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Y-D’s Blair, Hyannis’ Manaea Start on Mound as East-West All-Stars Clash July 28 at Harwich

HYANNIS, Mass. – Is the Cape Cod Baseball League a pitchers or hitters league this year?

     It would be difficult to tell from the teams selected Friday to represent the East and West divisions in the Cape League All-Star Game at Harwich, next Saturday, July 28. Both 21-player squads are loaded with strong-armed pitching staffs and hitters who seem to spend more time on base paths than opposing infielders.

     The league’s top two hitters – East starting second baseman Zak Blair of Yarmouth-Dennis and Mercyhurst (.413) and West center fielder Pat Biondi of Cotuit and Michigan (.400) will give opposing pitchers something to think about. But the two starting pitchers also bring impressive statistics to the game.

     East starter Aaron Blair (Marshall) of Y-D has posted a flawless 5-0 record with a 1.19 ERA, while recording 66 strikeouts. For the West, Hyannis ace Sean Manaea (Indiana State), 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA, gets the starting assignment. Manaea also has struck out a league-leading 66 batters, including a season-high 15 in one game.

     Other offensive stars from Y-D are DH Robert Pehl (Washington), who is batting .396 and leads the league with 30 RBIs, and outfielder Sam Travis (Indiana), a .360 hitter with 26 RBIs.

     Nor does the West have any shortage of offensive talent. Wareham first baseman Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) has smacked eight home runs and driven in 25 runs, while Hyannis shortstop Brandon Trinkwon (UC Santa Barbara) is hitting .343 with 24 RBIs. And there’s Bourne’s Mason Robbins (Southern Mississippi), who is hitting.366, and Wareham’s Tyler Horan (Virginia Tech), who has belted seven homers.

     Following Blair and Manaea will be two extremely talented bullpens. The West can call on Bourne’s Timothy Giel (Columbia), Hyannis’ Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina) and David Garner (Michigan State), Wareham’s Colby Suggs (Arkansas), Konnor Wade (Arizona) and Nick Rumbelow (LSU), Falmouth’s Trey Masek (Texas Tech) and Cotuit’s Dan Slania (Notre Dame). All are right-handers.  

     The East counters with three left-handers and five righties out of the bullpen. The southpaws are Orleans’ Matt Boyd (Oregon State) and Kyle Crockett (Virginia) and Brewster’s Tom Windle (Minnesota). Right-handers who will see action are Orleans’ Pat Christensen (La Salle), Harwich’s Grant Gordon (Missouri State), Orleans’ Dylan Clark (Elon) and Chatham’s Ryan Thompson (Franklin Pierce) and Michael Wagner (San Diego).   

     Although Cotuit and Falmouth are one-two in the West standings, it is third-place Wareham sending eight players to the All-Star Game, most of any team. Cotuit placed three players and Falmouth two.

     Y-D, which is battling defending champion Harwich for the top spot in the East, has seven players in the game, including five starting position players plus Aaron Blair on the mound. Only three Harwich players made the team and just one as a starter – right fielder Phillip Ervin (Samford), the league’s home run leader with nine.  

     The West will be managed by Hyannis skipper Chad Gassman, 2011 CCBL manager of the year whose Harbor Hawks won their division last summer with the league’s best record. Calling the shots for the East will be veteran Kelly Nicholson of defending divisional champ Orleans, himself a two-time manager of the year (2005 & ‘08).

     They will be assisted by their divisions’ other field bosses – Jeff Trundy of Falmouth, Harvey Shapiro of Bourne, Cooper Farris of Wareham and Mike Roberts of Cotuit for the West, and Scott Pickler of Yarmouth-Dennis, John Schiffner of Chatham, John Altobelli of Brewster and Steve Englert of defending champion Harwich for the East. 

    Gates at Harwich’s Whitehouse Field will open at 2 p.m. next Saturday with game time set for 6:05. There will be plenty of pre-game activities, including the annual Home Run Contest, autograph sessions with the players and special guests.

    Fox College Sports will televise the game nationally with Eric Frede and Lou Merloni handling the play-by-play and analyst assignments, while Dan D’Uva and Kevin McGonigle will call the action on WCAI and Cape and the islands NPR stations (90.1, 91.1 and 94.3 FM).