1 scholarship as a catcher is very difficult. College coaches scrutinize catchers more than any other position. Ty has been a leader in our program and a joy to have around. He comes from a great family that supported his dream and they encouraged him to aim high. He’s a high energy kid and always has a smile on his face. He’s everything we want our players to be”.
Friedrich credits his USA Elite coaches with helping him make his final decision. “Coach McKay and Coach Rowland both helped me alot. They sat down with me and my family while we were in Georgia and just laid everything out. They took the time to help me sort through all the pros and cons. Both of them have a lot of experience in the recruiting process. In the end, it was clear that Maryland was the right fit for me”.
Friedrich becomes the second USA Elite player to commit to Maryland. 2014 grad, Zack Jancarski, will be a freshman there this fall.
2015 RHP, Zack Helsel, breathed a sigh of relief after he called recruiting coordinator, Jason Murray, and gave him the news that he would accept a scholarship to play for Liberty University. “It felt so great to make that call. I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve busted my butt to put myself in this position and it feels really good”. Helsel, whose older brother, Christian, was a highly recruited player in the USA Elite organization, says his journey is very different than his brother’s. “Christian had lots of offers early. I had to wait a lot longer for mine”.
Helsel’s journey was anything but easy or early. After working all winter long during the 2013 off season to put on muscle, Helsel was injured in a collision with a teammate at the first event of the summer in 2013. He broke his jaw, his collarbone and had a concussion. He missed all of that summer and some of the fall before returning to play in October. Unfortunately, the setback caused him to lose nearly all of the muscle he had gained during the off season. “At my lowest I was 137 lbs. My jaw was wired shut so I couldn’t eat anything”. When he finally returned to full strength in late fall/2013 he knew he had no time to waste. He credits USA Elite Pitching Coordinator, Brian Murtha, with giving him a workout plan to add strength and muscle. “Coach Murtha did the research. He gave me the workout and the encouragement. At first it was super difficult. I was so weak”, explained Helsel. “But, my body started really changing and I think I became obsessed with working out. I just love the way it feels to put on muscle”. The results followed soon thereafter. Helsel jumped up to 190 lbs and added 10 mph to his fastball (85-86). He then earned the top score in the organization’s athletic testing combine out of 185 athletes in the USA Elite organization.
USA Elite Director, Mark Helsel, father of Zack, knows his son’s story well. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him develop. He created a great story. It’s all about desire. It was almost like a lightbulb went off and he said I’m tired of being the skinny little brother of Christian Helsel. He got after it and I’m obviously very proud of him. His story should be a great inspiration to our younger players. Very few people would have projected him to be a D1 pitcher even a year ago. But, to his credit, he focused on the right stuff and he’s getting what he deserves now”.
Helsel has had a productive summer pitching for the USA Elite 2015 Red team. He is a side arm specialist pitcher that gives hitters fits. “I enjoy pitching, especially side arm. Hitters complain about having to hit off me.
That’s funny”. He has only given up 3 earned runs all summer. HIs dad thinks it’s a good style for him. “He just started doing it one day. It took him awhile to get a feel for it, but I think he has a knack for it. His ball moves a lot and he also throws a late breaking slider from two arm slots. Alot of college coaches are looking for something different and he definitely has a different look”.
When asked why he chose Liberty, Helsel, had the answers. “First and foremost, it’s a Christian school and my faith is very important to me. I visited there and the players were great. They prayed together after practice. I loved that. Obviously, Liberty’s new 20 million dollar stadium will be a great place to play. The coaches also showed alot of interest in me. They came and watched me pitched three times this summer. From the start they made me feel very comfortable. Coach Quinn (pitching coach) was also a side armer like me, so he’ll be able to give me some great instruction. It’s far enough south to feel southern, but not too far away from home that I have to fly. It’s just the perfect place for me and I can’t wait to get there”. Liberty., located in Lynchburg, VA, just won the Big South Conference championship for a second year in a row finishing with a 23-3 conference record and 41-18 overall. They played in the UVA regional.
Eric Mock is a big, strong, hard throwing RHP. It only took three weeks in the USA Elite Baseball summer program for Mock to get the exposure he needed and deserved to get a scholarship to play D1 baseball. Mock recently gave Penn State the good news that he would turn down other offers, including several from the ACC, to play for Rob Cooper’s Nittany Lions. “It feels so good to get this decision behind me. I was already getting a little overwhelmed with the whole process so I can honestly say I’m very relieved”.
USA Elite Baseball Director, Mark Helsel, is not surprised at how fast the recruiting process sped up for Mock. “I’d love to tell you that we developed this kid, but we simply recruited him in to our program. Sometimes it’s just a matter of bringing a kid in to our program and putting him in front of the college coaches. He’s only pitched in 3 events with us (Scout Day, JMU and Cincy Flames tournament). He is very easy to like. That’s why he decided to play with our organization. We just opened doors for him. He did the rest”.
Mock says Penn State is the perfect fit for him. “Coach Cooper and his staff are turning the program around fast. I could have gone to a more established program, but I actually like the idea of being a part of something special. Obviously, the academics are world class, and its close home. It’s perfect’. Mock also wanted to give credit to the USA Elite Program. “Nobody in the state of PA works harder for their players or has the connections to college coaches like USA Elite Baseball. I want to thank Coach Helsel and Coach Strange for believing in me”.