SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo University Head Baseball Coach Russ McNickle has already started to put his stamp on the Lions’ program as he has announced the addition to two signees for the 2009-2010 year. McNickle has accepted National Letters of Intent from pitcher Austin Buck and infielder Ryan Brnovich. Both will complete their senior years at their respective high schools and then take to Thomas B. Southard Stadium for the Lions in the Fall of 2009.
“Our recruiting philosophy is simple; find student-athletes that understand the value of hard work on the field and in the classroom,” McNickle said. “Both Austin and Ryan fit this philosophy perfectly, I am excited for them and their families. As we look to build our first recruiting class, it's nice to have quality young men already committed to Saint Leo University.”
Buck, a native of Durant, Florida, attended Grace Christian for the early part of his high school career before transferring to Durant High School where he is at the top of their starting rotation. Named to the 2009 Under Armour Preseason All-America Team, which signifies him as one of the top seniors in the nation, he was also one of the most sought-after baseball recruits in Durant history.
A threat in the classroom as well, he holds the highest grade-point average on the Cougars.
He based his decision to come to Saint Leo on the fact that Coach McNickle gave him a good impression with where the program was headed and that McNickle, as well as former Mississippi State standouts Justin Pigott and Lee Parks, who joined the Lions’ staff during the early fall, have all come to Saint Leo together and have the experience to make Saint Leo a national contender.
Brnovich, who will come to the Saint Leo campus by way of Rotonda, Florida, is a switch-hitter who will look to fight for the starting shortstop position for the Lions. Coming from both Lemon Bay and Charlotte County High School, Brnovich was named his team’s most valuable player his junior year where he posted a .360 batting average in 252 at bats. He also drove in 69 runs and managed to find the gaps in the outfield as he also notched 18 doubles as he was named one of the top players in the area in 2007 and 2008.
Holding an impressive 3.5 grade-point average, Brnovich comes from a baseball family as his father, Mel, was a pitcher for Ferris State University and his uncle, Jeff Neuzil, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1982 and was the AA batting champion.
The 94 percent accurate fielder also has some good speed on the basepaths as he was a perfect 28-for-28 in stolen bases during his junior season.