Summer baseball officially gets underway tonight as South Carolina returns to Columbia as College World Series champions for the second straight year.
Before that, though, the Collegiate National Team—which has been preparing for this weekend's Prospect Classic at Durham Bulls Athletic Park by taking on teams from the New England Collegiate Baseball League—faced off with the NECBL all-star team at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon.
The game was more of a showcase/tryout event than anything else, as the NECBL ran out 10 pitchers and Team USA fielded seven, but the NECBL did come away with a 3-2 victory led by 1-for-2 performances from sophomore catcher Tom Murphy (Holyoke) and junior catcher Brandon Miller (New Bedford).
The Collegiate National Team, which is still waiting for several players to report from the College World Series, started LSU freshman Kevin Gausman. Gausman, a 2010 sixth-round pick by the Dodgers who jumped right into the Tigers weekend rotation this spring, threw the first three innings, yielding one run on two hits. Duke righthander Marcus Stroman, who was recently plucked from Cape Cod after six innings of eight-strikeout one-hit ball for Orleans, struck out all three batters he faced. Stroman had four saves and a 2.80 ERA for the Blue Devils this spring.
Arizona State sophomore shortstop Deven Marrero, a 2011 Baseball America Preseason All-American, and Arkansas first baseman Dominic Ficociello, a Baseball America All-Freshman team selection this spring, drove in Team USA's only runs.
Meanwhile in the Northwoods League, nine teams entered today with above .500 records. Last night, four of the nine games played were one-run affairs, indicative of the league's parity. The Madison Mallards, who are tied with Eau Claire for first place in the South Division, split a seven inning double-header with the Wisconsin Woodchucks. Going into game one, Madison had won seven of their last nine, but Woodchuck starter Tom Briner, a redshirt junior out of UC Davis, cruised through the Mallard bats, striking out eight and surrendering just three hits in six innings of work. Briner, a late-inning reliever this spring, has been as dominant as any Northwoods arm in his first three starts, allowing just one run in his first 16 innings of work.
Madison would get revenge in game two, however, thanks to a walk-off home run from leadoff hitter Justin Parr, an Illinois sophomore. Elon sophomore center fielder Niko Fraser had two-hits in the game, and Chris Lamb, an 11th-round draft-and-follow by Oakland out of Davidson, and Matt Milroy, also a member of the Fighting Illini, tempered the Woodchuck bats to just two runs on four hits.
The Mallards walk-off win was one of three Northwoods walk-off wins last night. The Green Bay Bullfrogs and Battle Creek Bombers were both 14-10 before the Bullfrogs' Billy Moon (Gonzaga) drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 12th, part of a 4-for-6 day that included an RBI.
Alexandria also won in extras, ignoring an early 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in 10 innings. Logan Bowers, who came into the game as a pinch-runner, proved to be the hero, singling with the bases loaded, overshadowing gutsy pitching performances from LSU's Michael Reed and Eastern Kentucky's Anthony Bazzani. Bazzani threw three scoreless innings of relief and now has 28 strikeouts in 20.1 innings of relief.
The Mankato Moondogs, who sit atop the North Division standings, had a rough day against the struggling Thunder Bay Border Cats falling 12-2 via multi-hit games from Cullen Mahoney (South Mountain, Ariz.), Kevin Taylor (St. Joe's), Evan Weibel (Nicholls State), Ty Wosleger (Fairfield), and Matt Stevens (Eastern Michican), but it was the Moondogs' Blain Schwartz who stole the show the night before. Against Thunder Bay, Schwartz, a junior from Minnesota State, threw a complete game two-hit shut out with 14 strikeouts and no walks. Schwartz has been dominant for Mankato in the early going, allowing no more than one run in any of his five starts, and he has struck out 42 in 33 innings.
There were also several notable performances on the Cape last night, led by Jacksonville sophomore Adam Brett Walker, who went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, including his second home run of the summer for Hyannis. Bourne got a big outing from UConn freshman Brian Ward who struck out seven through five innings of two-hit ball, stifling hot-hitting Harwich, and Yarmouth-Dennis sneaked by Orleans 5-4 thanks to solid outings from UC Irvine freshman Andrew Thurman and St. John's sophomore Kyle Hansen.
Thurman turned in his best outing of the season, throwing six innings, while Hansen threw the finals three. Together, the duo struck out 10 and walked none. The Red Sox were led at the dish by a pair of long home runs, a two-run shot in the second from Arkansas sophomore Matt Reynolds, and a three-run blast from Florida State junior James Ramsey, the Twins 22nd round draft-and-follow, in the fifth.