CONCORDIA, Kan. – As part of the NCAA early signing period, four Cloud County Community College baseball players have signed their National Letters of Intent for the fall of 2020 to move on to the NCAA Division I level following the upcoming 2020 season.
The four players include Bradan Pierce who signed with Oral Roberts University, Clayton Loranger who signed with Stephen F. Austin University, and Josh Laukkanen and Connor Laux who both signed with New Mexico State University.
"We are extremely proud of these guys for earning these opportunities" said head coach Eric Gilliland. "None of them had Division I offers out of high school and they have worked hard both on the field and classroom to earn it." "We take great pride in our players moving on to the next level and it is a big reason as to why they choose to go to a junior college."
A right-handed pitcher from Enid, Oklahoma, Pierce signed with his home state Golden Eagles as Oral Roberts is a member of the Summit League and has made an appearance in the NCAA Regionals in five of the past six seasons. Last season for the T-Birds, Pierce made 17 appearances on the mound for Cloud County which included four starts while going 3-2 overall in 30.2 innings pitched. Pierce would record 12.62 strikeouts per nine innings and record a total of 43 strikeouts while allowing a total of just 29 hits.
"I chose ORU because it felt like home" said Pierce. "From the moment I stepped on campus, it felt like being with family and that is a great feeling to have while being able to continue my athletic career."
Loranger came to Cloud County from Edmonton, Alberta and will take his talents to the Southland Conference where he will be a centerfielder for the Lumberjacks. Appearing in and starting 57 of Cloud County's 58 games last year, Loranger would hit .293 for the T-Birds with a .409 on-base percentage to go along with 26 runs batted in and 10 doubles. Recording a team-high 198 at-bats, Loranger would also swipe 20 bags and have 15 multi-hit games including six games with three hits.
"SFA gave me the feeling of that is where I needed to be after finishing up my time at Cloud County" said Loranger. "The experience of the coaching staff and relationship I was able to develop during my time being recruited was something that I couldn't pass up when given the opportunity."
Laukkanen will add another right-handed arm for New Mexico State in the fall of 2020 as the sophomore will head to Las Cruces, New Mexico to join an Aggie team that was the 2019 WAC regular-season champions while also winning the 2018 WAC Tournament and appearing in the NCAA Regionals. A starting pitcher for the T-Birds last season, Laukkanen would make 12 appearances on the mound for CCCC which included 11 starts while posting a 4-3 overall record in 56.2 innings. Laukkanen would strike out 55 batters and allow just 32 earned runs on the year, while also providing some offense at the plate with four hits and two doubles in 19 at-bats.
"I chose to sign with New Mexico State because of the great reputation of success they have created" said Laukkanen. "I also felt like the coaches genuinely cared about their player's development and well-being." "The team atmosphere is one that I can envision myself really thriving in, and I can't wait to become an Aggie."
Laux will join Laukkanen in becoming an Aggie in the fall of 2020, giving NMSU another shortstop that can be versatile to play in numerous positions of the infield for a team that has won 78 games the past two seasons. Appearing in 51 total games last year (third-most among freshman for Cloud County), Laux would record a .308 batting average (third-best on the team) along with a .419 on-base percentage and nine extra-base hits. Laux would drive in a total of 35 runs and draw 20 walks, while also recording 17 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
"I chose to sign with New Mexico State because of the coaching staff and great atmosphere surrounding the baseball program" said Laux. "I felt a great connection with the coaching staff when I went on my visit to Las Cruces and they have a winning culture that has them at top of the WAC year in and year out." "All of these things have made me want to become an Aggie and I can't wait to become a part of the program.
All four players are expected to take on key roles in the upcoming 2020 baseball season for Cloud County as the T-Birds will look to build of last season's 34-24 record that saw CCCC host a first-round NJCAA Region VI Playoff series and qualify for the Central District Tournament for the first time in program history.