The Cape Cod League all-star game is the closest thing there is to a college baseball all-star game. No other game in the spring or summer can match the talent assembled on both teams in the Cape’s showcase game, which this year will take place in Fenway Park on July 23. As that date approaches, we present the first of our weekly Cape Cod League updates.
This week, let’s shine the spotlight on the Bourne Braves, off to a 10-6 start despite losing five players to Team USA and several others to injuries. As a result of those holes, Bourne coach Harvey Shapiro has had to recruit several juniors to fill out his roster, which is always a risk because those players can sign pro contracts at a moment’s notice. But in Bourne’s case, it’s worked out very well, at least for the time being.
"I have a number of juniors; I had to pick them up, because they’re the only ones available," Shapiro said. "I think that has helped us. The juniors are older, they have more maturity than freshmen, so I think that helps. I always say I’m three or four players away from being really good, three or four players away from being bad."
One of Shapiro’s biggest bright spots has been lefthander Bryan Morgado (Tennessee), who is actually not a junior but a redshirt sophomore. He was drafted in the third round by the White Sox after his disappointing spring, but he’s bounced back nicely this summer, posting a 21-3 strikeout-walk ratio through 10 scoreless innings over three appearances. Morgado was named the Cape League’s pitcher of the week after striking out 16 over two outings last week. Shapiro said Morgado has been sitting in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball and is showing improved command of his power breaking ball and changeup.
"He reminds me a lot, facially and size-wise, of Eric Milton, who we had when I was at Falmouth," Shapiro said. "And he pitches the same way, he has the same repertoire of pitches. Eric was in the mid-90s, had a breaking (ball) and a changeup. Sometimes I have to shake my head because I feel like I’m coaching Eric again. Morgado’s breaking ball is kind of a slurve, kind of a tweener. He’s got to keep working on that, and his changeup, being able to throw it in fastball counts."
The other stalwarts of Bourne’s pitching staff (which boasts a 2.23 ERA through 16 games) have been George Washington’s Eric Cantrell (2-0, 2.25 with 26 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings) and James Madison’s Turner Phelps (2-1, 1.33 with 21 strikeouts and eight walks in 20 innings). Neither has the kind of overpowering stuff that Morgado features, but both have shown command of three pitches to both sides of the plate.
Florida’s Justin Poovey (0-0, 2.25 with nine strikeouts and one walk in eight innings) is a Tommy John survivor, like Morgado. Shapiro said he’s worked in the 90-92 range and shown a sharp curveball this summer. The Braves have two power arms in the late innings: James Madison’s Kevin Munson (0.00 with 15 strikeouts and five walks in seven innings) and UNC Wilmington’s Stephen Harrold (0.00 with five strikeouts and one walk in eight innings).
"They give us two guys who can close, which is nice," Shapiro said. "They’re both 92-93, might touch 94, with a sharp breaking ball."
Pitching is Bourne’s strength, but the lineup does feature a pair of mashers in the middle. Oregon State’s Stefen Romero is tied for the league lead with four homers and 12 RBIs, while East Carolina’s Kyle Roller has three homers and 11 RBIs. Roller is one of those juniors Shapiro is relying upon; the big first baseman/DH also played for Bourne last summer, but Shapiro said he has become a much more disciplined, selective hitter since then.
Romero, meanwhile, is simply hitting the ball with more authority this summer than he did with a metal bat in the spring. In just 52 at-bats for Bourne, he’s already nearly matched his home run total (five) in 223 at-bats for the Beavers this spring. With a physical 6-foot-3, 225-pound build and a good swing, Romero looks like a candidate to hit for plenty more power as a junior in 2010.
"He squares the ball up on the bat pretty well," Shapiro said. "He’s shown good power; the ball jumps off his bat. He’s a good hitter. He also so far has hit for an average and makes good contact. Like all hitters, (Romero and Roller) have to cut down on their strikeouts in this league, make adjustments, hit the ball the opposite way. But they’ve given us nice three- and four-hole hitters."
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