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Thunder Announce Preliminary Roster for 2022 Season

Group highlighted by five Thunder alum and two former Blue Jays draft picks
March 23, 2022



(Trenton, NJ) - The Trenton Thunder, presented by NJM Insurance Group, are excited to announce their preliminary roster for the 2022 season. After capturing the inaugural MLB Draft League Championship in 2021, manager Jeff Manto returns for a second season with a wide array of talent spanning from high school to Division I college players. With five Thunder players from last year’s team on the roster, including catcher Andrew Cossetti (St. Joseph’s University, PA), this year’s Thunder team features 15 junior college players. Two players on the Opening Day roster are also looking to increase their MLB Draft stock after previously being selected in the amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Micah Bucknam (2021 - 16th round, Louisiana State University commit) and C Gustavo Sosa (2019 - 19th round, South Mountain Community College, AZ).

First-year pitching coach and 2006 Thunder alum Shawn Chacon will have 19 pitchers on the preliminary roster with which to shuffle around between the starting rotation and bullpen. Righthander Alec Whaley (Murray State University, KY) returns to the Thunder after being an integral part of last year’s Championship team. In nine relief appearances, Whaley went 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA and one save. He allowed just six hits over 17.2 innings pitched, finishing the season with just four walks and 24 strikeouts. So far this season with the Racers, the graduate student has picked up right where he left off, going 1-0 with a 2.87 earned run average over a team-leading eight appearances. Lefthander Devin Milberg is in his sophomore season at Dartmouth College (NH) and is also back for a second season with the Thunder.

Bucknam is an intriguing prospect as the only high school senior on the Thunder roster. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 16th round of last year’s amateur draft but is still committed to playing collegiately at Louisiana State University. One of the most highly-rated players coming out of British Columbia, Bucknam participated in February’s Super 60 Pro Showcase, Prep Baseball Report’s longest-standing scouting event at 20 years and running.

There is also plenty of local flavor amongst the arms coming to Trenton, including three Rider University teammates: LHP Frank Doelling (SR class) and junior RHPs Dylan Heine and Kenny Quijano. Righthanders Dan Kiritsis (Bergen Community College, NJ) and Cole Patten (Villanova University) are no strangers to the area, and lefthander Tom Kane (Coastal Carolina University, SC) grew up in Broomall, PA and began his career at Rowan College of South Jersey.

Behind the plate, switch-hitter Tate Ballestero (St. John’s University, NY) rounds out the trio that includes Andrew Cossetti and Gustavo Sosa. Ballestero, a redshirt sophomore from Morristown, transferred to St. John’s after beginning his career at the University of Virginia. The move to the Big East has been unbelievably effective, with Ballestero batting .394 (28-for-71) with nine extra-base hits and 12 RBIs over his first 20 starts for the Red Storm. Cossetti showed some pop during his first season with the Thunder, hitting five homers and driving in 23 runs over the course of 42 games. Sosa ended up at South Mountain Community College in Arizona after beginning his career at Rutgers University, where he appeared in eight games last season. The Staten Island, NY native played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer with the Winnipesaukee Muskrats and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 out of Tottenville High School.

In the outfield, the Thunder presently have Colby Backus (Walters State Community College, TN), a 6’5, 220-pound redshirt freshman from Johnson City, Tennessee. Backus is currently hitting .404 (38-for-94) with eight homers and 33 runs batted in over his first 29 games this season for the 26-3 Senators.

Two more returnees headline the eight-player infield group, with Jeff Manto and Jonny Weaver back for another season with the Thunder. Both players list third base as their primary position but will float around the diamond in order to give themselves and the team versatility and flexibility. Manto is in his final collegiate season at Palm Beach Atlantic University (FL) as he earns his Masters Degree in Leadership. The Bristol, PA native made 32 starts and appeared in 66 games at Villanova University from 2017-21. Weaver (Grand Canyon University, AZ) was a mainstay in the Thunder lineup last season, hitting .267 (23-for-86) with three home runs and 18 runs batted in over 31 games. As a junior last season, he was named Honorable Mention All-Western Athletic Conference and selected to the WAC All-Tournament Team.

The Thunder have a wealth of depth at shortstop with (EJ Exposito (Long Island University, NY), Mason Hammonds (Bossier Parish Community College, LA), and Caleb McNeely (Walters State Community College, TN), who is a college teammate of Thunder outfielder Colby Backus. Floridian Paul Coumoulos (St. Leo University, FL) was an All-Conference selection who made two Second Team All-South Region squads last season for the Lions, and Dalton Davis is headed to Louisiana Tech University after starting his career at Tyler Junior College (TX).

The Thunder open up the 2022 season on the road on Thursday, June 2 against the Frederick Keys. The home opener is Tuesday, June 7 at 7:00 PM against the Williamsport Crosscutters, where the first 2,000 Thunder fans will receive a 2022 magnetic schedule, courtesy of MCIA. It’s also Girl Scout Night at Trenton Thunder Ballpark, with $1 hot dogs, and Kids Eat Free!

For full ticket pricing and information, partnership/sponsorship opportunities, and information about special events at Trenton Thunder Ballpark, please visit or call the Thunder Box Office at (609) 394-3300, opt 4.


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