Two of the nation’s hottest college summer league teams continued their winning ways in convincing fashion Wednesday night, as the Coastal Plain League’s Edenton Steamers won their 11th in row and the Cape Cod League's Bourne Braves won their 10th in their last 12 games. Both teams have ridden shut-down pitching staffs all summer, but their emerging offenses have triggered their current streaks.
Edenton, which has already clinched a CPL playoff spot after finishing with a league best 19-8 record during the first half, rolled over the second-place Outer Banks Daredevils, 13-4, improving its second half record to 16-1. The Steamers put the game away for good with a four-run seventh, thanks to RBI singles from Miami (Ohio)’s Ryan Brenner and Dayton’s Brian Blasik. Brenner, West Chester (Pa.)'s Joe Wendle, and Texas-Pan American’s Vinnie Mejia each had three-hits in the game, part of Edenton’s 17-hit attack.
Early on, the Steamer bats had trouble with righthander Conner Sinclair, a rising senior from Lipscomb who worked at 87-88 mph with two different breaking balls in a scoreless inning during Monday night’s CPL all-star game. Through four innings, Sinclair struck out eight and allowed just one run on a Mejia solo shot in the fourth.
In the fifth, however, the Daredevil wheels came off. After the Steamers loaded the bases on consecutive singles from Kevin Whitehead (Texas Tech), Brenner, and Brett Christopher (Pacific), Outer Banks committed two errors, leading to five runs.
That was all Edenton starter Jonathan Sanchez would need. Sanchez, a righthander from the ASA Institute in New York, was making his first start of the summer. He threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits before handing the ball over to Dustin Quattrocchi (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and David Teasley (Mercer).
The win marks the second time this season that Edenton has had an 11-game win streak, and with 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Steamers sit way atop the standings at 35-9 overall.
Much of their success can be attributed to their dominant starting rotation, led by rising junior Brooks Fiala (Miami, Ohio), rising senior Esterlin Paulino (North Carolina A&T), and rising junior Josh Brenstetter (Delta State), who is not currently listed on the active roster because of an injury. They have been backed by a stalwart bullpen featuring Quattrocchi, Teasley, Jordan Egan (Norfolk State) and Ethan Cole (Northeast Texas CC).
But the Edenton offense has driven its current tear. Although Edenton’s bats were hardly dormant in the first half, scoring an impressive 5.8 runs per game, they have averaged 8.4 runs per game in the second half and now lead the CPL in nearly every significant offensive category.
Second baseman Wendle, a rising senior and CPL all-star, has been at the forefront of the barrage. He is second in the league with a .412 batting average and leads the Steamers with 12 doubles this summer. In Fayetteville on Monday, Wendle showed a nice lefthanded swing with good leverage stemming from a strong front side.
Zach Stewart (Dayton), Tim Saunders (Marietta, Ohio), and Adam Giacalone (Neosho County, Kan., CC) have also brought some thump in the second half, and newcomers Bo Bingham (Arkansas) and Nathan Burns (Howard, Texas JC) have given the offense another boost of late.
Brave New World
Two weeks ago, Bourne was at the bottom of the Cape League in most offensive statistics, relying on its league-best pitching staff to keep it around .500. The Braves received a jolt upon the arrival of North Carolina infielders Colin Moran and Tommy Coyle, however, and haven’t looked back.
On Wednesday, Bourne used both its up-and-coming offense and strong pitching staff to stifle the Eastern Division-leading Brewster Whitecaps, 7-1. The Braves used a four-run sixth to break the game open, highlighted by Coyle’s two-run triple, propelling them to within one game of Hyannis in the Western Division standings.
Bourne wasted little time getting to work, plating two in the first inning off back-to-back RBI doubles from rising juniors Kyle Farmer (Georgia) and Garrett Cannizaro (Tulane). The Braves then tacked on a third run in the second from a pair of Stony Brook Seawolves. With two outs, centerfielder Travis Jankowski, a rising junior, tripled before teammate and catcher Patrick Cantwell singled him in.
The Stony Brook stars have been as critical to Bourne’s resurgence as anyone. Jankowski, who hit .355 this spring, is third in the Cape in hitting at .326, and Cantwell, who went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored on Wednesday, has hit .297 this summer. Cantwell was a first-team America East selection this spring and was drafted in the 39th round by the Orioles.
Brewster managed to squeak a run across in the third, but that was the only scratch on Arkansas righthander Ryne Stanek’s resume. Stanek, a third-rounder by the Mariners in 2010 who just finished a stint with Team USA, threw six innings, fanning eight and yielding two hits. On July 1, Stanek threw in game one of the inaugural Prospect Classic during his time with Team USA and worked between 91-95 mph with good arm-side run and good command of a sharp slider.
The Bourne bullpen, which features five arms with ERAs below 3.00, shut down the Whitecaps in the final three innings. Slade Smith (Auburn), John Farrell (William & Mary), and R.J. Alvarez (Florida Atlantic) combined to strike out four and allow one hit. Farrell and R.C. Orlan from North Carolina have yet to surrender a run in relief this summer and Alvarez leads the team with nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
The starting rotation has been just as good if not better than the bullpen with three arms—Louisiana State's Ryan Eades, Coastal Carolina’s Josh Conway, and San Jacinto (Texas) JC’s Thomas Collier, a 22nd round pick by the Tigers committed to Houston—with ERAs hovering around 1.00.
Still, it is the Braves’ offense that has them surging toward first place. In their first 21 contests, Bourne managed to score five runs or more just six times, and they never scored more than six runs in any of those. In their last 12 games, however, the Braves have scored five runs or more nine times.
Like Edenton, Bourne has 11 regular-season games remaining, and it is currently 19-12-2. The Braves have always had the pitching to make noise in the Cape playoffs, but now they are proving they can swing it, too.