Summer Leagues Postseason Heating Up

Summer ball schedules continue to dwindle into mid-August, but many title runs are just beginning.

In Cape Cod, the semifinals are underway as the Harwich Mariners defeated the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, 6-0, in Game One of their series Tuesday night. Nick Routt, a rising senior southpaw from Mississippi State, carved through the Y-D bats, firing seven innings, yielding six hits and striking out four to give Harwich a one-game lead.

The Mariners scored eight times in the first three innings during their two quarterfinal wins against Brewster and got on the board early again in the second round. Harwich scored five runs in the game’s initial two frames, which allowed Routt to settle into a groove. Speedsters Ronnie Richardson and Darnell Sweeney, teammates at Central Florida, and rising Georgia Tech senior Jake Davies, started the game with consecutive singles to put Harwich on top 2-0 after the first inning. Richardson—a 31st-round pick by the Cubs this year—and Sweeney—the Golden Knights’ everyday shortstop— then knocked in a pair of unearned runs in the second, including a Sweeney triple.

The game would be a pitcher’s duel from then on, as Routt continued to foil the Red Sox before fellow MSU Bulldog Caleb Reed and VCU righthander Blake Hauser cruised through the eighth and ninth innings.

The other semifinal pits the Wareham Gatemen against the Falmouth Commodores in an unlikely matchup that begins tonight. Although the Gatemen were the higher-seed in their quarterfinal series with Bourne, they entered the postseason with the Cape’s lowest team OPS at .625. Meanwhile Falmouth, the fourth-seed in the Western Division, faced off with Hyannis, which won its first division title in 34 years with a league-best 29-15 record. Yet both teams survived.

After staving off Bourne in Game One, 6-5, Wareham slugged five extra-base hits en route to a 12-3 romp to advance. The Gatemen got multi-hit efforts from five players, including Connecticut’s LJ Mazzilli, who went 2-for-6 with four RBIs and hit his first home run of the summer. On the mound, lefthander Brent Suter (Harvard) threw a complete game, fanning eight to earn the win and Cape Cod pitcher of the week honors.

The Commodores dropped their first game against Hyannis, but staved off elimination via the arms of Tyler Duffey (Rice), Joe Bircher (Bradley), Nathan Thornhill (Texas) and Johm Simms (Rice). Duffey, the Game Two starter, struck out six and walked none in his six innings of work, before Bircher and Co. surrendered just two runs and struck out 14 in the clincher.

Barrett Barnes and Reid Redman, a pair of Texas Tech Red Raiders, led the offensive charge. Barnes doubled three times in Game Three while Redman went 5-for-11 with a double and triple in the series.

Just down the road, the NECBL championship series kicked off last night with the Keene Swamp Bats downing the Laconia Muskrats, 10-3. Keene, the winner of the Western Division, flexed its muscle in Game One, launching three home runs to give the Bats eight in seven playoff games.

With the game tied at three in the bottom of the fifth, Brett DeLoach (Georgia) blasted a solo home run to grab the lead, and Esteban Gomez (San Jacinto JC in Texas) hit a two-run shot to pad it three batters later. Alex Chittenden, a rising sophomore from Louisville, also homered in the game, but it was a trio of Georgia Bulldogs that stood out from the pack.

DeLoach, a rising sophomore catcher, went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Georgia teammates Colby May, a rising senior, and Colby Powell, a rising junior, combined to go 7-for-9 on the night. Tyler Skulina, a 6-foot-6 righthander from Kent State, David Mahoney (UConn) and Brad Monroe (Southern New Hampshire) split the game on the hill to allow just one earned run and strike out seven. Mahoney received the win with 2 2/3 innings of steady relief. The Swamp Bats can wrap up the league title with a win tonight.

Down south in the Coastal Plain League, the top-seeded Edenton Steamers and seventh-seeded Wilmington Sharks head into the final game of their three-game set tonight, with the winner advancing to the championship round.

Edenton, which was 25-3 in the second half and 44-11 overall this summer, has been challenged in the postseason. In the quarterfinals against the eighth-seed Peninsula Pilots, the Steamers were pushed into extra innings in both games. On Tuesday, Edenton then fell to the Sharks, 7-4, to set-up their win-or-go-home scenario.

Kenny Bryant (Presbyterian) and Daniel Aldrich (College of Charleston), Wilmington’s three-and-four hitters, single-handedly changed the Steamers’ season outlook. The two mashers combined to go 5-for-8 with five runs, six RBIs, and three home runs in Game Two, and righthander Chris Mazza (Menlo) threw three spotless innings out the bullpen to close for the Sharks.

Aldrich, a rising redshirt sophomore, hit two dingers—half his summer total—and may be heating up at just the right time. This spring, Aldrich was named a first-team BA Freshman All-American when he hit .347 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs. He also won the CPL home run derby earlier this summer.

Gastonia and Forest City head into a do-or-die Game Three tonight as well.

The Coastal Plain League saw a number of records fall during the last week of the regular season, marking 2011 as the best offensive campaign in the league’s 15-year history. Chase McDonald (East Carolina) set the single-season RBI record with 51 and also led the league in hitting at .403. He fell two home runs shy of the triple crown—N.C. State’s Ryan Mathews smashed 15 to win that belt. Zach Smith (Erskine) set the total base record with 127, and Joe Wendle, a rising senior from West Chester (Pa.), broke the single-season hit record with 81. The league as a whole set a hits record, too.

The NBC World Series in Wichita is also heating up, as the winner’s bracket final will be tonight between the San Diego Waves and Santa Barbara Foresters. Yesterday, the Waves of the Western Semi-Pro Baseball Association downed the Valley Center Diamond Dawgs of the Walter Johnson Baseball League to advance, 5-4.

In the nightcap, the Foresters, the co-champs of the California Collegiate League, played in the tournament’s premiere matchup against the Alaska League winner, the Kenai Peninsula Oilers. The Foresters broke a 4-4 tie with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings off the bats of Jeff McVaney (Texas State) and Derek Legg (Cal State Fullerton) to squeak by the Oilers, 6-4, and move on.

Both teams sent rising sophomore righthanders to the mound. Santa Barbara sent Rice’s Austin Kubitza and Peninsula echoed with Long Beach State’s Jon Maciel, but neither pitcher seemed particularly sharp. Both surrendered early runs before each team plated three in the fourth when Maciel was knocked out. Doubles from Legg and Brett Vertigan (UC Santa Barbara) did the bulk of the damage for Santa Barbara while Kubitza lasted five innings and struck out six to earn his second win of the World Series.

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