FLORENCE, Ala. — University of North Alabama Head Baseball Coach Mike Keehn has announced the signing of seven student-athlete’s to National Letters of Intent with the Lions’ program.

The class includes six high school signees and one two-year college transfer.

The Lions will be adding five pitchers, a catcher and an outfielder to their 2023 squad.

“We are fortunate to get commitments from not only talented players, but quality student-athletes off the field,” said Keehn. “We also appreciate the players and their families for choosing our program and staying with us throughout the recruiting process. We are all excited about the opportunity to coach this group next fall and feel all will be making immediate impacts in 2023 and beyond.”

The list of high school players joining the UNA program includes right-handed pitcher Justin Battle of Knight’s Academy in Murfreesboro, Tenn., right-handed pitcher Avery Brown of EastCoweta High School in Sharpsburg, Ga., rightfielder/right-handed pitcher Jackson Cheek of Nettleton High School in Nettleton, Miss., right-handed pitcher/catcher/outfielder Joey Malecha of Northfield High School in Northfield, Minn., right-handed pitcher Will Shepherd of Milton High School in Alpharetta, Ga., and outfielder Ethan Walker of Piper High School in Kansas City, Kan.

The lone transfer in the signing class is catcher Andin Johnson of Amory, Miss. He played at Amory High School and is transferring to UNA from Meridian (Miss.) Community College.

Justin Battle
Right-Handed Pitcher
6-0, 170, Freshman
Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Knight’s Academy / Home School
Parents: Aaron and Jennifer Battle
Summer Team: Nashville Knights
Stats: IP: 47.0, ERA: 2.67, Strikeouts: 76, Walks: 28

Coach Keehn on Battle:
Justin offers a fiery, come right at you, type of presence on the mound. We feel he is going to be successful in a number of different roles for us on the mound. He shows ability to pound the zone at a very high rate as well as showing high pitch ability. Justin will pitch at 86-88, but project, with his easy athletic delivery and some weight gain, that he can be a 90 arm. We love the tight situations that the Knight organization put Justin in this summer and how he thrived in them.”

Avery Brown
Right-Handed Pitcher
6-0, 175, Freshman
Sharpsburg, Ga.
East Coweta High School
Parent’s Christopher and Denise Brown
Summer Team: Georgia Jackets
Stats: IP: 69.0, ERA: 1.62, Strikeouts: 75, Walks: 25

Coach Keehn on Brown:
“Avery has the easiness and pitch ability to come in right away and make a major impact for our staff. He will sit 87-88, with his fastball touching 90. He has an above average slider that touches 79-80. We loved his ability to pound the zone and compete with every pitch at a high level. Avery has shown the ability to be a fierce competitor on the mound with a fiery attitude.”

Jackson Cheek
Outfield/Right-Handed Pitcher
6-2, 180, Freshman
Nettleton, Miss.
Nettleton High School
Parents: William and Leslie Cheek
Summer Team: Tupelo Legion
Stats: Avg: .370, 2b: 7, HR: 4, RBI: 26, SB: 24

Coach Keehn on Cheek:
“Jackson attended our prospect camp two summers ago and we felt he would be a special player.  His advanced bat speed and athletic ability showed at an early age. We feel that Jackson has the opportunity to hit for power in the middle of our lineup early in his career. We also feel that Jackson has a lot of untapped potential on the mound, as he has shown flashes of a plus breaking ball and a fastball that has been in the upper 80s. Jackson is a very dynamic athlete that can play a lot of different positions and we feel that he fits that athletic mold that we recruit.”

Andin Johnson
5-11, 185, Junior
Amory, Miss.
Amory High School
Meridian Community College
Parent’s Steve and Mary Johnson
Summer Team: Tupelo Legion
Stats: Avg: .284, HR: 1, RBI: 19

Coach Keehn on Johnson:
“Andin comes to UNA from a Mississippi two-year college power in Meridian Community College. He is a very durable athletic receiver with above average arm strength that will make an immediate impact next season. Andin is a high level catch and throw guy with athleticism behind the plate. His maturity and experience will be an asset to lead the UNA pitching staff in 2023.”

Joey Malecha
Right-Handed Pitcher/Catcher/Outfield
6-0, 190
Northfield, Minnesota
Northfield High School
Parent: Cathy Malecha
Summer Team: Midland
Stats: IP: 21.1, ERA: 1.80, Strikeouts: 38, Walks: 8

Coach Keehn on Malecha:
“Joey combines high level athleticism with the ability to play multiple positions. He will give our roster major flexibility. On the mound, he has reached 90-91 with high level pitch ability. He has also shown very athletic actions with plus arm behind the plate, but has played multiple positions throughout his high school career. Joey’s physicality will allow him to make an immediate impact for UNA next year.”

Will Shepherd
Right-Handed Pitcher
5-9, 175, Freshman
Alpharetta, Ga.
Milton High School
Parents: Michael and Renee Shepherd
Summer Team: AASA 18U National
Stats: IP: 30.0, ERA: 2.80, Strikeouts: 49, Walks: 21

Coach Keehn on Shepherd:
“Will is a great find, and is very much a diamond in the rough. He shows a swing and miss breaking ball, as well as a fastball that wll run into the 90s. His self-confidence and spirit jumped out to us right away, and they are traits that we feel this pitching class embodies. He was a former middle infielder that converted to pitcher, which offers an extremely athletic delivery, as well as the ability to move off the mound.”

Ethan Walker
5-10, 185, Freshman
Kansas City, Kan.
Piper High School
Parents: Stephanie and Brandon Walker
Summer Team: Next Level Baseball

Coach Keehn on Walker:
“Ethan is a very dynamic leadoff type player that offers extreme speed to our lineup, as well as the ability to find the barrel. His progression and improvement as a hitter have been really fun to watch. He has a very calm demeanor and understanding of what it takes to be an impact in the leadoff position. Ethan is a multi-sport athlete who has excelled in three sports and knows how to compete at a high level.”

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