Aug. 19, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech students are back on campus and in class, all with interesting stories and memories of how they spent their summer. For many players on the Yellow Jackets baseball team, those stories revolve around the various summer leagues in which they played.
Some saw their leagues as an internship of sorts. For others, it was summer school during which they sought to improve facets of their game. To yet others, it simply was a way to blow off some steam, keep sharp and enjoy playing the game they love.
Whether they came home with league championships or all-star berths — some players did both — or just invigorated and more confident having discovered or re-discovered parts of their game, the summer proved valuable.
Here is a final look around the summer league circuit and how the Yellow Jackets did.
Cape Cod Baseball League
Sam Dove, OF/3B, Harwich Mariners – Dove had a pair of multi-hit games over the season’s final week, including a 3-for-4 effort on August 7, in which he was a double short of hitting for the cycle in a 5-1 victory at Brewster. In the postseason, he went 1-for-5 with a walk in two games against Orleans. For the summer, Dove hit .218, with a .333 on-base percentage. He finished with 31 hits (fifth on the team) and 25 runs scored (fourth), with five doubles (tied for second), two triples (tied for first). He also had four homers, 12 RBI, 18 walks (third on the team) and nine stolen bases (second) in 13 attempts.
Zane Evans, C/RHP, Harwich Mariners – Evans cut his summer short, not playing after July 22. He had a superb summer as a closer, although a rocky final outing on July 12 skewed his numbers. Evans finished 1-0, with four saves and a 4.66 ERA in 10 games, allowing five runs (all earned) in 9 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .286 against him, getting only six hits and five walks, while he struck out 14. Prior to his final outing (2/3 of an inning, four earned runs), which resulted in his lone blown save, he had a 1.00 ERA with a mere .200 opponent’s batting average. At the plate, Evans hit .128, with a homer and four RBI. He was 1-for-1 in stolen base attempts.
Mott Hyde, SS, Wareham Gatemen – Hyde played a major role in the Gatemen winning the Cape Cod League championship, batting .364 (8-for-22 and second on the team), with two homers and eight RBI. Four of Hyde’s eight hits were for extra bases (a double, a triple in addition to the two homers), he reached base on nine other occasions with five walks and four HBPs, and he was 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts. Hyde was the hero of the knockout game at Bourne on August 14, going 3-for-4, with four RBIs and two runs scored, blasting a ninth-inning two-run homer that broke a 6-6 tie (scoring Yellow Jackets teammate Daniel Palka). Hyde did it again in the third and deciding game of the championship series at Yarmouth-Dennis, going 2-for-4, with a double and a homer. His double jump-started a game-tying two-run rally in the fifth, then his two-run homer with one out in the ninth — again scoring Palka — capped a three-run game-tying rally. Wareham would win the title in the 10th inning. Hyde started the playoffs with a .450 slugging percentage and finished at .773, while his final OPS was 1.321, up from .816 to start the playoffs. Hyde, a West All-Star, finished the regular season batting .281, with six homers, 26 RBI and a team-high eight stolen bases in 10 attempts. He finished the summer hitting .288, with eight homers, 34 RBI, 10 doubles and a triple.
Dusty Isaacs, RHP, Cotuit Kettleers – Isaacs may have saved his best performance of the summer for last. After closing the season with a pair of one-inning relief appearances (a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts in Cotuit’s August 2 loss to Harwich, then allowing a run in absorbing his first loss of the season three days later at Brewster), Isaac stepped up big time in the playoffs. With the Kettleers’ season on the line in a deciding third game of their first-round series with the Bourne Braves, the righty allowed one run and three hits, while striking out six and not walking a batter over seven innings. He got no decision, leaving a 1-1 game that would end 6-4, Bourne. The outing capped a superb summer in which Issacs pitched to a 1.82 ERA, allowing six runs in 31 2/3 innings and 13 hits. He struck out 28 and walked eight, holding batters to a .237 average. Counting the playoff start, that ERA fell to 1.29, while the opposing BA plummeted to .125, with a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.430.
Daniel Palka, 1B/LHP/OF, Wareham Gatemen – Palka hit .267 in the playoffs, belting a pair of homers and driving in nine runs. But two plate appearances, which resulted in a walk and a single, proved as important as any homers he hit during the summer. His walk leading off the ninth inning at Bourne preceded Hyde’s game-winning two-run blast. Then, in the deciding game of the Championship series, after going 0-for-4 in the game, he singled, this time preceding Hyde’s game-tying shot. Palka hit in the final six playoff games after going 0-for-3 in the playoff opener, putting up a pair of two-hit games. He had other clutch at-bats in the playoffs. On August 11 at Falmouth, Palka had five RBI, blasting a first-inning two-run homer then a fifth-inning three-run double in the 20-7 rout eliminating the Commodores. In the first game of the Championship round, his eighth-inning RBI groundout tied the game at four, as Wareham overcame a pair of early three-run deficits. The slugging first baseman earned MVP honors in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, going 3-for-4. He finished the summer hitting .281 on the season, with 13 homers, 44 RBI, a .533 slugging percentage and an .846 OPS. Palka also proved effective in his one pitching performance, throwing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He allowed one hit in the 9-8 win at Falmouth, striking out one and walking three.
Cole Pitts, RHP, Harwich Mariners – Pitts ended the summer on a high note, throwing three innings of shut-out, one-hit ball on August 7 at Brewster. He struck out three, his second-best total of the summer, and faced only one batter over the minimum. He did not pitch in the playoffs for the Mariners. The hard-throwing righty, who will begin his sophomore campaign, finished the summer with an 8.25 ERA (11 earned runs in 12.0 innings), but averaged better than one strikeout an inning and had a nearly 3:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (17-6).
NOTE: Harwich won the East, with a 27-16 record, but in postseason, their bats went cold, managing only two runs, one in each game, and nine hits, falling to the third-place Orleans.
Cotuit ran off with the West, chalking up a 30-14 mark, but in the postseason, fell in three games to upstart Bourne.
Wareham finished 21-23 in the West, but rolled into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, then took home the championship, losing only one game. They blew away the West’s second-place squad Falmouth, then beat the fourth-place Bourne Braves, who stunned West-winner Cotuit. In the finals, they came from behind to beat the East Division-winning Yarmouth Dennis, taking both games on the road in their final at-bat. Each game saw a ninth-inning rally, as they won the opener and tied game three, which they’d win in 10 innings.
Alex Cruz, RHP, Harrisonburg Turks – Alex split his two appearances in the postseason, with disparate results. In game two of the second round against Waynesboro, he entered the game with the Turks down 2-0, facing elimination. Cruz shut down the Generals, throwing five shutout innings, allowing only three hits while walking one, and striking out seven. He allowed the Turks to rally and win, 5-2. In the Championship round, with Harrisonburg looking to wrap things up, Cruz had an off day, lasting 1 1/3 innings, giving up nine runs (all earned) and 10 hits, recording one strikeout, and taking the loss in a 13-1 defeat. That last outing inflated Cruz’s final numbers, as he finished 1-3, with a 6.07 ERA (27 ER in 40.0 innings) and an opposing batting average of .309. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio was excellent, as he whiffed 29 while walking only nine. As a hitter, Cruz batted 1.000, going 1-for-1 and even scored a run.
A.J. Murray, C, Harrisonburg Turks – The freshman catcher did not play over the final week or in the playoffs, but he had a solid summer. He hit .239 with three homers and 14 RBI, with an on-base percentage of .340 and a .430 slugging percentage. Defensively, he was superb, fielding .992 and committing only one error. He threw out three runners attempting to steal.
Charles Sheffield, OF/1B, Harrisonburg Turks – Sheffield had two hits in the postseason — he went 2-for-17 (.117), but one of them was a huge one. It came in the eighth inning of the first-round series at Rockbridge. He singled and scored as part of the two-run rally that broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Turks the win, clinching the series. He also played a key role in game two of the Championship round, as his leadoff walk started a two-run rally in the second inning against Winchester. Sheffield would come around to score the first of the two runs, in the rally that gave the Turks the lead for good and gave them a 2-0 lead in the series. For the summer, Sheffield batted .261, with a .385 on-base percentage and a .420 slugging percentage. Of his 31 hits, 13 were for extra bases (nine doubles, two triples, two homers) and he drove in 16 runs. Defensively, he fielded immaculately, committing one error (a .988 fielding percentage) while chalking up seven assists.
Thomas Smith, 2B, Harrisonburg Turks – Smith hit .280 in the postseason (7-for-25), with a pair of key multi-hit games. In game two of the opening round at Rockbridge, he singled and scored in a two-run fifth inning that put Harrisonburg in front. They would go on to win, 5-3. In game two of the second-round series against Waynesboro, with the Turks down a game and trailing, 2-0, Smith singled and scored as part of a decisive four-run rally, in the 5-2 win. Smith’s best game of the postseason came in the first game of the Championship round, at Winchester, as he went 3-for-3, driving in two runs in a 13-4 rout, stealing home field advantage away from the Royals. Smith batted .289 in 36 games, with a .429 on-base percentage and a .364 slugging percentage. He scored 23 runs (fifth on the team), drove in 18 runs (tied for sixth on the team) and was 2-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
NOTE: After finishing second in the South Division (34-15), behind Waynesboro (34-15), the Turks, who went 9-5 down the stretch, took off in the playoffs to take home the VBL Lineweaver Cup. They rolled over Rockbridge in two straight, then fought off two match-points to knock off Waynesboro, winning a pair of dramatic come-from-behind games, 5-2, then 2-1 on the road. In the Championship round, they took care of North Champion Winchester in four games, wrapping up the title with a 5-3 win on their home field.
New England Collegiate Baseball League
Paul Kronenfeld, OF/1B, Sanford Mariners – Kronenfeld didn’t see any action in postseason, but ended the regular season hitting in seven of his final 10 games, during which he batted .250 (8-for-32) — coincidentally his final average for the summer. Over his final 10 games, he stole four of his eight bases for the summer. He did not get caught attempting to steal.
Daniel Spingola, OF, Danbury Westerners – Spingola finished a marvelous summer hitting in six of the Westerners’ seven playoff games on the way to the NECBL finals. He batted .286 in postseason (8-for-28), with a pair of doubles and four RBI. In the clinching game of the semifinals against Keene, Spingola singled and scored in both the three-run first inning and the nine-run fifth, in the 12-11 victory. Spingola also came up big in the deciding game of the first around against North Adams, as he accounted for all three runs in the three-run fifth, with a two-run double and a run scored. The rally gave Danbury a 7-5 lead in what would be a series-deciding 10-7 victory. For the summer, Spingola, a West All-Star, batted .321 (second on the team for anyone with at least 25 at-bats), hit six homers and 13 doubles. Of his 42 total hits, 18 of them were for extra bases, as he also had 11 doubles (second on the team) and a triple. He scored 30 runs (second on the club) and was 7-for-9 in stolen base attempts — his seven steals tied for second on the Westerners. Defensively, Spingola fielded .970, committing only two errors, while chalking up nine assists.
NOTE: Danbury finished in second in the Western Division, 5 1/2 games behind the Keene Swamp Bats, but took care of business in the playoffs. They beat North Adams, which finished 1 1/2 behind them in the West, in a tough three-game series, then swept out the Swamp Bats, winning a pair of one-run games, before finally running out of gas in the Finals, losing in two straight to the Newport Gulls, who had the league’s best record (31-10) during the regular season.
Sanford lost four of its last five regular-season games, and finished 15-26, fourth in the Eastern Division. They took on Newport in the first round of the playoffs. The Mariners managed to win, 7-6 in a dramatic second game to force a deciding third game, but they were blown out 18-1 in the finale. Sanford was outscored 32-3 in its two losses.
Coastal Plain League
Cameron Gibson, OF/RHP, Peninsula Pilots – The freshman outfielder finished the regular season on a three-game hitting streak, batting .400 (4-for-10). On August 30 vs. Columbia, he went 2-for-3, and was part of a pair of scoring rallies in the 4-3 win. He singled and scored in the second inning then hit an RBI double and later scored in the game-winning two-run rally in the eighth. In the playoffs, he went 0-for-3 in game one against Fayetteville. He entered late in game two and did not bat. For the summer, Gibson hit .248, with five doubles and nine RBI. He struck out 18 times, while drawing eight walks, and proved a threat to steal, successfully making it six times in nine attempts. Defensively, he was perfect, making the play on all 57 chances and getting four assists.
Josh Heddinger, RHP, Peninsula Pilots – Josh did not pitch over the season’s final week or in the playoffs. He finished with a 1-2 record and a 4.66 ERA. Opponents batted only .185 against him. He struck out 26 batters in 36 2/3 innings while walking 22.
Jonathan Roberts, RHP, Peninsula Pilots – Roberts did not see action over the final week or in the playoffs. He had a tough summer, finishing with an 8.36 ERA (13 ER in 18 2/3 innings), allowing 24 hits. He struck out 13, while walking 14.
NOTE: Peninsula finished 14-13 in the second half and entered the playoffs as the seventh seed. The Pilots lost in two games to second-seeded Fayetteville, 4-3 and 8-2.
Connor Lynch, C, Lakeshore Chinooks – Lynch finished with a flourish, hitting in his last eight games and nine of his last 10, batting .342 in that stretch (13-for-38). He had three multi-hit games in the run, including his first three-hit game of the summer, August 10 at the Wisconsin Rapids. He singled and scored as part of the key four-run rally in the fourth inning of Lakeshore’s 7-4 win. On August 6 at Madison, he launched his second home run of the summer. It was the Chinooks’ only run in a 2-1 loss. Lynch finished the summer batting .214, with two homers, 12 RBI and four doubles.
NOTE: Lakeshore finished 18-17 in the second half, eight games behind the South Division-winning Wisconsin Woodchucks. Overall they were 35-35 for the summer, good for fourth place, 14 games behind the La Crosse Loggers.
Sunbelt Baseball League
Michael Hodorowski, OF, Douglasville Bulls – The sophomore outfielder only played in 11 games, but hit in seven of them, doing so in consecutive games — June 7-21. He hit .409 in the stretch, going 9-for-22 (.409). Hodorowski batted .257 overall, with a double, four RBI and five stolen bases in six attempts.
DeAndre Smelter, P/OF, Douglasville Bulls – Smelter batted .214 during the playoffs (3-for-14), but had his moments. He went 2-for-4, with three runs scored, including what proved to be the winning run after reaching on a double in the fourth inning of the first-round opener against Home Plate. He also scored in the five-run fifth that put the game away. Smelter finished the summer with a .275 average, a .464 slugging percentage and an .847 OPS.
NOTE: Douglasville swept through the playoffs, allowing only one run in two games against the Home Plate Chukars, completing the series with a four-man combined no-hitter. The Bulls then crushed the Winward Braves in two games, winning 9-2 and 6-2, to sweep the finals. In their four playoff games, they outscored their opponents by a combined 15-5.