While the broader eye of the baseball world turns its attention to Omaha for the College World Series and national introduction of TD Ameritrade Park this weekend, there is still plenty of college baseball going on in other parts of the country.
Most collegiate summer leagues got underway last week, and many teams and players have already started to stand out among the pack.
In the Cape Cod League, the Cotuit Kettleers are looking to build off their 2010 championship. Like most teams on the Cape, the Kettleers have seen drastic turnover throughout their roster, and one of the few returnees, Vanderbilt sophomore outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, has yet to report as the Commodores look to advance in their first CWS appearance.
In the early going, the Kettleers have ridden the hot bats of two Cape rookies who began to make names for themselves this spring. Baseball America first-team All-American Victor Roache has picked up right where he left off with Georgia Southern after leading the nation with 30 home runs with 84 RBIs. Through six games, the sophomore outfielder is 9-for-18, with three doubles and a home run. The lone round-tripper was a clutch three-run shot in the seventh inning, down 2-1, in last night’s match-up with Bourne.
The Kettleers offense has also been boosted by Georgia Tech freshman outfielder Kyle Wren, who is off to .421 start with four stolen bases. Wren manned center field for the Yellow Jackets this spring while hitting .340 in the leadoff spot.
Through almost one week, two teams have stood above the rest. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, who are looking to get back to the championship round after falling in three games to Cotuit a year ago, stand at 4-1-1 following a 3-2 win over Harwich last night. Righthander James Lomangino, a sophomore at St. John’s, earned his second win of the season against Harwich, throwing eight innings while surrendering just six hits and two runs with four strikeouts.
Lomangino threw a shutout in his first start of the year, going six innings against Bourne. Mason Katz, a sophomore from LSU, provided the thump in Yarmouth’s win last night, hitting his second home run of the young season during a 2-for-4 night that also included a double and a pair of RBIs. Hyannis has also gotten off to a hot start as they look to improve to 5-1 tonight when they face off with Falmouth.
Like Roache, Jacksonville outfielder Dan Gulbransen has carried his hot bat from the spring up north. A sophomore who hit .370 this year, Gulbransen is 9-for-18 with two doubles and two stolen bases. Zach Cooper of Eastern Michigan and Dylan Floro of Cal State Fullerton, both sophomores, combined for a seven-inning shut out last night against Orleans, with Floro earning his first win of the year with two innings in relief.
Arguably the most impressive performance on the Cape thus far was thrown by Falmouth’s Andrew Heaney, who struck out 10 as a hard-luck 1-0 loser in a seven-inning affair with Chatham. Heaney, a lefthanded sophomore from Oklahoma State allowed just three hits and walked one. Marist junior Chad Gallagher out-dueled the Cowboy, throwing six spotless innings of his own before handing over to sophomore Zach Jones of San Jose State.
Meanwhile in the Northwoods League, the Eau Claire Express, like Cotuit, are looking to defend their crown. Eau Claire is off to an 8-7 start and has been led at the dish by Illinois-Chicago junior Ryan Shober and Garrett Custons, a sophomore from Air Force. Shober is hitting .364 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs in 12 games while Custons has hit .348 with as many doubles as strikeouts (eight) in 15 games.
New Mexico State sophomore Ty Forney went 3-for-5 with a home run and double last night in the Express’ 13-8 loss to Madison. The Mankato Moondogs and Battle Creek Bombers have each already tallied 10 wins in the early going. Logan Taylor, a big righthander from Northeast Texas, has started two of the Moondogs wins on the mound, throwing a complete game on June 5 allowing just one earned run in a 9-3 win over St. Cloud.
Matt Mazzoni of Fresno Pacific earned his second W of the year last night and LSU sophomore Nick Goody pitched-in with his third save. Battle Creek has used its bullpen effectively so far, giving them a 10-5 record heading into the weekend, thanks in part to three wins by Minnesota sophomore Alex Tukey and Eastern Michigan classmate Kristian Calibuso, who has struck out 17 in 10 innings with four saves.
In the Coastal Plains League, Erksine freshman Zack Smith and Appalachian State junior Trey Holmes have hit five home runs in 15 games for Columbia and Asheboro, respectively. East Carolina freshman Chase McDonald has gotten off to a torrid start, going 16-for-24 in his first six games in Morehead City.
Aaron Luchterhand, an Australian from Redlands (Calif.) CC, has allowed just one earned run in his first 20 innings for Harrisonburg in the Valley League.
As summer seasons continue, it will be interesting to keep an on power numbers and whether or not they are affected by the use BBCOR bats throughout the spring. Collegiate summer leagues are typically dominated by pitching because hitters must switch to wood, and while that trend will surely continue after offensive numbers diminished throughout college baseball this spring, the few extra months to adjust to more dead-like bats could help hitters out in the coming months.