Cape League All-Star Game Showcases Solid Talent

BOURNE, Mass.—Most years, the Cape Cod League all-star game is all about the big arms, which typically dominate with velocity in one-inning stints in front of dozens of scouting heavyweights. Last year, scouts came away from the game grumbling about the lack of premium velocity on display.

Sunday night in Bourne, scouts and fans got to watch plenty of power arms, but the power bats also put on a show. The West all-stars hit two home runs—by Chris Chinea (Wareham/Louisiana State) and Cameron O’Brien (Falmouth/West Virginia)—in a 5-0 win that left onlookers largely satisfied.

Chris Chinea

Chris Chinea (Photo by Ken Babbitt)

West pitchers also combined to strike out 11 batters, while the East struck out nine batters in a losing cause. The West also had nine hits, including four extra-base hits, while the East had seven hits but just one for extra bases.

“That’s why there were no runs on our side; they had better arms than us,” East coach John Schiffner (Chatham) said. “But all the arms tonight, those 20 arms are going to go a long ways. They all had velocity, there was no soft thrower out there, it was all velocity, and all of them backed up their velocity with pretty good breaking stuff. That’s a pretty good group of pitchers you saw out there.”

West starter Kyle Cody (Wareham/Kentucky) showed the most velocity of any pitcher in the game, sitting at 94-96 and touching 97 in a scoreless first inning. The 6-foot-7 righthander did not throw a secondary pitch, but he impressed with his fastball, striking out Ian Happ (Harwich/Cincinnati) on a 95-mph heater.

Ambidextrous pitcher Ryan Perez (Hyannis/Judson, Ill.) won the MVP award for the West, striking out the side in order in the third. He set Doran Park abuzz by showing the same quality stuff with both arms, sitting at 90-91 and showing a sharp 77-81 slurve from both sides. He started out pitching from the left side against righthanded-hitting Mikey White (Brewster/Alabama), who struck out on an 81 mph slider. Then Perez switched to his right arm against righthanded-hitting Jordan Tarsovich (Yarmouth-Dennis/VMI), fanning him with 90 mph heat. Perez went back to his left hand against the switch-hitting Happ, and blew him away with an elevated 93 mph fastball.

Perez, who arrived on the Cape as an unknown player on a temporary contract, had already made a name for himself, but he raised his profile further on Sunday night.

“Most of you don’t even know what Judson University is, you’ve never heard of that school,” Perez quipped, referring to his NAIA school. “My head coach knows (Hyannis coach Chad) Gassman, so that helped a bit. But coming in as a temp, I didn’t really think about being a temp, I just came here and showed what I could do. And it was good enough, I stayed here, I made the team for the all-stars, that’s fantastic.

“It just tells you, there’s still talent in those small schools as well. Playing against these D-I guys, you hope to see them again in the future. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity.”

Every year, a handful of lesser-known players from small schools make names for themselves in the Cape, and this year is no exception. No player has generated more buzz in the Cape League than Division II Cal Poly Pomona righthander Cody Ponce (Brewster), whose size and arm strength rivals Kyle Cody’s. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Ponce sat at 93-95 and touched 96 in his inning for the East, mixing in a cutter with legitimate depth at 86-88 and a power curveball at 78-82. He got three groundball outs in the fourth inning, but not before giving up a leadoff home run to Chinea, who jumped on a 96 mph fastball and deposited it over the left-field fence.

Chinea was one of five Louisiana State players in the all-star game, including four who started for the West team. Three of them had hits; Connor Hale (Falmouth) led off the third inning with a single and scored on an RBI single by Mark Laird (Bourne), who then stole second base.

“Me and a couple others last year were up here, and we didn’t have as good of years as we wanted,” Laird said of his LSU teammates. “Knowing that some of the guys that struggled throughout the year for LSU came back strong this summer, and going out tonight playing well, it means a lot.”

The West got more offense in the sixth when Matt Eureste (Falmouth/San Jacinto, Texas, JC) hit a two-run double off the center-field wall on a 92 mph fastball from Kolton Mahoney (Orleans/Brigham Young). Still, Mahoney was another quality arm, working at 91-94 and mixing in a short slider at 77-81.

O’Brien capped the scoring with a solo homer to right-center in the eighth on a 91 mph fastball from Reilly Hovis (Orleans/North Carolina). Then three more arms stood out in the ninth inning, as Alex Young (Falmouth/Texas Christian) touched 91 from the left side for the West, while two righties showed good stuff for the East. Phil Bickford (Y-D/Cal State Fullerton) threw just three pitches, at 93, 95 and 94, and got a strikeout. Then Kyle Davis (Chatham/Southern California) entered to face the final two batters of the game, fanning Jake Fincher on a vicious 80 mph curveball and retiring Steven Duggar (Falmouth/Clemson) on a groundout. Davis sat at 90-91 and flashed his trademark power curve.

“You saw Bickford and Davis come in, and the game’s already over, it didn’t even count anymore,” Schiffner said, alluding to the fact that the East had already lost 5-0 when those two arms took the mound for the bottom of the ninth. “But I wouldn’t want to face Phil Bickford today, and Davis threw that curveball that was just ungodly.”

It was a strong finish to a game that effectively showcased the best of the Cape League.

Bats—And Arms—Stand Out In Derby, Too

Sal Annunziata

Sal Annunziata (Photo by Ken Babbitt)

Before the game, Sal Annunziata (Harwich/Seton Hall) won the home run hitting contest, blasting five long balls in the first round and three more in the second round to edge Luke Lowery (Brewster/East Carolina). Annunziata’s triumph marked the third time that a hitter won the contest with Harwich assistant Peter Pasquarosa throwing to him. Pasquarosa also threw to previous winners Connor Powers and JaCoby Jones.

“He actually didn’t tell me that (beforehand); he probably didn’t want to get me too excited,” the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Annunziata said. “But he’s money. It’s no secret this is his third time.”

Lowery actually hit more homers overall than any player, blasting seven long balls in the first round but just two in the decisive second round, for a total of nine. Lowery was hitting off another accomplished batting practice pitcher: his father, Tim Lowery, who travels around throwing BP at Perfect Game events. He is scheduled to be a head coach at the upcoming Perfect Game All-American Classic.

“It was nice to have my dad throwing to me,” Luke Lowery said. “I’ve been hitting BP off him for 20 years. It was an awesome experience, and I was just lucky to get to the second round.

“He’s a world-renowned BP thrower. It’s nice to have that in your back pocket so I can go home and take BP off a guy like that every day.”

What makes a world-renowned BP thrower? Well, it helps to have the right mentor, evidently. Tim Lowery played college ball at Longwood, whose long-time former coach Buddy Bolding was another BP-throwing legend, who took particular pride in that craft.

“Countless professional scouts, opponent coaches and others have over the years said that Buddy Bolding possessed the greatest batting practice arm known to man,” Bolding said in his colorful retirement statement last year. “And even I might agree with that assertion; but as that arm is now seven-plus-million pitches well-worn, it cannot continue to develop great Lancer batsmen for a successful future in the Big South Conference, as will be needed. In short, I cannot be Buddy Bolding forever, and my standard, and the pride I have had in throwing that BP, is such that I cannot suffer to offer my hitters less than they deserve.”

Bolding’s legacy lives on in Tim Lowery. Luke Lowery said Bolding is a close family friend. He would be proud of both Tim and Luke on Sunday night.