Our season wrap-up of European-eligible amateurs playing baseball at American universities and high schools continues with letters ‘N’ to ‘R’, which includes one of the few Belgians on the list, our only player raised in Scotland, and a player for France that was born in Munich. There are also three athletes with Greek connexions, plus players for Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, and Sweden, while the Dutch player that ends the list is one of the top hitting prospects.
Nick Niarchos, IF-RHP (SR, High Point University [27-27], N.C.) [Bio]
Niarchos saw more playing time his senior year than his previous three seasons combined, serving as both the backup 3B and an occasional pitcher, even starting two games on the bump. The results were career highs in most categories, including his first extra base hits (three doubles) and stolen bases (two). A .216/.293/.275 batting line upped his four-year averages to .189/.265/.230.
Niarchos had never been tabbed for a start on the mound in his previous three years, in which he had recorded a 4.91 ERA in 33 innings. Greece’s right-hander pitched another 13 innings, but gave up 18 runs on 21 hits (nine for extra-bases) and nine walks, striking out eight. Niarchos finished his collegiate career with a deep run into the postseason as High Point played giant killer in the conference tournament.
Martin Nicolay, C-IF (SO, Averett University [8-30], Va.) [Bio]
Averett struggled through another difficult season, with Belgium’s Nicolay now sporting an 18-58 record over two years. This year, the former backstop’s playing time increased as he transitioned to the infield, starting occasionally at 2B and appearing at third as well. Nicolay finished with a .207/.258/.241 line in 14 games, of which he started 10. Nicolay finished with a 5-for-18 stretch and will return for his junior season.
Radim Novotny, OF-MIF (FR, Wake Technical Community College [28-15], N.C.) [Bio]
Novotny was the second of a pair of Czechs at Wake Tech in what has become a tradition in recent years. Novotny played sparingly for most of the season, only once appearing in more than two games in-a-row. Appearing mostly as a corner outfielder, Novotny finished with a .200/.304/.300 line, swiping five bases in 13 games.
Slater O’Brien, LHP (JR, Saint Joseph’s University [21-28], N.Y.) [Bio]
Ireland’s O’Brien struggled through his third university season, surrendering 10 runs in seven innings, namely because of the 14 walks. The Hawks’ southpaw did strike out eight.
Nick Pantos, RHP (SO, Old Dominion University [35-21], Md.) [Bio]
Pantos made the leap from JuCo ball to NCAA Division I and showed he was up to the task, drawing the Opening Day start and finishing with very solid numbers as only a sophomore. Pantos made the Conference USA leaderboards in a number of categories including batting average against (.220, third), strikeouts (74, 11th), ERA (4.05, Top 15), and innings pitched (80, 13th).
Pantos started and ended on high notes, tossing five shutout innings against Nick Niarchos’ High Point on Feb. 15. That set off a four-start run of dominance that ended with a start at Kansas State in which Pantos scattered six baserunners over 8.1 shutout innings. Six of his next seven starts were forgettable, but the exception was a 5.2-inning gem in which he struck out 12.
The Greek-eligible right-hander then reeled off three-straight solid starts to finish the regular season, including a nine-K, two-run start over five innings against Western Kentucky. Pantos finished with a tough game in the playoffs, but still emerged as one of Conference USA’s most intriguing young starters.
Andrew Papantonis, IF-OF (FR, San Jacinto Community College [42-12], Tex.) [Bio]
A move from D-I Virginia to a Texas JuCo suited Papantonis, though his season unfortunately came to an end on Feb. 24. The Greek-eligible infielder has been injury-stricken in his career, including two surgeries on the right knee meniscus, another on the left that came with an ACL tear, and an ulnar nerve transposition.
The results while Papantonis were on the field were undeniable, including five multi-hit games among his 15 on the field, two of which featured longballs. His final line was .340/.417/.528 in 53 at bats and he saw time at both infield corners as well as 2B and 3B. Papantonis announced he will suit up for Houston for the 2020 season.
Daniel Patrice, 3B-SS-P (SR, Thiel College [17-22], Pa.) [Bio]
Patrice wrapped up a stellar four-year career for the Tomcats in which he was named to an All-Conference Team ever season. The Munich-born player for France hit .343/.425/.517, tying for 12th in the Presidents Athletics Conference (though only fourth on his team!) in average, ninth in slugging, and tied for fourth in doubles (14). Patrice also had more walks (20) than strikeouts (16).
Patrice had 18 multi-hit games in only 39 games, including a five-game stretch in mid- March when he ripped 11 hits in 21 at bats. A three-game set in April that kicked off a seven-game hitting streak saw him go 7-for-13 with a double and a triple.
After shifting to 1B in 2018, Patrice moved back to 3B, starting all but one game at the hot corner for Thiel. The right-hander also pitched two-thirds of an inning, bringing his career total to eight over the four years.
In total, Patrice hit .332/.386/.464 with an incredible 41/46 BB/K ratio in 470 at bats across four seasons. He finished tied for fourth all-time in Thiel history with 42 doubles.
Thomas Paulich, 3B (SO, Stevens Institute of Technology [18-21], N.J.) [Bio]
Paulich was the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year in 2018 and improved on his freshman numbers in his second season for the Ducks. Soon to be one of three northern Europeans on the roster, Paulich slashed .275/.384/.396. He had as many walks as strikeouts (17). Paulich’s defence did drop a notch, with one error becoming five.
Jordan Petrushka, 1B (SR, IMG Academy, Fla.) [Bio]
An absolute behemoth at first, the Holy Cross commit played his second year at IMG Academy in 2019. Already 6-5, 215 before his 18th birthday, Petrushka played for Israel’s Under-18 National Team over the summer. Next year, the first-sacker will team up with Ireland’s Liam Dvorak on the Crusaders.
Matthew Rienzi, RHP (JR, St. Joseph’s College-Brooklyn [15-21-1], N.Y.) [Bio]
One of Poland’s U.S.-based players, Rienzi made significant strides in 2019, more than doubling his career-high total in innings and finishing with a 3.48 ERA in 20.2 frames. The righty surrendered 28 hits and six walks against only 11 strikeouts.
Gabriel Rincónes Jr, OF-RHP (HS JR, Plant High School [17-9], Fla.) [Bio]
Rincónes had a solid season for the Panthers, hitting .286 with eight doubles, six home runs, and 11 stolen bases and was named to the All-813Preps as an outfielder. He scored 25 runs in 26 games and is listed by Perfect Game as No. 653 among all outfielders at U.S. high schools. Rincónes is listed at 6-4, 225 and has committed to St. Petersburg College.
Julian Rip, OF (JR, University of South Carolina-Upstate [23-30], S.C.) [Bio]
One of our 2018 All-Stars, Rip delivered in his first season in NCAA Division I. The outfielder finished seventh in the Big South in on-base percentage (.417), 10th in slugging (.500), 10th in OPS (.917), tied for second in triples (3), and tied for ninth in sacrifice bunts (9).
Although the team had a down season, it started well, splitting a four-game series with a Kansas University team that had represented the U.S. at the World University Games in summer of 2018.
It took a while for Rip to get going, hitting .140 in his first 14 games, but turned it on from there and never cooled down, finishing with a 12-game hitting streak. Rip had 14 multi-hit games, including a monster four-hit game against UNC-Asheville on March 15 in which he had two doubles and a homer, and another four against Winthrop on May 16, chipping in a pair of two-baggers.
Rip’s final line read .319/.417/.500, leaving his career line through three university seasons at .309/.423/.544. The Dutch outfielder will have more season to add to his impressive career numbers and would make a nice addition to a Hoofdklasse team.
Header of Julian Rip copyright USC-Upstate Athletics.