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Infielder Kevin Ahrens has signed a contract with the Lancaster Barnstormers for the 2017 season, it was announced today by manager Ross Peeples.  The former first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays will return for a second year after putting together an All-Star campaign in 2016.

In addition, the Barnstormers have signed right-handed pitcher Louis Cohen to a contract for 2017.

Ahrens, 27, signed with the Barnstormers to play third base in 2016, but with injuries to middle infielders, spent most of the season at shortstop.  The right-handed hitter batted .284 with 13 home runs and 64 RBI in his first Atlantic League season, also contributing 27 doubles and a pair of triples.  Ahrens played in 125 of the 140 games during the regular season, despite a nagging foot ailment.

“Ahrens is a very solid all around player,” said Peeples.  “He played out of position most of last season and did not complain, which indicates the type of guy he is.”

During one early season stretch, Ahrens produced 12 runs batted in over six games and had hits in six consecutive at bats with runners in scoring position.  Ahrens was one of eight players to represent the Barnstormers in the 2016 Atlantic League All-Star Game, held at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium.

The Houston native was the 16th overall pick in the 2007 June draft after being the Houston-area Player of the Year that spring.  He spent seven seasons in the Blue Jays organization and two with the Atlanta Braves before coming to Lancaster last April.  In 2014, he batted .266 with a Carolina League –leading 41 doubles for Class A Lynchburg.

Cohen, 25, pitched four seasons at Cal State-Northridge, amassing a 10-3 record, mostly in relief, for the Matadors.  His best work may have been turned in with the Bend Elks of the West Coast Summer League.  He was 2-1 with eight saves and a 1.55 ERA in 21 appearances with Bend in 2014, striking out 41 batters in 29 innings of work.

The slender Californian has also pitched for Canberra in the Australian Winter League.

“Cohen is a younger guy I am giving an opportunity to come in so we can see what he can add to our staff,” said Peeples.  “He is really excited about having the opportunity to pitch in Lancaster and gain the experience that he needs.”