If the Bourne Braves hope to make a strong showing in the Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs, they'll have to do it without All-Star pitcher Gavin Pittore. The hard-throwing right-hander, who did not allow an earned run this season and was clocked at 92-94 mph in last Saturday's All-Star game in Wareham, signed a minor-league contract Thursday with the Los Angeles Dodgers as an undrafted free agent.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Braves star averaged a strikeout per inning in 17 Cape League innings pitched while scattering just eight hits.
In a brilliant three-year college career, Pittore was an important contributor to Wesleyan University’s back-to-back New England Small College Athletic Conference titles in 2014 and 2015 as well as three straight Little Three championships.
Pittore had a 1.54 ERA with a 7-2 record and Wesleyan's opponents batted just .185 against him this past spring. His crucial victories included a Little-Three-clinching 1-0 victory over Amherst and a winner’s bracket game over Amherst in the NESCAC Tournament. In 2014, he was 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA, striking out 65 in 59 1/3 innings. He was on the mound as Wesleyan won its first-ever NESCAC championship over Tufts.
“I am so happy for Gavin as he begins this next chapter,” Wesleyan coach Mark Woodworth said. “This achievement is one of the great stories in college baseball. His rise to becoming one of the best college pitchers in the country at all levels is a testament to perseverance, loyalty and commitment. All of us with Wesleyan baseball can’t wait to see what he achieves in professional baseball.”
Pittore's road to pro ball was a rocky one. The Roslindale, Mass., native attended the annual Frank Finn Tryouts at Wareham after his sophomore season and earned a temporary contract with Harwich. “Luckily,” he said, “it turned into a permanent contract. Listening to my coaches and sticking with my daily routine prepared me to play in such a prestigious league.”
But a 6.10 ERA in eight appearances was not good enough to earn a return invitation from the Mariners, so Pittore was back in Wareham as a tryout hopeful once again this June. Bourne field manager Harvey Shapiro liked what he saw and signed him to another temporary contract. The rest is history. Pittore had a spectacular season, quickly shedding the “temp” label, earning All-Star honors and, ultimately, receiving a reported $105,500 bonus to sign with the NL West-leading Dodgers.
Two other Wesleyan stars, both with ties to the Cape League, also are embarking on pro baseball careers. Nick Cooney (Falmouth, 2014) signed a contract with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the independent American Association, and Donnie Cimino (Chatham, 2014) is playing in the Arizona Rookie League after being drafted in the 37th round by the Chicago Cubs.
“This is a thrilling achievement for Wesleyan baseball,” Woodworth said. “For three great young men to achieve at an elite level academically, while simultaneously becoming world-class athletes is so special and unique. We are so proud of all three of them, and thank them for the leadership and commitment to Wesleyan and the baseball team.”
Cooney, a left-handed pitcher from Rehoboth, Mass., turned pro on Tuesday after a record-setting Wesleyan career. He set the Cardinals' single-season strikeout record (87 in 2014) as well as the career strikeout record (252). As a senior, he went 8-2 with 81 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings and a 2.73 ERA. In his junior season, he struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings and limited opponents to a .192 batting average.
The Friday conference-weekend starter for three seasons, Cooney went 11-0 in his 12 NESCAC starts. He was named all-NESCAC three times and was outstanding in NESCAC and NCAA play both as a starter and reliever.
“Nick has been instrumental in the rise of Wesleyan baseball and for him to be recognized for his ability by professional baseball is much deserved,” Woodworth said. “His ability and heart to take the ball in game one every weekend for three years and always deliver was inspiring to the team. Everyone in Wesleyan baseball couldn’t be prouder of Nick.”
Cimino, a center fielder from Westwood, N.J., was selected by the Cubs in the 37th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 10. The 1,103rd overall pick, he was one of only 10 Division III players drafted. Assigned to the rookie AZL Cubs, Cimino is off to a slow start, batting just .179 in his first 12 games as a pro.
Cimino is the all-time leader for Wesleyan in career hits (240) and was named all-NESCAC in center field all four years. As a freshman and sophomore, he led the NESCAC in batting average and he finished with a career .373 average. He was named All-New England twice, and was a two-time captain of the Cardinals.
He also was a two-time football captain at Wesleyan as a defensive back and kick returner for two straight 7-1 football seasons as the Cardinals got a share of the NESCAC title in 2013.
Cimino appeared in four games for the Chatham Anglers in 2014 before leaving to join the Nashua (N.H.) Silver Knights of the Futures League.