By Michael Kanen
The first weekend of Omaha offered pitchers duels, clutch home runs, and late game drama, but it wasn’t the only great college baseball going on around the country.
Out on the Cape, the Orleans Firebirds launched themselves into first place in the Eastern Division, winning four straight to improve their record to 6-2-1. Coming into the weekend, the Firebirds had struggled to put runs on the board, being shut out twice, and scoring more than two runs just once in the team’s first five games.
That all began to change late Friday night, as Orleans knocked home six runs in the final three frames to squeak by Falmouth, 7-4. Down a run in the top of the seventh, Jacksonville State junior Ben Waldrip, a hulking 6-foot-6, 245-pound lefthanded hitting first baseman, used every bit of his size to even the score with his first home run of the summer. Orleans got right back at the sticks in the eighth after Illinois State southpaw Kenny Long sat the Commodores down in order, extending their lead to 4-2 on a two RBI single by Arizona junior Steve Selsky.
The Firebirds then hammered across three more runs in the ninth, blowing the game open on consecutive RBI singles by Stony Brook sophomore Maxx Tissenbaum, Selsky, and Rutgers sophomore Steve Nyisztor. Long Beach State sophomore Matt Duffy, Tissenbaum, and Selsky, the Firebirds’ two-through-four hitters, combined to go 7-for-12 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Waldrip, a draft-and-follow as the Royals 40th-round pick, went 2-for-3 in the six-hole as well.
On Saturday, Orleans’s bats picked up right where they left off, scoring three in the second inning off a bases-clearing double from Southern Cal freshman catcher Jake Hernandez. The offense was helped out by solid pitching performances from draft-and-follows John Brebbia, a 30th-round selection by the Yankees out of Elon, and Nick Mutz, the Angels ninth-rounder who took this spring off from school, as well as Oregon State sophomore southpaw Matt Boyd.
Selsky continued his assault on Cape arms, going 3-for-5 for the second straight day. He, too, is a draft-and-follow, having been snagged by the Reds in the 33rd round after an injury shortened his 2011 season. A 2010aAll-Pac 10 selection, his average now sits at .400–good for third in the Cape. The Firebirds then took a pair of one-run wins from Cotuit, again led by Tissenbaum, Selsky, and Waldrip, who each hit a home run in the 4-3 win.
Gonzaga lefty and Rays ninth-round pick Ryan Carpenter made a good first impression with Orleans, allowing just one run on four hits in five innings. In the night cap, Duke righthander Marcus Stroman, Dartmouth lefty Kyle Hunter, and Dayton’s Mike Hauschild combined for a three-hit, 2-1 win. Hauschild entered the game with the bases loaded and no one out in the ninth, but retired three straight for the save. Rudy Flores of Florida International hit a go-ahead solo shot in the sixth, and Duffy went 2-for-3 to provide the thump.
Fellow Eastern Division foe Yarmouth-Dennis lost three of four on the weekend, slipping to 5-4-1 and third place. Brewster righthander Anthony Bucciferro (Michigan State) stifled the Red Sox on Friday in a 1-0 affair, throwing seven innings before J.T. Chargois (Rice) and Drew Steckenrider (Tennessee) closed the door. The Red Sox’s lone win came Sunday night, thanks to a 2-for-3, two-RBI game from UCLA’s Cody Keefer.
In the Cape’s Western Division, Hyannis continued its winning ways and now sit at 7-2 overall. At the other end of the spectrum, last-place Falmouth got their first two wins. After an 0-7 start, the Commodores squeaked by Yarmouth-Dennis on Friday, and then made it two in a row with a win over Harwich on Sunday. St. John’s sophomore outfielder Jeremy Baltz, a 2010 Baseball America first-team All-American, and Oregon State freshman catcher Jake Rodriguez each had two hit hits. Baltz also had three RBIs.
Falmouth wasn’t the only bottom dweller making moves this weekend. In the Northwoods League, the St. Cloud River Bats broke their nine-game losing streak against the Rochester Honkers on Friday before sweeping Thunder Bay in a two-game set over the weekend. The story of the three-game turnaround was great pitching, initiated by Wayne State junior Austin Wisroth and Central Missouri classmate Travis Unthank on Friday and completed by Jon Richard (Xavier), Tim Verthein (Wisconsin-La Crosse), and Alex Caravella (Pittsburgh) on Sunday.
The River Bats’ best fell in between, as Diablo Valley sophomore Steven Swift settled in a groove early and never looked back, throwing eight innings and allowing just three baserunners all night. Swift induced 17 ground outs in the 4-1 win.
After two weeks of play, the Mankato Moondogs still sit atop the North Division with a 12-5 record, but split two-game sets with Duluth and the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers, who are just a game behind the Moondogs. The Lunkers have been led in the early going by two freshmen, Regis College’s Steven Brault (.378 in 17 games) and Minnesota’s Dan Olinger (.352 with two home runs in 17 games).
Brainerd gained a game on Mankato on Sunday on the back of junior Joe Willman’s eight inning, four-hit masterpiece. Freshman Casey Roche of Pittsburgh went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, more than enough support for the Northern Colorado righthander. Down south in the Florida Collegiate League, the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs are hot on the tail of the Leesburg Lightning, trailing first-place by just a half game.
State College of Florida sophomores B.J. Zimmerman and Jeremy Strawn have been two of the Diamond Dawgs’ biggest contributors. Zimmerman leads the league in average (.471) and home runs (two), and is second in RBIs (11) through nine games played. Strawn tossed six strong innings on Thursday against Winter Haven and now has a 2.12 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched.
Strawn was helped out in his outing by Indiana shortstop Dustin Demuth who went 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs on Thursday, including a double and a triple. Demuth then led the Diamond Dawgs with a 3-for-5 day on Saturday in a 10-6 victory over Sanford, hitting his first home run of the year. A lefthanded hitting sophomore, Demuth hit .360 as the Hoosiers everyday shortstop this spring.
The last summer league to get underway was the Hawaii Collegiate League which started this weekend. Brandt Forrest, a freshman outfielder from Davidson, got off to a sizzling start, going 7-for-13 with three doubles for the Oahu Paddlers. Forrest was named a Louisville Slugger freshman all-American after hitting .300 with 15 doubles and eight stolen bases in his rookie year with the Wildcats.
On the mound, Long Beach State senior Matthew Johnson threw five innings of two-hit ball for the Hawaii Aliis in his Hawaiian debut.
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