05/31/2008 9:30 AM
Falmouth Commodores 2008 Season Preview
Falmouth Commodores Have the Potential
To Again Challenge for Cape League Title
FALMOUTH, Mass. – Despite having only three returnees from 2007’s West Division champions, the newest edition of the Falmouth Commodores has the potential to revisit the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship Series for the third time in five years.
It’s all about depth and durability in the infield for the Commodores. Joey Wong (Oregon State), a member of the All College World Series Team in 2007, will split time at short with Kevin Nolan (Winthrop), who was batting .346 in 2008 and maintained a .374 on-base percentage. Wong started 29 games for the Commodores in 2007 and was steady offensively with a .252 average and 10 RBI, while his Beaver teammate, freshman second baseman Garrett Nash, had made the most of his 24 starts this spring, batting .296, with one home run -- a grand slam.
“Joey Wong is a winner,” proclaimed Falmouth General Manager Dan Dunn. “He has played in two consecutive NCAA Championships, along with being on our runner-up team in the Cape League. He is going to be our shortstop again. He is a rock-solid player, the type of player that you can build your middle defense around.”
At the corners will be two equally impressive players. First base will belong to Hunter Morris (Auburn) and Andrew Clark (Louisville), who are also likely to bat in the middle of the Commodores’ order. Morris had started 44 of 46 games for the Tigers this spring and had a perfect fielding percentage. At the plate, he had slugged 10 long balls, driven in 40 runs, and led the team in batting at .360. At third base will be Diego Seastrunk (Rice), who led the seventh-ranked Owls offensively with a .375 average and 44 RBI.
Dunn said Morris, Clark, Seastrunk and Nolan are all contact hitters, who are difficult to strike out.
Sophomore outfielder Tim Fedroff (North Carolina) was sitting atop two ACC leader boards. He led his conference in hits (77) and was tied for first in runs scored (57). He was also second in batting (.395) and tied for sixth in RBI (44). At last glance, Fedroff’s hit total put him second in the country in that category, just four behind the leader.
The Commodores are again turning to Wichita State University for a player to spark their offense. They’re losing an offensive machine in 2007 league MVP and batting champion Conor Gillaspie, but will be welcoming a new face out of Wichita State, outfielder Ryan Jones, who was batting .343 with 15 stolen bases and a .409 on-base percentage.
Gabe Cohen (UCLA) and A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame) round out the Falmouth outfield corps. In 33 games for the Bruins this season, Cohen had 27 hits, seven of which left the yard. Pollock’s batting average was hovering around .400, and he was among the top 20 in the nation in the rankings for hardest to strike out. All four sophomore outfielders were also busy on the basepaths, swiping a combined 52 bags through April.
Trevor Coleman (Missouri) and Michael Thomas (Southern University) will share the catching duties. Coleman had started 37 games for the Tar Heels, balancing a .279 batting average with a .991 fielding percentage. Thomas managed to maintain a .596 slugging percentage and has “an arm that is second to none.” according to Dunn.
Veteran Kyle Gibson (Missouri) leads the other end of the battery. Tabbed No.1 in Baseball America’s list of top sophomores, Gibson had a 1.17 ERA last summer, which ranked second in the league behind fellow teammate Aaron Crow, who took home the Top Pro Prospect Award and will likely be a high draft choice next month. Gibson posted a 2-0 record, allowing a mere six runs in 46 innings of work while fanning 51. The fact that Coleman catches Gibson at Missouri is an “added benefit,” says Dunn.
Joining Gibson as potential starters are two Oregon State Beavers, Jorge Reyes and Tanner Robles, plus Aaron Loup (Tulane), Rex Brothers (Lipscomb), Tommy Toledo (Florida) and Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State). Reyes was the 2007 Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series after posting a 2-0 record, while teammate Robles held opponents to a .136 batting average so far this spring.
Another returnee, Preston Claiborne (Tulane), will lead a bullpen comprised of Nate Striz (North Carolina), Nick Tespesch (North Carolina), Dan Klein (UCLA), Evan Danielli (Notre Dame), Travis Lawler (Florida), Chad Bettis (Texas Tech) and Nate Karns (Texas Tech). Claiborne posted a 3-2 record and a 3.32 ERA in 11 games for Falmouth last summer and Striz was tearing it up for the Tar Heels, with a 1.64 ERA after allowing only four earned runs in 22 innings.
“I think we will probably have a little bit more power in our lineup than we did last year,” Dunn said. “Catching and defense will be exceptional. We are excited because we are coming off the West Division playoff championship and we made the Cape League finals last year. We have a few good players coming back that we think will carry us.”
Falmouth alumni presently gracing Major League diamonds include four current members of the Boston Red Sox – catcher Kevin Cash (1999), pitchers Javier Lopez (1997) and David Aardsma (2002) and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (2004), who hit .438 as a starter in all four games of the 2007 World Series. Houston Astros roommates Mark Loretta (1991, 1992) and Darin Erstad (1993, 1994), San Diego Padre Khalil Greene (1999, 2000) and St. Louis Cardinal Adam Kennedy (1996) also wore Commodore pinstripes.
Falmouth opens its season at Wareham on Friday, June 13, John Wylde Day.
Laura Rasmussen, CCBL Intern ([email protected])