We begin our look at European players and those eligible for the continent’s national teams with players and coaches with family names beginning with ‘A’ or ‘B’. The subsequent nine names include two draftees, two of Great Britain’s top prospects, and both of the Baltic players on our total list of 88.
Jake Agnos, LHP (JR, East Carolina [47-18], N.C.) [Bio]
Agnos has been recruited by the Greek National Team after a stellar three-year career that saw him play for the U.S. Collegiate National Team, the Cape Cod League’s Harwich Mariners, and be drafted by the Yankees. In 2019, he had a 2.29 ERA and held batters to a .198 batting average. The southpaw lowered his walk total to a manageable number (3.79 BB/9) and struck out a whopping 145 in 102 innings (12.79 K/9).
Agnos had five double-digit strikeout games, including a season-high of 14 in 8.2 innings against No. 18 UConn on April 18, surrendering only one run on five hits and a walk in that game. The lefty tossed seven shutout innings with four hits and one walk against both Monmouth on Feb. 23 and Marist on Mar. 8, striking out 11 and 10, respectively.
The start against UConn began a shutout stretch 32.1 innings in which he whiffed 46 and allowed only 17 hits in the heart of the American Athletic Conference season, which ended in a Super Regional loss. Agnos finished his career with a 3.05 ERA, .227 average against, and 11.54 K/9 in 230 innings.
Kristaps Aldins, Coach (Stevens Institute of Technology [18-21], N.J.) [Bio]
Aldins, the head coach for Latvia, led the Ducks to a successful Empire 8 Conference season at 13-5, bowing out in the semi-finals of the conference tournament. The team had 15 players sign on for collegiate summer leagues. Aldins recruited sophomore Thomas Paulich, who plays for Sweden, and has recently added another player from Latvia’s Baltic neighbours as Leo Bristow will suit up for Stevens in the 2020 season.
Maurizio Andretta, LHP (RS FR, Odessa College [38-22], Tx.) [Bio]
Maurizio Andretta took the year off from American university play, but is currently listed on the Odessa College website for the 2019-20 season.
Kyle Ascher, C-3B (HS SR, IXO Academy, Ala.)
Ascher had a term abroad as an exchange student with IXO Academy, which offers cross-cultural experiences on an exchange basis. Further information concerning a baseball team is unavailable, but Ascher returned to Berlin to suit up for the Sluggers’ second team over the summer.
Marius Balandis, LHP (SO, Iowa Western Community College [52-11], Iowa) [Bio]
Balandis earned a spot on our 2018 European American University All-Star Team after a promising freshman campaign in which he struck out more than a batter per inning for a Reivers team that advanced to the Junior College World Series.
The Lithuanian left-hander continued to pile up the punch-outs in 2019 (13.71 K/9), but struggled badly with his control, walking 26 in 21.2 after issuing 17 free passes in 38.2 frames in 2018. Eleven of his walks (against only two strikeouts) came in his final 1.2 innings. Balandis gave up 17 earned runs en route to a 7.06 ERA, though the Reivers advanced all the way to the Division 1 JuCo World Series Championship Game (losing to Central Arizona College, 13-8).
Leo Bäckström, C (FR, San Joaquin Delta College [39-9], Calif.) [Bio]
Bäckström, one of Sweden’s top prospects, did not appear in a game in his rookie season.
Matteo Bocchi, RHP (SR, University of Texas [27-27], Tx.) [Bio]
Bocchi followed up an excellent showing as a junior for the Longhorns with a stellar senior campaign that led to a minor league free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs. Bocchi is one of a select group of Europeans to parlay an American university career into a professional contract.
The Italian right-hander showed flashes of brilliance in the 2018 season, particularly during Texas’ deep run in the NCAA post-season. Bocchi honed his skills in 2019, significantly reducing his free passes while giving up fewer hits. The result was a 2.45 ERA and .198 batting average against.
Bocchi’s two best games came in back-to-back appearances, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings against Rice on April 9, sending down three on strikes. A week later, he earned the start against Lamar, finishing with five shutout frames with three hits, no walks, and three Ks. Bocchi finished with an even 4.00 ERA over four university seasons and 165.2 innings, striking out 8.21 per nine and walking 3.19.
Nolan Bond, RHP (SR, University of Houston [32-24], Tx.) [Bio]
Bond entered the 2019 season with potential draft aspirations, but had a mixed season and finished with a 4.05 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Leading into the final two weekend series of the year, Bond had a 2.65 ERA, but allowed seven earned runs in 1.2 frames to wrap up the campaign.
The Great Britain right-hander was at his best against Rice on March 5, tossing four shutout innings of relief, allowing only three hits while striking out five. The appearances kick-started a run in which he allowed only one run in 22.1 innings over parts of seven games, including an excellent start against Dallas Baptist (5.2IP, 2H, 0ER, 4BB, 3K).
Bond’s four-year career at Houston comes to an end with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP over 94.2 innings. He made 46 appearances, including five starts, but will be best known for impressive appearances at the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn and the 2018 Under-23 European Championship.
Marko Boricich, LHP (Postgraduate, Xavier University [27-31], Ohio) [Bio]
The rare post-graduate player, Marko Boricich saw plenty of action for Xavier after graduating from Penn State. Before suiting up for Serbia, Boricich tossed 21.1 innings over 10 games, five of them starts. The lefty finished with an 8.44 ERA and .296 batting average against.
Richard Brereton, UT-RHP (JR, Emory University [20-19], Ga.) [Bio]
Brereton’s Eagles finished with almost the exact same record as 2018 through no fault of Brereton, who had a massive year at the plate and another solid season on the hill. Great Britain’s top amateur prospect played more than half his games in centre, pitching in eight games, while also suiting up at second base as he has in the past.
The shifting positions did not affect Brereton’s output at the plate, as he finished third in the University Athletics Association in hitting (.392), tied for second in steals (18), and third in fewest strikeouts (one per 9.8 AB). Brereton led his team in each category while finishing with a .444 on-base percentage and a .497 slugging.
Brereton finished with an 11-game hitting streak and was on fire in the season’s second half, hitting in 18-of-20 games. During that span, he was an incredible 38-for-78 for a .487 batting average, slugging .615. In a four-game span in late March, Emory’s star collected 11 hits, including three-straight three-hit games, later tacking on another four contests in-a-row with multiple hits.
On the mound, Brereton pitched fewer innings, starting only seven games and appearing only in the field for a month in the middle of the season. Brereton had a similar ERA (3.66 to 3.60) as a year prior while cutting down on his walks (3.20 BB/9 from 3.47). His best start was his first, a one-run, eight-inning gem against LaGrange in the Feb. 13 season opener in which he allowed only four hits and whiffed eight.
The right-hander followed up his superb junior season with an excellent run for the Cape Cod League’s Cotuit Kettleers before joining GB Baseball for the Under-23 European Qualifiers and the European Championship.
Picture of Matteo Bocchi copyright University of Texas Athletics.
We return tomorrow with players C-D. Previous installments: