Much like the New England weather a few weeks ago, my happy spring declaration from Feb. 24 was kind of a false spring, at least in terms of my keeping up with college baseball. It’s always tough in March. College basketball sucks me in every year, and with my Louisville Cardinals making the Final Four, I was obsessed.
I am now in mourning, but what better way to move on then to fully embrace spring? It’s really baseball season now.
In the spirit of that, let’s do a little catching up on the first month of the college baseball season. We’ll get to some 2012 spotlights in the weeks to come and team previews before we know it. For now, a quick trip around the country with an eye on the Cape:
With a 22-2 record, Florida remains as the No. 1 team in all the major polls, and the usual suspects are doing the heavy lifting for the Gators. Among the former Cape Leaguers, Mike Zunino is hitting .351 with nine home runs, Preston Tucker is at .327 with nine home runs, and Brian Johnson is 4-0 with a 3.28 ERA. Florida is also getting some contributions from a few 2012 Cape Leaguers: sophomore pitcher Daniel Gibson (Bourne) has a team-best 0.57 ERA in 12 relief appearances, freshman Johnny Magliozzi (Falmouth) is 4-0 with a 3.95 ERA and freshman Casey Turgeon (Falmouth) is hitting .276 with three home runs as the team’s starting second baseman.
Gonzaga sophomore Marco Gonzales, who’s on the Falmouth roster, is emerging as one of the top two-way players in the country. He’s hitting .417 with two home runs and 16 RBI. On the mound, he’s 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched. Gonzales was the West Coast Conference Co-Player of the Year last year and looks like he’s on his way to the same honor this year.
Joining Gonzales as the Co-Player of the Year in the WCC last season was San Diego freshman Kris Bryant, who spent the summer of 2011 in Chatham and is slated to return this summer. Though Gonzales is off to a strong start, Bryant may end up making voters think about going with co-players of the year again. Bryant is hitting .382 so far with eight home runs and 34 RBI. He’s among the national leaders in home runs and RBI.
Among the top 50 home run hitters in the nation thus far, only four are slated for the Cape in 2012 at this point, and Chatham and Wareham each have two of them. Bryant and Boston College’s Tom Bourdon are ticketed for Chatham, with Daniel Palka and Tyler Horan on the Wareham roster.
LSU’s Raph Rhymes, who’s on the Cotuit roster, is a great story. He tried walking on to the LSU baseball team in 2008 but didn’t make the cut. So he went to junior college, earned All-American honors and came back to LSU for last season. The Tigers are glad they made room. After leading the team in hits last year, Rhymes is batting .491 in 28 games this season, good for second in the nation. Rhymes is a junior and will be eligible for the 2012 draft, so we’ll see if he makes it to Cotuit. Regardless, he’ll be a fun guy to follow this spring. And keep an eye on LSU in general. The Tigers have 10 players slated for the Cape, more than any other school.
Stony Brook had a huge summer on the Cape last year, with six players having a big impact, including league MVP Travis Jankowski. The Seawolves only had one player on the league’s January roster list, but he may carry a lot of weight anyway. Sophomore Brandon McNitt, who’s on the Orleans roster, has a 1.13 ERA in six starts, which ranks top 10 nationally. He has struck out 24 in 39.2 innings.
As always, some of the most highly-touted freshmen in the nation are on Cape League rosters and many have gotten their careers off to strong starts. North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon (Harwich) is tied for 12th in the nation in strikeouts with 47. He also has a 1.29 ERA. NC State and future Harwich teammate Brett Austin is hitting .300 with 19 RBI for the Wolfpack. Southern Miss infielder Connor Barron is hitting .316 with a .449 on-base percentage.
And we can’t forget about last year’s standout freshmen who had good Cape summers. Several are slated to return this year, and they’ll be coming off strong springs if the first month is any indication. The League’s 2011 Pitcher of the Year, Ryan Eades (Bourne), is 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 47 innings for LSU. Colin Moran (Bourne), the 2011 ACC Freshman of the Year, is picking up where he left off for North Carolina, hitting .389 with two home runs. And Mississippi’s Bobby Wahl, who closed for Cotuit this year, has moved into the starting rotation for the Rebels and is excelling. He’s 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA and has 48 strikeouts in 42.1 innings.