WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - During the national signing period, the Monmouth University Baseball program added eight student-athletes to its 2011 class, head coach Dean Ehehalt recently announced. Signing National Letters of Intent to play at Monmouth were Tim Bickford (Wallingford, Conn./Mark Sheehan), Frank Fantino (Nanuet, N.Y./St. Joseph's - Montvale), Stephen Frey (Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville), Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville), Jonathan Guida (Martinsville, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan), Andrew McGee (Toms River, N.J./Toms River South), Craig Sweeney (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) and Tom Valichka (Pennsville, N.J./St. Mark's[Del.]).
"This class is very balanced and really addresses our needs," stated Ehehalt. "We lose some left-handed pitching after this year and we feel that we have signed some battle-tested left-handers to help fill that need."
The left-handed pitching trio consists of Fantino, Frey and Shore Conference product, McGee.
Fantino went 4-1 as a junior at St. Joseph's of Montvale, in five starts and three relief appearances. While also being credited with one save, Fantino registered 15 strikeouts in 26.0 innings of work.
A 2009 Under Armour and Perfect Game Preseason All-America, Frey went 7-1, with a 1.70 ERA in 2009 as a junior. The lefty, who was named a 2010 Under Armour Preseason All-American, was the 2009 team MVP as well as a 2009 all-county selection.
McGee, who led his Toms River South squad to an Ocean County Championship, went 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA as a junior. In 2009, the southpaw registered 85 strikeouts in 61.0 innings pitched, while being named second-team all-county. As a sophomore, McGee went 2-1 with a 1.04 ERA, in 27.0 innings of work.
"We also added three very good defensive middle infielders, a very talented catcher and an explosive outfielder. We really feel like these eight kids will be instrumental in future success, and certainly will have opportunities to play a significant amount early in their careers."
Gronsky, his high school's starting shortstop since his freshman season, hit .429 as a sophomore during his all-league year. The right-handed hitting infielder then coupled his all-league accolades as a junior, registering a .509 average as a junior, while also being named to the Pennsylvania District 4 All-District Team.
Guida, a two-year starter at shortstop for the Panthers, made first-team all-conference as a junior, while recording a .342 batting average.
As a junior, Valichka collected a .385 batting average, with two home runs and 17 RBI, while being named first-team all-conference and first-team all-state as a second baseman. On the mound, Valichka also notched a 3-1 record for St. Mark's.
Bickford collected a .409 batting average as a catcher during his junior campaign, adding two home runs and 18 RBI. A starting catcher since sophomore year, Bickford was an all-league selection and all-state honorable mention last season.
Sweeney, who hit .430 as a sophomore in 2008, with eight extra-base hits and 17 RBI, registered a .302 average last year, notching four homers and 14 stolen bases. The outfielder also lettered in football at Middletown South, and recorded eight touchdowns as a sophomore.
Monmouth, the 2009 Northeast Conference Champions, its second conference crown in three seasons, and fourth overall, opens its 2010 campaign with a three-game series at George Mason University on February 26.