PRESS RELEASE – The Newark Pilots play all their home games at Colburn Park in Newark, N.Y. and were the host of the 2013 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game, with which they did a tremendous job. The field itself was in pristine playing condition, complemented with a large scoreboard atop the left field wall, which would eventually get dinged up a couple times between pre-game festivities and the game itself.
Better than the field was the surrounding atmosphere; the wooden bleachers you would expect in a western New York stadium, still giving it an old-time feel, the nearly 2,120 fans cheering for both teams (Pilots players were applauded a bit louder), and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn filling the air.
A big round of applause goes to PGCBL President Jeff Kunion, Pilots General Manager Brian Connell and his staff for their hospitality and a job well done with the 2013 PGCBL All-Star Game. Fan interaction is a key part of any league, especially that of a summer league, and the Newark staff did a great job with that, taking moments throughout the game to applaud different groups of people (fans that traveled, parents of players, etc.), having multiple giveaways, t-shirt tosses, and on-field contests and promotions.
Like more All-Star and showcase events, the PGCBL had a skills showcase prior to the first pitch of the game at 7:49 PM. The first scheduled event was the 60-yard dash in which players ran one at a time from the right-field foul line into center field, with roughly 20-25 pro scouts huddled around the finish line, representing various teams. Joe Moroney of the Watertown Rams (University of Kansas) turned in the fastest time, running it in 6.61 seconds, edging out Amsterdam Mohawks teammates Kyle Barrett (Kentucky) and Jordan Ebert (Auburn), both of whom had a top time of 6.63 seconds. Other notable 60 times were Dalton Herrington (Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs/ULM) at 6.70 and Garrett Degallier (Glens Falls Golden Eagles/Tacoma C.C.) at 6.79.
Jordan Ebert, who start 54 games for Auburn this spring as a freshman and hit .303, is fully aware of Perfect Game, having participated in the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., and the 2012 World Showcase, as well as playing in the WWBA World Championship in 2011 with the East Cobb Astros. Ebert has continued his hot hitting in the PGCBL, accruing a .310 batting average to go along with his four home runs and 19 RBI.
Kyle Barrett played with the Orlando Scorpions during his summer days in high school, competing in two WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Fla., and made one showcase appearance, the 2010 Junior National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Following the 60-yard was batting practice for both teams, the East and the West, with infield/outfield and catcher pop times rounding out the pre-game skills.
While all the players in the game were deserving of the honor and know how to hit the baseball, there were a few bats that stood out to me in the 2 rounds that each player took.
Jay Gonzalez, who just completed his junior year at Auburn, plays for the Utica Brewers this summer and was the first hitter that made an impression. With the wind steadily blowing in from center at the beginning of batting practice, and despite not hitting any home runs this spring or summer, Gonzalez hit two balls that were no doubters off the bat over the right field wall. Throughout his round, Gonzalez made consistent hard contact to all fields, squaring up the ball with each swing.
Although he wasn’t in the All-Star Game and only the Home-Run Derby, Chris Divarco of NIU took a solid round of batting practice, using his strong upper half to drive the ball to gaps and deposited a ball off the scoreboard in left, a prelude to his HR Derby performance. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Divarco has hit two home runs this summer and 12 doubles for the Adirondack Trail Blazers.
Also playing for the Adirondack Trail Blazers this summer is Alex Mata, a middle infielder from Saint Leo. Even though he didn’t play this spring after redshirting, Mata looked like he hasn’t missed a beat, both in the field and in the batter’s box. Mata sprayed line drives to all fields, showing a quick bat, which he used to take one of the better overall rounds on the day. He also stood out defensively during the drills portion, showing soft, easy hands and was very fluid in his actions. He moves well laterally and showed that he could throw from all different arm angles with enough arm strength to finish the plays. In the game Mata lined out to center field and flew out to deep right, showing a bit of pop in his bat as the ball to center field registered 90 mph off the bat.
Fitting the same role of middle infielder/top of the order bat like Mata is K’Shawn Smith of Stetson, who is playing for the Utica Brewers this summer. Smith put his quick bat on display, squaring up the ball and should develop some power in the next year or two as he adds onto his frame. Smith is a quick twitch defender and profiles as a second basemen in the future.
The league’s defending Player of the Week, Matt Dacey of Richmond, put on a small show during BP and Home Run Derby, as he edged out Buddy Putnam (below) to take the victory in the 2013 PGCBL Derby. A late addition to the event as he wasn’t listed in the program, Dacey showed a strong left-handed swing, making loud contact with each swing and easily lifted his last two BP pitches over the fence, with some very long hang time on each. He demonstrated that he could hit with gap-to-gap power, showing the same hit tool that he did at the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. and various other PG showcases he played in throughout his days at Don Bosco Prep. Having just advanced in the first two rounds in the Derby, hitting one home run in each round, Dacey saved his power for the final round, hitting three long home runs and nearly had two more, that just stayed in the park, bouncing off the wall in right field.
Both Buddy Putnam (GF Golden Eagles/South Florida) and Ben Hall (Cooperstown Hawkeyes/Central Alabama C.C.) showed a smooth left-handed stroke with some pop in their bat. Putnam, another alum of the Orlando Scorpions travel program, has had a splendid summer thus far, hitting .320 with three home runs and 28 RBI. He also showed some athleticism at first base during infield/outfield drills, moving well and showing plenty of arm across the diamond. Ben Hall may not have hit any balls out during BP but the strength in his swing proves he is capable of it, as do the four home runs this summer. He showed good bat speed with some leverage in his swing and during the game lined a ball back up the middle for a single, registering 93 mph off the bat.
Coastal Carolina’s Zach Remillard showed well in all facets of the game, particularly in the infield portion, where he has a strong arm across with good carry on his throws, all of which were online to the first baseman’s glove. In the box he had some hard contact from the right side and has a chance to develop more power once he relaxes at the plate.
All five catchers that worked out showed solid tools, which translated into good pop times, but the catcher that stood out the most was Mike Fischer of Columbia, who I will talk about more below.
Once the final touches to the field were completed, rosters were announced and the rendition of the National Anthem was completed, the West took the field and the 2013 PGCBL All-Star Game was under way.
The offense was blazing from the beginning of the game, as the teams exchanged two runs apiece in the first inning. In the top of the first inning the East capitalized on some defensive miscues by the West and used some timely hitting by Josh Anderson (GF Golden Eagles/FIU) and Dylan Smith (Amsterdam Mohawks / University of Auburn) to jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Anderson picked up his first hit of the game on a single down the left field line, collecting an RBI and Smith duplicated Anderson’s first AB, singling down the left field line, scoring Anderson from third base.
Like the East team in the top half of the first, the West took advantage of some errors and plated two runs of their own to erase the deficit and make it a new ball game. Chris Kalousdian (Elmira Pioneers/Manhattan), who opened some eyes in the 60-yard, knocked a double to right-center field in his first trip to the plate, plating a run for the West. Kalousdian hitting a double shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody though as he leads the league in that category with 17, as well as with hits (58) and RBI (30). He showed some opposite field pop later in the game with a loud out to the right field warning track and a hang time of 6.09 on the flyout.
Mike Fischer made sure the East took the lead again quickly, as he hopped on a fastball and drove it out of the park to lead off the top of the second inning. Along with his hit tool that played up in game compared to his BP, Fischer was very good behind the plate defensively. He blocked all the pitches that were bounced in the dirt and popped a 1.88 in workouts, showing a quick transfer and a strong, online arm. He is the younger brother of LHP David Fischer, a four-year player for UConn and recent draft pick of the Washington Nationals in the 2012 draft.
After a single by Tyler Orris (Albany Dutchmen/Millersville), a hit batter, and a walk, Josh Anderson made his second plate appearance in as many innings and hit a hard single at the third baseman, picking up his second single and second RBI in as many at-bats. Capping off the scoring in the second inning was Landon Thibodeaux (Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs/LSU Eunice), who hit a sac fly out to right, plating the third run of the inning for the East squad.
Right-handed pitcher Eann Cox of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes threw the first shutout inning of the game, with his fastball sitting 86-88 topping 89 mph and showed a sharp curveball at 78 mph which he showed a good feel for and used to pick up 1 strikeout in his inning of work. Cox relieved Matt Snyder who pitched the first inning for the East and ran his fastball up to 88 mph. Snyder, a long and lean LHP attacked hitters and had some arm side run on his fastball, throwing from a three-quarters arm angle.
In the top of the third the East plated their sixth run of the game and it would be their last until the 8th inning. Ben Hall and Mike Fischer started the inning with back to back singles and after two fielder’s choices, the second by Anthony Marks (Kentucky) who beat the throw to extend the inning with a run scoring, the East went up 6-2.
In the bottom of the third inning RHP Ryan Davis was cruising until the league leader in batting average, Michael Pierson (.414, Utica Brewers/Appalachian State), stepped in and quickly stepped out after launching a Davis offering over the right field fence for a solo home run, which would ultimately be the last hit and run for the West team.
Even though the scoring ceased for both sides for the next five innings, the East continued to pick up base hits, totaling 17 when the game was over. Kyle Barrett and John Nogowski each picked up a single in the fourth, Zach Remillaird singled in the fifth, and then the East was able to scratch across another run in the eighth, with the help of three hits. John Sansone started the offense, singling to center field, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and came in to score on a hard single up the middle by Dalton Herrington (95 mph off the bat), making the score 7-3 East. Also picking up a single in the inning was Garrett Degallier of Tacoma Community College. Both Jordan Ebert and Nick Loetz picked up singles in the ninth inning, but neither were able to touch home plate.
With the lack of offense in the middle innings by both team, it was evident that the pitching was outweighing the hitting. The pitching for East was dominant from the 4th inning on, not allowing a single hit nor a run. Mike Urbanski (Amsterdam Mohawks/Binghamton) only faced the minimum of three batters, striking out one and inducing two weak ground-outs, but that’s all he needed to make an impression. Working exclusively from the stretch, Urbanski has a very quick arm and lit up the radar guns, working 88-91 and on some guns in the stands he touched 92 mph. Safe to say once he started to throw, a silence fell over the scouts behind the backstop as the all locked in to Urbanski on the mound. Along with his fastball, he threw a tight slider 75-77 mph.
Tyler Bray (Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs/ULM) worked a quick inning also for the East in the 5th inning, throwing from a submarine arm angle, one which hitters had a hard time picking up. Working his fastball between 84 and 86 mph, Bray got very good run on his fastball and threw his slider at 71-74 with good, sweeping break. Working only from the stretch as well, Bray’s final pitch was a slider that got in on the hands of the hitter and splintered his bat, inducing a weak ground ball back to Bray.
Zach Hopf, Keegan Long, Armand Rugel, and Dylan Collet worked the final four innings for the East. Hopf worked 79-84 mph on his fastball and picked up a game high of two strikeouts with the help of his 12-to-6 curveball at 76 mph. Keegan Long sat 85-88 mph with his fastball and got good downhill plane on his pitches. The ball came out of his hand easily and he also flashed a slider which was 74-76 mph. Both Rugel and Collet worked a 1-2-3 inning to close out the game. Rugel worked 78-82 on his fastball and showed a good feel for his curveball which he threw 65-66 mph and Collet attacked the zone from a three-quarters arm angle, working his fastball at 81-83 mph. With a whippy arm, Collet should see his velocity jump a little once he incorporates his lower half.
Standouts on the mound for the West was Parker Curry (Elmira Pioneers/Samford), Nick Schavone (Utica Brewers/UNC Asheville) and Donald Frew (Newark Pilots/Young Harris).
Parker Curry worked the fifth inning for the West, running his fastball up to 88 mph on a handful of pitches and worked 86-88 mph both from the windup and stretch. To complement his fastball, Curry showed a curveball at 75-76 and a nice changeup at 79 mph that had fade and dip arm side to it.
LHP Nick Schavone, who like Tyler Bray, is a submarine pitcher and made it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand. Schavone had a quick 1-2-3 inning, striking out one batter and getting the other two outs on weak contact. Although his fastball was 75-78 mph and curveball was 71 mph, he was able to miss a lot of bats and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning both this summer with Utica and this past spring with UNC Asheville.
Hometown pitcher Donald Frew received a loud applause as he entered the game to work the top of the ninth for the West. With his Newark teammates looking on behind the backstop, Frew worked 86-89 mph and had some arm side run on his fastball, throwing from a three-quarters arm angle. He also threw a two-seam fastball at 84 mph which had even more run to it. Along with those two pitches, Frew flashed both a curveball at 72 mph and a slider at 81 mph which he used to strikeout one batter.
At the end of the game league President Jeff Kunion presented the All-Star Game MVP to Mike Fischer, who was 2-for-2 with a home run and a single and walked in his third plate appearance, and also stood out defensively behind the plate in his four innings of work.
Like any good summer activity, the 2013 PGCBL culminated with a big fireworks display over the center field wall, lighting up the brisk night sky. And despite the weather dipping to the point that you could see the pitchers breath in between pitches, a majority of the 2,000-plus fans stuck around for the fireworks and the opportunity to collect autographs of all the players after the game.