Aug. 12, 2013
By Jon Cooper
It was post time for 2013 summer leagues, as regular seasons wrapped up, and postseasons began. Several Yellow Jackets played important roles for their teams.
Here’s a look at how they fared in their league’s playoffs.
Coastal Plain League (1)
Josh Heddinger, Peninsula Pilots – The sophomore right-hander closed the regular season making a pair of relief appearances, throwing two-thirds of a scoreless inning with a walk and a strikeout at Edenton on Aug. 2, then, the next day, absorbing his first loss of the season, against Martinsville, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits and two walks with a K in a third of an inning.
He was back to starting in the playoffs, and, with the season on the line, in the third and deciding game of the East Semifinal against Wilmington, was back in form. Heddinger threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs (both earned) and five hits, striking out four and walking one (he also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter) in the Pilots 8-2 victory. Josh would not be around for the decision, however, as, after shutting out the Sharks through six, and carrying a 2-0 lead into the seventh, he would be charged with two runs. He allowed a hit and a walk to start the inning and left with runners on first and third with the 2-0 lead. The bullpen could not hold on, as an infield hit and a pair of wild pitches contributed to Wilmington tying the game. The Pilots answered with six runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Heddinger finished the regular season with a 3.19 ERA (13 earned runs in 36 2/3 innings), with 34 K’s vs. 15 walks. Opposing hitters batted .223 against him.
Peninsula began the Columbia Blowfish in the best-of-three West Division Championship round Sunday, with the winner going on to the best-of-three championship round for the CPL Petit Cup, beginning on Aug. 15.
Cape Cod League (1)
Matt Gonzalez, Bourne Braves – Gonzalez finished the regular season with three hits in six at-bats over his final two games but did not play in Bourne’s first-round series against Hyannis. He was back in the lineup for Game One of the West Division Championship. Gonzalez went 0-for-3 as the Braves fell, 9-2. But falling behind is something to which Bourne has grown accustomed, as the Braves also dropped the first game of the West Semis before winning the series. Game Two was scheduled for Sunday evening. Matt finished the regular season hitting .224 (19-for-85) with four runs scored, five doubles, six RBI and a stolen base.
Bourne advanced to the West Championship round by winning a dramatic series with Hyannis. The teams traded one-run victories, with the Harbor Hawks taking the opener, 4-3, scoring three in the bottom of the eighth after the Braves had scored two in the top half of the inning. Bourne pitching then took over, limiting Hyannis, which finished nine points (four games) ahead of them, to two runs the rest of the series. The Braves evened the series, sneaking by, 1-0, in Game Two. In the deciding third game, Bourn overcame early 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and used a three-run sixth to take the lead for good before breaking the game open with a five-run eighth in winning, 9-2. Hyannis stranded 19 runners over the final two games. In the first game of the West Division Championship, Bourne was on the other end of a 9-2 loss, as Cotuit scored five runs in the bottom of the second and never looked back. The Braves stranded runners in scoring position in four of the first six innings.
New England Collegiate League (2)
Daniel Spingola, Danbury Westerners – Spingola finished the regular season, and his summer, going 4-for-7, with four runs scored, a triple, a homer, and two RBI, as the Westerners split their final two games. He went 3-for-4, with three runs scored, in a wild 10-9 win at Vermont. He hit a triple in the top of the seventh that ignited a game-winning three-run rally and swiped a summer-high four bases, including back-to-back steals in the ninth. In the finale, he hit his second homer of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth, to tie Newport, but the Gulls got the two runs back to take the game, 4-2, and all but eliminate Danbury from postseason consideration.
Spingola finished the summer on an eight-game hitting streak, during which he hit .375 (12-for-32). He hit a team-best (minimum 20 at-bats) .325, was second in slugging (.446) and second in on-base percentage (.380 on-base). He also led the Westerners in hits (51 — 13 more than the nearest teammate and tied for sixth in the NECL),tied for the team lead in doubles (9), and was second in stolen bases (17, one off the lead).
Alex Cruz, Danbury Westerners – Cruz also finished hot, going 3-for-7 over his final two games. He finished the summer hitting in 10 of his final 11 games, batting .351 (13-for-37) in those games. Alex got to celebrate his 21st birthday in style on July 29, going 2-for-3, with two RBI, including a sacrifice fly that drove in the game-winning run in a three-run seventh in a 10-9 win at Vermont. The multi-hit game was Cruz’s third in five games and gave him 10 for the season. He’d gone 16 days without a multi-hit game, then had three in five days.
Cruz finished right behind Spingola on Danbury in batting average (.295), tied for third with in hits (33), and was second on the squad in homers (four) and RBIs (19). He also had a .429 slugging percentage, second on the team, and his .773 OPS was good for third on the team.
Danbury won three of its final four games but went only 5-5 over its final 10 and missed out on the playoffs.
Hamptons Collegiate League (2)
Kyle Leach, Westhampton Aviators – The freshman right-handercame up big in his final appearance of the summer. In the deciding game of the semifinal against North Fork, Leach, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, was called upon to start the seventh inning with the score tied 2-2. He threw two scoreless, one-hit innings to keep the game tied. He retired the first four batters he faced, then, after allowing a one-out single and a sacrifice in the eighth, got a strikeout to strand the go-ahead run at second. Leach threw 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes in retiring six of the seven batters he faced. The Aviators would fall in the 12th. The two scoreless innings concluded a stretch of nine shutouts in his final 10 appearances, where he gave up one run and 10 hits over 10 2/3 innings. Leach struck out nine and walked two — only one in his last six games and none in his last four. The two-inning stint against North Fork also the righty’s second-longest appearance of the summer — he had a 2 1/3-inning scoreless stretch back on June 14, coincidentally also against North Fork. He finished the summer 2-0 with four saves, a 1.72 ERA (three ER in in 15 2/3 innings).
Cole Miller, Westhampton Aviators – The sophomore infielder also was heroic in the postseason, going 5-for-8 (.625) over the final two games, with the team facing elimination. After going 0-for-2 in the 1-0 series-opening loss to North Fork, Miller single-handedly kept Westhampton alive. He went 3-for-4 and drove in all four runs in the team’s 4-2 come-from-behind win. Down 1-0 with one out in the top of the sixth, Miller doubled in the tying run. The next inning, with the score tied and the bases loaded, he hit a 1-0 pitch for a bases-clearing double. The Aviators held on for a 4-2 win. In the do-or-die third game, he added two more hits, including a double leading off the bottom of the 12th as Westhampton sought to tie the game. He’d reach third but would be stranded there. The five hits over two games were a personal best for the summer and marked only the second time he had back-to-back multi-hit games, while the four doubles were one short of matching his entire season’s output for two-baggers.
To show how dominant Cole was in the postseason, he hit .500 for the playoffs (5-for-10). The rest of the Aviators hit a combined .151 (14-for-93), with two RBIs. Miller finished third on the team with a .283 batting average for the summer, tied for third in homers and doubles, with five of each, and fourth in hits, with 30. His .848 OPS and .472 slugging percentage ranked second on the team, while his .376 on-base percentage was good for third.
The Aviators dropped a pair of heart-breaking one-run decisions in falling to eventual league champion North Fork in a semifinal series in which all three games were won by the visiting team.
Valley League (1)
Thomas Smith, Harrisonburg Turks – Smith struggled during Harrisonburg’s abbreviated playoff run, going 1-for-8 (.125), yet he nearly kept the season alive in the deciding game. Smith’s lone hit of the postseason, came leading off the top of the 8th of Game Two, with Harrisonburg down 2-0. Smith singled, advanced to second on a passed ball then scored the first run of a three-run rally that gave the defending league champions a 3-2 lead. They’d lose lead, the game and the series in the bottom of the ninth. For the summer, Smith hit .341, fourth in the league, with 45 hits (tied for 13th), including a team-high 10 doubles (tied for eighth), two triples (tied for sixth), and two homers. He drove in a team-high 23 runs (tied for 10th) and scored 23 more runs (fourth on the team, tied for 15th in the league). Defensively, the sure-handed Smith committed only two errors in 89 chances at second base, a .978 fielding percentage.
Harrisonburg finished the regular season with a league-high 32 wins, taking the South by 3 1/2 games. But in the playoffs, they dropped the opener against Waynesboro, 11-2, giving up 10 unanswered runs after taking a 2-1 lead after four. Turks pitching allowed 13 walks and the defense committed four errors. In Game Two, Harrisonburg rallied from 2-0 down in the top of the eighth, but allowed a two-out, two-run double and fell, 4-3, eliminating them from the playoffs.
Northwoods League (1)
Sam Clay, Mankato MoonDogs – The freshman lefty finished the season strong, earning a win and allowing only one run in three appearances, covering 8 1/3 innings. Clay threw a summer-high 5 1/3 innings on Aug. 2 against ThunderBay, shutting out the Border Cats. His previous high was 5.0 shutout innings on June 19 at St. Cloud). He struck out seven, also a summer high, allowing three hits and four walks. Clay came in trailing 2-0, but was the beneficiary of a four-run second and three-run fourth, in earning his third win of the season. He threw 1 2/3 more scoreless innings on Aug. 7, getting the final five outs in a 7-4 loss to Green Bay. He struck out two with two walks. In his summer finale on Aug. 10, he threw 1 1/3 innings, getting the final out of the fifth inning before allowing a run in the six despite not giving up a hit. He walked two then threw a wild pitch to allow the run to score. The MoonDogs lost at St. Cloud, 8-6.
Clay ended the season with a 2.07 ERA (12 ER in 34 2/3 innings), a .124 opposing batting average, a 1.53 WHIP and allowed only one home run.
Mankato finished 21-13 in the second half, 5 1/5 games back and one game out of playoff contention.
Florida League (1)
Grant Wruble, Leesburg Lightning – The freshman catcher played a key role in the one playoff game he played for the Finals-bound Lightning. Starting Game Two of their semifinal series with the Sanford River Rats, Wruble singled and walked and came around to score both times. Both times sparked three-run innings that overcame one-run deficits. With Leesburg trailing 1-0, Grant singled to left leading off the fourth and scored the first of three runs in the frame. Then, in the ninth, with the Lightning down 4-3, he came up with two on and none out and drew a walk to load the bases. He came around to score the inning’s third run, providing an insurance run in the series-clinching 6-4 victory. Wruble finished the regular season hitting .267 with a .320 on-base percentage, and 24 hits (sixth on the team), including two doubles, and 10 RBIs.
Leesburg swept Sanford in the opening round, winning a tight 1-0 opener at home, then twice coming from behind to take the second game at Sanford, 6-4. In the one-game championship at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the Lightning dropped a hard-fought 3-0 decision to Winter Park.
Alaska League (1)
Devin Stanton, Chugiak Chinooks – The junior lefty made a team-high three appearances in the ABL’s postseason round-robin, end-of-season tournament and was effective in all three even though one would result in a loss, allowing one unearned run in the three appearances, which covered 2 2/3 innings. Stanton threw a scoreless ninth in the 3-1 loss to the Anchorage Glacier Pilots on June 29, stranding the one runner that reached via error. An error proved Stanton’s undoing two days later, as, with two out, a fielding error allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the 10th in a 4-3 loss to Anchorage. Stanton hurt himself with two walks, prior to the decisive play. Stanton bounced back the next night, closing out his summer with a 1-2-3 ninth in the 10-5 win in the home finale over Mat-Su. The lefty allowed only one earned run in his final six appearances, covering 6 2/3 innings and allowed only one hit in that span.
He finished the summer 1-4 but with a 2.97 ERA (11 earned runs in 33 1/3 innings), allowing 29 hits and striking out 32 while walking 16.
Chugiak went 1-3 in the postseason tournament, but lost two of the games on 10th-inning walk-offs, including one in the tournament finale against the league-champion Fairbanks Goldpanners.
Sunbelt League (1)
Mitch Earnest, OTC Bearcats – An important bit of news inadvertently left out of the last Summer League Recap was that the junior catcher took the mound as starting pitcher for OTC in its season finale on July 25 against the Atlanta Crackers. Earnest took the loss in the 12-2 defeat and was charged with seven runs in his three innings of work, but only two of the runs were earned. He allowed seven hits, and struck out three, while walking only one. He left the mound with a 6.00 ERA, a .412 opposing batting average and a .444 on-base percentage.
For the summer, he finished hitting .195 (8-for-41), with a double and four RBIs. Defensively, Earnest had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 82 putouts and 10 assists in 11 games.
OTC finished at 5-22, 12 1/2 games out and did not qualify for playoffs.