Rutgers baseball adds 6 recruits over summer

Head baseball coach Steve Owens's 2021 roster will feature at least six new pitchers.
Photo by Rutgers.eduHead baseball coach Steve Owens's 2021 roster will feature at least six new pitchers.

The Rutgers baseball team used the summer to reload and improve, adding six new recruits. Head baseball coach Steve Owens, who comes into this season approaching 1,000 career Division I wins, looks to make improvements before he begins his second season on the Banks. 

Owens looked to improve his pitching staff, as 5 of the 6 recruits are pitchers. The biggest day of the recruiting summer was May 7 as the Scarlet Knights announced three recruits who will look to take the mound this spring. 

True freshman right-handed pitcher Sam Portnoy was one of the first players announced to be signing with Rutgers. Hailing from Voorhees, New Jersey, Portnoy played for Eastern High School, amassing 33 strikeouts to go along with his seven wins last season. He also showed an ability to step up and pitch well when it mattered most, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings to help the Vikings win the South Jersey Group IV title game.

Junior left-handed pitcher Ryder Tallent was another pitcher who stayed home in New Jersey to play for the Knights. He transferred to the Knights after playing two years at Mercer County. Tallent was honored in fall 2018 by being named to the Garden State Athletic Conference All-Conference Academic Team.

In 2019, he played for the Freehold Clippers in the Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League (ABCCL) and was named the ABCCL Playoffs MVP. Tallent looks to use his fastball/curveball combination to adapt to playing on a Power 5 team and continue his noteworthy collegiate career.

Graduate student right-handed pitcher Aaron Winkler was a third player announced on May 7. Coming from Richmond, Winkler will spend his final year in Piscataway. He is known for the versatility he can provide to the pitching staff. 

“Performing effectively as both a reliever and a starter, he will be a mature, veteran guy that could help us in any role,” Owens said. “(Winkler) has three very good pitches in his arsenal and mixes his locations and speeds well.”

In his three years with the Spiders, Winkler started 22 games and made 27 relief appearances, logging more than 100 strikeouts in approximately 122 innings. Having a pitcher that can provide that versatility could be helpful for Rutgers.

Redshirt freshman outfielder Evan Sleight was the only position player that was added to the roster so far. Sleight is a transfer from Virginia and did not play last season due to injuries. He was a highly touted prospect in high school, playing at Belmont Hill in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Sleight was a three-sport athlete at Belmont Hill, playing baseball, football and hockey. In his senior year, the baseball team won the All-Independent School League Championship, with Sleight winning team MVP honors. Perfect Game had him rated as the best outfielder in Massachusetts and the 32nd best outfielder in the nation.

Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Jayson Hoopes joins Sleight as transfers from Virginia. Hoopes was drafted out of high school by Chicago in the 36th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, but chose to attend college instead. 

Attending St. Augustine Prep, Hoopes helped the team get to three straight Non-Public A State Championship games, winning a title in 2018. His senior year, the righty went 6-0 with a 1.66 earned run average and logged 65 strikeouts in 38 innings.

Graduate student right-handed pitcher Brent Teller was the last recruit the Knights were able to sign over the summer. He is a Miami native and spent four years at Sacred Heart, being granted a medical redshirt during his senior year.

Rutgers gains a pitcher who has made 35 starts at the collegiate level with more than 222 innings pitched. Teller has been a top-five strikeout and innings pitcher in the Northeastern Conference in both of his full seasons (2017 and 2018).