Va.—There is constant debate and jockeying for position among the
nation’s varied assortment of summer-college leagues, some 30 in
all. Every league believes its league is superior to the next.
it’s a given that the Cape Cod League is the grand daddy of all
summer leagues, simply based on the superior talent it is able to
attract, and that the Northwoods and Coastal Plain are generally
regarded as the next best leagues, there is a pool of 8-10 leagues
scattered around the country that fit into the next tier, and there
isn’t one that doesn’t believe that its league isn’t the best.
distinguish the strength of one league from another, though, is all a
matter of conjecture as, unlike college baseball where teams
routinely cross over and play teams from other conferences and there
is a legitimate national championship to contest, teams in summer
leagues rarely play teams from other leagues. And, obviously, there
is no true national championship to settle the issue on the field.
the rare occurrences where one summer league took on another took
place here Monday night when the Cal Ripken League and Valley League,
both considered next-tier leagues, squared off in the third annual
Mid-Atlantic Classic, with area bragging rights at stake.
one night at least, the Cal Ripken League made its claim as being the
superior of the two leagues as it scored a convincing 6-3 victory
over its regional counterpart.
Ripken League, in only its seventh year of existence, maintained its
unbeaten record in the Classic over the older, more-established
Valley League, in its 88th year of existence (the last 42
as a sanctioned summer-college league), as it also scored a 2-1
victory in the inaugural event in 2009 before last year’s
Mid-Atlantic Classic was rained out.
got the best of them in both games so far,” said Tim Norris, coach
of the Cal Ripken squad, “but our leagues are pretty even, really.
If we played 10 games against each other, it could quite easily come
out 5-5. We may have been the better team tonight, but I think that’s
only because our pitchers may have thrown a few more strikes.
we wanted to win and build up our league’s reputation, it was just
one game and more important to us that everybody played, everybody
pitched. All our reserves got into the game, and they ended up making
game turned in the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2, when seven
players entered the game as pinch-hitters for the Ripken League. Five
responded with base-hits to produce three runs, resulting in an
insurmountable 5-2 lead.
Parker, who turned down an opportunity to play in the Valley League
this summer for a chance to play a second season with the Cal Ripken
League’s Maryland Orioles, drove in two of the three runs with a
single, and that hit led to his being named his team’s most
(Towson) came on to hit for starting catcher Hunter Renfroe
(Mississippi State) in the sixth and caught the balance of the game.
there was an obvious difference between the two summer leagues, it
might have been in the quality of the catchers on the two teams.
Parker delivered the game’s big blow while Renfroe, the Cal Ripken
League’s season home-run leader with seven, may have been the most
impressive position prospect on his team’s roster. He drew
impressive reviews from scouts in attendance for his power potential
and impressive raw arm strength behind the plate.
Ripken League all-stars had an edge in pitching, too, as nine
pitchers, working an inning apiece, combined to limit the Valley
League stars to just three hits while striking out 10. Four of the
nine peaked out at least at 90 mph, topped by 6-foot-4 righthander
Ben Lively, a rising sophomore at Central Florida, whose fastball was
clocked as high as 92. Lively worked a scoreless third inning.
Valley League also utilized nine pitchers, but may have been at a
disadvantage as it staged its annual league all-star game the
previous night in Haymarket and many of the same pitchers who threw
in that game were trotted out again Monday (the Cal Ripken has its
own all-star game slated for July 19).
Ripken League, in fact, did most of its damage in the first inning
against Valley League starter Andrew Armstrong (Ohio State), scoring
twice to grab an early 2-0 lead, and in the sixth inning, scoring its
three decisive runs off Jake Boyd (Stetson), to snap a 2-2 tie. Both
of those pitchers had been extremely effective a night earlier, but
were nowhere near as sharp Monday.
crafty Armstrong struck out all three batters he faced Sunday with
precise command of his fastball and breaking ball, but his wildness
did him in Monday as he walked two, served up a wild pitch on a
swinging third strike to outfielder Sean Godfrey (Ball State) that
enabled him to reach base, and Godfrey eventually scored the first
run of the game on an errant pickoff move by Armstrong.
regular-season innings for Luray, all as a starter, Armstrong had
walked just three while striking out 40, but he obviously had not
been used on back-to-back nights this summer.
leads the Valley League with seven saves as Luray’s closer, so is
used to working on consecutive days, but he was a different pitcher
from one night to the next on this occasion.
scoreless inning Sunday, Boyd’s fastball peaked at 92 mph, equal to
the best velocity of any pitcher in the Valley all-star game. A night
later, the pitch topped out only in the high-80s, and he failed to
last an inning as the Ripken all-stars touched him up for five hits
and three runs. He was the losing pitcher in the contest.
Valley, Ripken Leagues rank well
top teams in both the Valley League and Cal Ripken League are both
prominently represented in Perfect Game’s weekly ranking of the
nation’s top 25 summer-league clubs. The Harrisonburg Turks, 23-8
in the Valley League, are ranked No. 6 nationally, while the Bethesda
Big Train, 25-7 in the Cal Ripken League, are No. 8.
teams were represented by six players apiece in the Mid-Atlantic
Big Train’s contingent included Renfroe, the Cal Ripken League
home-run leader, and third baseman Adam Barry (Cal State Northridge),
who tops that league in batting average (.402) and RBIs (27). Between
them, they went 0-for-4.
Mac Williamson (Wake Forest), who tops the Valley League in homers
(9) and RBIs (33), went 1-for-4 with a harmless sixth-inning single,
and struck out in his other three at-bats.
the Ripken team was coached by Norris, who is the head coach of the
third-place Maryland Orioles, the Valley League team was coached by
Harrisonburg’s Bob Wease, who has owned the Turks since 1990 and
been the team’s coach for 10 years. The 67-year-old Wease, who owns
a car dealership in Harrisonburg, also played for the Turks from
1960-70, before it became strictly a league for college players.
was also the losing coach in Sunday’s Valley League all-star game.
newest PG Top 25 summer-league rankings will appear Wednesday.
Williamson, Farrar stand out from crowd
accounts, there was no player on either team in the Mid-Atlantic
Classic that should come close to matching the 2011 exploits of
infielder Cory Spangenberg, who capitalized on a strong showing in
the Valley League last summer to become the 10th overall
pick in this year’s draft.
led the Valley League in batting at .399 a year ago, while in the
process of transferring from Virginia Military Institute to Florida’s
Indian River State JC. He is the highest pick in the 2011 draft to
sign to date.
most-closely followed Valley League player in the game by about 20
scouts in attendance was the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Williamson, who was
drafted in the 46th round in June by the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox have had two scouts in the Valley League for the last
week monitoring Williamson’s progress as the team weigh his demands
of a significant six-figure bonus offer.
has enjoyed a breakout season in the Valley League, but wasn’t at
his best Wednesday. He homered 13 times in winning the Valley League
Home Run Derby Sunday, but failed to go deep even once in the Home
Run Derby between the two leagues Monday, and then struck out three
times in the game.
most impressive Ripken League prospects were on the mound, perhaps
none more than lefthander Ryan Farrar, a rising junior at Virginia
Commonwealth. Farrar struck out the side in the eighth inning with
his deceptive delivery, along with a fastball in the 88-90 mph range
and a 78-80 mph breaking ball.
6-foot-2, 170-pound Farrar struggled in the spring for the Rams,
going 0-1, 7.04, working mostly in relief, but has enjoyed an
impressive summer for the Maryland Orioles, going 1-0, 1.42 with
three saves. In 19 innings, he has walked just two and struck out 30.
didn’t put up very good numbers in the spring at VCU,” Norris
said, “but he has really figured it out this summer. He was the
most impressive arm that we ran out there tonight.”
Bandbox doesn't live up to reputation in HR Derby
Veterans Memorial Park, which is the home field during the summer for
the Valley League’s Harrisonburg Turks and during the college
season for James Madison University, has a reputation for being a
reputation was well-earned after JMU went wild on the opening weekend
of the 2011 college season, launching 23 home runs and scoring 91
runs in an opening weekend four-game sweep of Bucknell. In the first
inning of the first game, the Dukes went deep six times and went on
to lead the nation’s Division I colleges in runs (541) and slugging
average (.517). They finished third in the nation with 80 homers.
that history, along with near-100 degree temperatures and a steady
breeze blowing out to left field, all the ingredients were there for
a lively pre-game Home Run Derby. But that didn’t materialize as
only 10 home runs were hit by the 10 players entered in the
Maryland’s Mike Mandarino (Cumberland, Tenn.) homered four times in
the preliminary round to move to the two-man final, but didn’t
produce a home run in the championship round as Brad Zebedis
(Presbyterian) won the competition by producing just a single home
home runs were hit in the all-star game, as well, as the winds kicked
up by a threatening storm had subsided.
dimensions of 330 feet down both lines and 400 feet to dead center,
Veterans Memorial Park is not unlike many college and summer-league
stadiums. If anything, the power alleys are a little cozy.
more of a launching pad that it is a bandbox,” one scout said. “It
really depends on which way the wind is blowing.”
Atlantic, New York Collegiate All-Star Games
other summer league all-stars games were played Monday night, both in
New York state.
Brooklyn, North Fork first baseman Matt Carroll, a 6-foot-6,
235-pound rising sophomore at San Jose State, drove in three runs as
the East rallied to beat the West 5-4 in the annual Atlantic
Collegiate League game. Carroll’s key blow was a seventh-inning
single that plated the tying and winning runs.
Oneonta, the West beat the East 8-6 in the New York Collegiate League
all-star game. The star performer for the West was Webster second
baseman Chris Bostick, who had a double and triple, and drove in
three runs. Bostick, a 44th-round draft pick of the
Oakland A’s in June out of New York’s Aquinas Institute, has
committed to play collegiately at St. John’s. Despite being a
recent high-school graduate, Bostick has set the NYCBL on fire this
summer, leading the league with a .483 batting average.
Allan Simpson’s report on Wednesday’s Prospect League All-Star
Game in Beckley, W.Va.