Baseball America

CWS Stars Head To Summer Leagues

The 2011 College World Series is in the books, meaning all eight teams have packed up and returned to their respective schools. Many of these teams’ players, however, won’t be there for long. Instead they will now latch on with their respective summer league teams, which are now closing in on their fourth full week of action.

All eight teams in the Cape Cod League, as well as the Collegiate National Team—which will be featured in this weekend’s Prospect Classic and a five-game set in early July with Japan—will receive an in-flux of CWS veterans.

Ten players who appeared at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha over the last two weeks will help represent the United States this summer. Texas will send three vital pieces from the Longhorns’ 49-win squad this season, including two freshmen in closer Cory Knebel and third baseman Erich Weiss—both BA Freshman All-America team selections. Sophomore Hoby Milner, who held opponents to a .201 batting average in 32 appearances as Augie Garrido’s go-to lefthander out of the bullpen, will join his younger teammates with Team USA as well.

Florida will send a duo of CWS stars in sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Brian Johnson. Fontana hit .289 for the Gators with five home runs and 49 RBIs in 71 games. Johnson also had five homers while hitting .307; he went 8-3, 3.62 in nearly 80 innings pitched. Mike Zunino, who was named SEC player of year this spring and was a first-team All-America pick at catcher, had been expected to join Team USA this weekend, but has decided to rest his legs after playing in 72 games from mid-February to Tuesday’s national championship affair.

Also joining Team USA will be: Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha and outfielder Taylor Naquin, South Carolina first baseman Christian Walker, and Virginia closer Branden Kline (who tied a school record with 18 saves for the Cavaliers this season).

Wacha, a Third Team All-American, and Naquin, who was recently voted team MVP by his peers, helped the Aggies reach Omaha for the first time since 1999. Wacha went 9-4, 2.29 over 130 innings, picking up some slack during their postseason run after team ace John Stilson went down with an injury. Naquin led A&M with a .381 average, 104 hits, and 23 doubles.

Walker, another All-American, has now been in the Omaha spotlight for two years and played with a broken left hamate in the tournament’s final two games, going 4-for-9 while scoring the winning run in game one. He led the Gamecocks in all three Triple Crown categories, hitting .358 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. Walker has yet to officially announce whether he will skip summer ball to let his wrist heal, though he is not expected to play.

The Cape Cod League will also welcome a flurry of super regional champs soon with the Chatham Anglers getting the biggest anticipated boost with eight newcomers. Chatham, who is in last place in the Eastern Division with a 5-10 record, should have brighter days ahead. Sophomores Hudson Randall, Steven Rodriguez, and Evan Marzilli are expected to join the Anglers.

Randall, the strike-throwing Gator ace, tossed a gem in game one of the title series, going 7 2/3 innings with one run on three hits and six strikeouts. Rodriguez, a lefthander, came out of the Gators’ bullpen in both games one and two. Marzilli hit ninth and played right field in the Gamecock’s two victories, going 1-for-2 in the clincher.

North Carolina righthanders Chris Munnelly and Cody Penny and catcher Matt Roberts will also suit up for Chatham, as will Cal outfielder Darrell Matthews and second baseman Tony Renda. Renda, the Pac 10 player of the year, led the Bears with a .332 average but was limited to a DH role in the CWS because of a pulled quad muscle.

Staying in the East, Yarmouth-Dennis should get some help from Florida freshman lefthander Daniel Gibson; Vanderbilt sophomore lefthander Cory Williams and outfielder Connor Harrell; Virginia sophomore shortstop Chris Taylor. Fellow Cavalier middle infielders junior Keith Werman and sophomore Stephen Bruno will also head to the Cape, hoping to help extend Harwich’s comfortable first-place lead.

Two sophomores, Reed Gragnani (Virginia) and Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) will make their way to Orleans. Gomez was one of the Commodores most consistent performers in helping Vandy to its first CWS appearance, starting all 66 games while hitting .336 and striking out just 14 times in 286 at-bats. Brewster, who is tied for third in the East heading into their match-up with Chatham tonight, may only get one player from Omaha: Texas sophomore outfielder Cohl Walla.

In the Western Division, the Bourne Braves and Falmouth Commodores will both get solid CWS hauls. The Braves are expecting Florida two-way standout Austin Maddox, and North Carolina infielders Tommy Coyle and Colin Moran. Moran was BA’s Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American after a .335/.442/.540 rookie campaign. Falmouth will greet another UNC freshman sensation in lefthander Kent Emanuel as well as classmate Andrew Smith, who made 24 appearances and registered a 2.77 ERA out of the bullpen. Joining them will be Nathan Thornhill, a righthander from Texas.

Fellow Longhorns Josh Urban and Jon Walsh will be in Wareham this summer, and Vanderbilt’s Jack Armstrong, Jr. is currently listed as a non-roster invitee after the Astros selected him in the third round of this year’s draft. Kevin Ziomek and Mike Yastrzemski, teammates of Armstrong at Vanderbilt, will play with defending champs Cotuit, who broke a six-game skid last night, defeating Hyannis 3-1. Krey Bratsen of Texas A&M and Kennan Kish (Florida), will also play for Kettleers.

Although just speculation, South Carolina junior outfielder Adam Matthews may team up with Cotuit as well after an injury riddled season that saw him fall to the Orioles in the 23rd round. Another wounded Gamecock, center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., is currently signed up to play with first-place Hyannis. He, too, is an interesting draft-and-follow, having been selected in the supplemental first-round by the Red Sox after a wrist injury dented his junior year.

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