By: Matt Rothman
J.P. Taravella Baseball had a current and former player officially commit to playing Division I baseball at two of the premier programs in Florida.
Jonathan Lopez is committed to playing college baseball at Florida Atlantic University. He is currently a junior in high school but says committing early is a huge weight lifted off his shoulders.
“Knowing that I am going to play college ball at a great school with great coaches is very exciting, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds,” Lopez said. “This doesn’t mean that my journey is over, as there is still a lot of work that I need to put in to be the best player and teammate I could be.”
Lopez began playing baseball when he was four, living in Rochester. He then moved to Florida and started to play rec ball before transitioning to travel with the Florida Ballers. Lopez then played in Cooperstown with MVP Elite and is most recently playing with CBU while having the opportunity to compete in tournaments all over the county.
He has played on the varsity team since he was a freshman and hit .440 in his first year with eight RBIs. As a sophomore, Lopez hit .318 and drove in 18 runs with four extra-base hits, helping lead JPT to 37 wins and back-to-back appearances in Regionals.
“It’s going to be fun to follow his career and drive 15 minutes to watch him play for the next three to four years after high school, Head Coach Joe Giummule said. “FAU was on Johnny from Day 1, and kudos to Coach Cleary on a job well done landing Johnny.”
Lopez hoped to find a college nearby and says the FAU coaching staff was supportive from the beginning. He is also excited to play at a ballpark that plays well for left-handed hitters.
While Lopez is halfway through his varsity tenure, he plans to put on more weight before college and improve his defense. He will join a team that won 34 games last season and had a player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft.
Aris Rivera, a 2022 graduate of J.P. Taravella, is committed to playing at the University of Central Florida.
“It feels amazing being able to commit this early and given the opportunity to play at a great school that plays top-tier competition, Rivera said. “I believe they have all the resources that can get me to the next level and make me grow as a person and player. Also, it’s a great school and great education.”
He started his college career at Polk State College in Lakeland, hitting two home runs with 13 RBIs and 11 extra-base hits. In high school, Rivera began at Nova before transferring to Westminster Academy. Rivera played varsity for three years and travel baseball for the X Team. He hit .349 with a home tune and 33 RBIs.
During his junior year, he was a Second Team All-American Catcher and a member of the 2A-15 All-District Team. This past season, he also helped JPT win the HSBN First Pitch Elite Tournament and reach the Regional Semifinals for the second straight season.
Giummule credits Rivera for playing first at a Junior College before getting an opportunity to play in the ACC.
“Jucco baseball, unfortunately, gets overlooked way too often,” Giummule said. “Aris had a great opportunity to go, get healthy, and improve his craft. Jucco has definitely come back full circle. Many junior colleges are loaded with D-1 talent in the state of Florida. The latest trend is that D-1 schools recruit portal first, Jucco second, and high school third.”
UCF won 33 games, competing in the NCAA Championship 12 times, with the last coming in 2017.
- Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor’s degree in journalism and then graduated from the University of Florida as a graduate student. He also works for the Mohave Valley Daily News in Bullhead City, Arizona covering high school sports.
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