Summer Collegiate | Story | 6/29/2016

Outlaws thrive in return to PGCBL

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Corey Mansfield

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – As the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League continued to expand over the offseason, league officials got to welcome back a familiar franchise into the mix for the 2016 season when the Oneonta Outlaws were added in the expansion.

Oneonta joined the PGCBL in 2012, a year after the league started. The Outlaws were coming off a New York College Baseball League championship from the summer before, but failed to make the playoffs in the always-competitive PGCBL.

After one season as a Perfect Game franchise, Oneonta elected to leave and again join the NYCBL, and the team won another championship that year in 2013. The Outlaws made the playoffs the next two corresponding years as well, turning into a powerhouse in the league. But the move back to the NYCBL proved almost as short as the team’s first stint in the PGCBL, as management decided after the 2015 season to return to the PGCBL, a league that has quickly gained the reputation as one of the best summer leagues in the country.

Adding Oneonta to the league again was a no-brainer considering all of the success the team has had over the past few years. Putting the championships aside, the Outlaws have also had great attendance numbers over the past three years. Last summer, the team averaged 1,644 fans each home game — the most in its league, and would have been second in the PGCBL behind Elmira.

Jeff Kunion, president of the PGCBL, is very excited to bring back a familiar franchise.

“Geographically, it makes sense. They have a great ballpark that fits in with the rest of the PGCBL and it is always beneficial to add an experienced management team to the group,” said Kunion, in a press release at the beginning of the season. “The Outlaws consistently field a quality ball club. They were in the NYCBL playoffs the last four years, winning a championship in 2011 and 2013. The club had a handful of MLB draftees last season and led the NYCBL in attendance for the last three years. They are more than ready to step up to the competitive challenges of the PGCBL.”

Leading the team this season in the front office is Joe Hughes, one of Oneonta’s favorite sons after a long and successful career on many different baseball fields all across the country, including the Oneonta High School field where he has coached for the past 30 years.

Hughes himself is a 1976 graduate of Oneonta High School, and later starred at Florida International University where he was a first-team D-II All-American. His coaching career also started at Florida International as an assistant, and upon moving back to his hometown he was hired on as an assistant with the Oneonta Yankees, then a Single A affiliate of the New York Yankees.

He coached the Oneonta Outlaws to both of its NYCBL championships, and now serves as the athletics director at his high school alma mater. No longer the head coach for the Outlaws, Hughes is now the general manager and helps to mentor the players on his roster.

For players looking to play professionally someday, Hughes is a good guy to look to if they have questions, as he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and spent a year playing pro ball.

Quin Cotton is one of Hughes’ players that looks to have a promising future, and after graduating high school this spring he is already experiencing quite a bit of success in the PGCBL. Cotton, rated as the No. 500 player in the 2016 class by Perfect Game, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the MLB Draft on June 11 but will instead attend Grand Canyon University on a baseball scholarship.

“I’ve been very impressed [with Cotton],” Oneonta head coach Atlee Pearson said. “He’s so talented, and with his physical tools it’s easy to see why he got drafted. He’s a very physical player and he’s still growing. He hasn’t even maxed out yet. Even after getting drafted, he’s still open to suggestions and being coached, and he always listens to what is offered to him, and he’s able to process all of that mentally and physically.”

Cotton stands at 5-foot-11 and 195-pounds, and he brings a physicality to his at-bats that leads to some serious pop — the future Antelope is currently third in the league in RBI with 19, and leads the Outlaws with two home runs this summer. He has also shown this summer the ability to hit for a decent average (.276) against some of the best pitching he has seen in his young career. On top of the bat, Cotton also plays a good center field with smooth motions and a plus arm. His sub-7.00 second 60-yard dash speed allows him to cover the gaps as well.

The Parker, Colorado native attended Regis Jesuit High School in the Denver area, one of the top 5A athletic schools in the area, and was named a 2016 Rawlings/Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American and earned an invite to the PG Jr. National Showcase in 2014.

Cotton’s bat isn’t the only reason the Outlaws are off to a 14-7 start and sit only a half game behind three-time champion Amsterdam is the East division race, though.

The pitching staff has been excellent this summer, being led by the team’s new head coach Atlee Pearson, who just finished his own playing career in the San Diego Padres organization. Pearson, who played his college ball at Erskine College (South Carolina), is the all-time NCAA Division II leader in saves with 33 under his belt.

Antonio Baglivo leads the PGCBL in both wins (4) and ERA (0.00). At times, a 0.00 ERA can be deceiving if a pitcher has thrown only a couple innings through the first few weeks of a season, but Baglivo has put in his time on the mound this summer. He has logged 20 1/3 innings in 11 appearances, giving up only 11 total hits and three walks in that time while striking out 12 hitters. The one run he has given up this season was of the unearned variety.

Austin Higginbotham has also been excellent on the mound for Oneonta. Higginbotham, who attends Wofford College, leads the league with 30 strikeouts. In his five starts and six overall appearances, he is 3-0 with a 3.22 ERA, walking only 12 batters in 30 2/3 innings of work.

“Our pitchers grind and battle,” Pearson said. “They do everything they can and they don’t try to do more than that. When they are getting calls their way or it’s working against them, they stay within themselves. We just try to throw strikes and let our defense makes plays.”

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