Summer Collegiate Team Rankings

Allan Simpson

Several top teams falter in playoffs as battle for No. 1 comes to a head

The chase for No. 1 in Perfect Game’s weekly ranking of the nation’s Top 35 summer-league teams has largely been a two-team affair throughout the 2011 season. The Cape Cod League’s Hyannis Harbor Hawks occupied the top spot most of the first half of the summer, while the Coastal Plain League’s Edenton Steamers has held steady at No. 1 for the last four weeks.

Both teams entered post-season play in their respective leagues on a high note with Hyannis (29-15) easily posting the best overall record during the regular season in the Cape, while Edenton (44-11) was an impressive 25-3 over the second half of the Coastal Plain schedule.

Tuesday, each team suffered a critical loss—to a much lesser opponent, no less.

Hyannis’s 5-2 setback to the upstart Falmouth Commodores was enough to knock it right out of the Cape Cod playoffs as the Commodores won the opening-round, best-of-3 series, two game to one. Falmouth had limped into the eight-team Cape playoffs with a lowly 19-25 record.

Edenton’s 7-4 loss to a 29-27 Wilmington team wasn’t quite as costly as it squared their best-of-3 semi-final series at a game apiece, with the deciding game set for tonight in Edenton.

But the No. 1-ranked Steamers haven’t been as dominant in the playoffs as they were in the regular season in the Coastal Plain League. They squeezed by the eighth-seeded Peninsula Pilots in the opening round of the playoffs by coming from behind both times to win two hard-fought, extra-inning games—10-8 in 10 innings and 7-6 in 14 innings. And Wilmington has given Edenton all it can handle.

With Hyannis effectively eliminated from the chase for No. 1 and Edenton not proving as invincible as it was earlier in the season, it has opened the door for other contenders for the designation of the nation’s top summer-league team. The obvious beneficiary appears to be the Cal Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train, which has already completed its 2011 season.

The Big Train (36-9) ran through the regular season in the Cal Ripken League and clinched its third straight league title with a playoff sweep. It moved from No. 3 a week ago to No. 2, supplanting Hyannis. Edenton continues to hang on to the top spot.

The West Coast League’s Wenatchee AppleSox has also positioned itself for a run at No. 1. The new No. 3-ranked Sox (39-14) have dominated that league all season, and would become a significant challenger for an unofficial national champion if it should go on and win its third straight West Coast League championship—most likely, though, only if Edenton should falter in its drive to a CPL championship.

Besides Hyannis, several other pretenders for the No. 1 spot fell from contention over the last week with unexpected playoff losses. Among the casualties were Newport of the New England Collegiate League and Harrisonburg of the Valley League, and even Orleans of the Cape League. Newport and Harrisonburg had posted the best records in their respective leagues, while Orleans had finished first in the Cape’s Eastern Division. All slipped up against sub-.500 opponents.

The No. 1 team will be announced once all summer-league playoff rounds are complete. The Northwoods League will be the last league to wrap up its schedule as its regular season doesn’t even conclude until Sunday, with two rounds of playoffs to follow.

1 Edenton Steamers NC Coastal Plain League 47-12
Steamers have steamrolled through CPL this season; one win away from moving to Petitt Cup championship series
2 Bethesda Big Train MD Cal Ripken Sr League 36-9
Big Train handily won Cal Ripken regular-season title; went on to win third straight league title with three straight playoff wins
3 Wenatchee Applesox WA West Coast League 39-14
Two-time defending West Coast champs have dominated league all season; set to open title defense in four-team playoff
4 Hyannis Harbor Hawks MA Cape Cod League 30-17
Hawks' Cinderella-like worst-to-first dash from 2010 to 2011 came to screeching halt in first-round playoff loss to Falmouth
5 Santa Barbara Foresters CA California Collegiate League 40-13
Foresters struggled to nail down CCL title, but perennial National Baseball Congress World Series power is rolling at 4-0
6 Quincy Gems IL Prospect League 39-18
Gems have been Prospect's dominant club from the outset; stand one playoff win away from capturing league crown
7 Harwich Mariners MA Cape Cod League 27-20
Demise of Cape's two division winners in first-round playoff upsets has opened the door for opportunistic Mariners
8 Alexandria Beetles MN Northwoods League 40-23
Beetles have been under radar most of NWL season, but showdown win over Mankato Monday highlight of recent surge
9 Keene Swamp Bats NH New England Collegiate League 33-16
Swamp Bats quickly sorting out logjam at top of NECBL West standings with impressive run in league playoffs
10 Kenai Peninsula Oilers AK Alaska League 34-16
Alaska League champs came out second-best in key NBC World Series showdown with Santa Barbara Tuesday
11 East Texas Pumpjacks TX Texas Collegiate League 39-18
Surging Pump Jacks have been TCL's dominant club all of 2011 season; hope to close deal in upcoming playoffs
12 Corvallis Knights OR West Coast League 36-17
Pitching-rich Knights on late-season surge; has sights set on Wenatchee in potential West Coast playoff showdown
13 San Luis Obispo Blues CA California Collegiate League 34-15
Blues pulled surprise on final day of CCL season by tying league power Santa Barbara for league title; earned tie-breaker nod
14 Mankato MoonDogs MN Northwoods League 41-24
MoonDogs have been at or near the top of NWL standings all season, largely on dominant season of Utah OF Shaun Cooper
15 Wareham Gateman MA Cape Cod League 25-21
Cape Cod all-star game MVP Konner Wade (Arizona) has propelled improving Gatemen into second-round of Cape playoffs
16 Harrisonburg Turks VA Valley League 34-14
Turks dominated Valley League regular season, but fell in semi-final round of playoffs to sub-.500 Rockbridge club
17 Lima Locos OH Great Lakes League 32-15
Locos battled Southern Ohio for best regular-season record in Great Lakes; beat Copperheads 2-0 in league final
18 Amsterdam Mohawks NY Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League 32-17
Mohawks finished half game behind arch-rival Glens Falls in PGCBL East standings; knocked off Golden Eagles in playoffs
19 Palm Springs Power CA Southern California Collegiate League 41-4
Power used 20-game win streak to post first 40-win season in club's eight-year history, won SCCBL championship
20 Orleans Firebirds MA Cape Cod League 24-19
Firebirds finished atop East in Cape, but victimized by brilliant pitching of Y-D star RHP Mark Appel (Stanford) in playoffs
21 Holyoke Blue Sox MA New England Collegiate League 31-16
Even with superior catching tandem of Tom Murphy (Buffalo) and Ronnie Freeman (Kennesaw State), Sox fell in playoffs
22 Humboldt Crabs CA Far West League 40-13
Historic Eureka-based franchise overcame first-round playoff loss to win first-year Far West League championship
23 Green Bay Bullfrogs WI Northwoods League 40-24
With 6-0 week, Bullfrogs making a late-season bid to catch Alexandria, Mankato for best overall record in NWL
24 St. Joseph Mustangs MO MINK League 38-12
Mustangs dominated MINK League season, playoffs, but went quietly at NBC World Series with 1-2 record
25 Newport Gulls RI New England Collegiate League 29-15
Gulls entered NECBL playoffs on long winning streak, but were upset in two straight first-round games by Laconia
26 Southern Ohio Copperheads OH Great Lakes League 31-16
Copperheads edged Lima for best regular-season record in Great Lakes, but succumbed to Locos in league title series
27 Oneonta Outlaws NY New York Collegiate League 34-15
Outlaws powered past regular-season division champs Utica and Webster in playoffs to capture first NYCBL title
28 Forest City Owls NC Coastal Plain League 33-26
Two-time CPL champion Owls backed into eight-team playoffs with slow second half, but have found game in playoffs
29 Terre Haute Rex IN Prospect League 34-23
Rex posted league's best second-half record at 18-9, but fell to division rival Quincy in sudden-death playoff semi-final
30 Coppell Copperheads TX Texas Collegiate League 33-23
Hot Copperheads may not catch East Texas in TCL standings, but may prove worthy opponent in league playoffs
31 Battle Creek Bombers MI Northwoods League 38-26
Bombers may only have fourth-best overall record in NWL, but only 3 games out, continue to keep top spot within range
32 Leesburg Lightning FL Florida Collegiate League 30-14
Lightning ran away with FCSL season title, but upstart Sanford (16-22) got hot at right time to capture league playoffs
33 Liberal Beejays KS Jayhawk League 35-17
Defending NBC World Series champs finished fourth in Jayhawk standings, but still alive in this year's NBC tournament
34 Fayetteville Swampdogs NC Coastal Plain League 35-24
Strong second half didn't provide momentum for Swampdogs in CPL playoffs as they were knocked off in first round
35 Staten Island Tide NY Atlantic Collegiate League 24-15
Tide won ACBL's Kaiser Division crown, then withstood all challengers in surprise romp through league playoffs

Others Receiving Consideration: Mat-Su Miners/Alaska (23-17); Youse's Maryland Orioles/Cal Ripken (25-18); Team Vegas/California (25-17); Bourne Braves/Cape Cod (22-22); Gastonia Grizzlies/Coastal Plain (32-28); Thomasville H-Toms/Coastal Plain (32-27); Winter Park Diamond Dawgs/Florida (24-16); Nashua Silver Knights/Futures (29-16); Haysville Heat/Jayhawk (27-13); Danbury Westerners/New England Collegiate (26-19); Vermont Mountaineers/New England Collegiate (26-18); Webster Yankees/New York Collegiate (32-17); Utica Brewers/New York Collegiate (32-14); Willmar Stingers/Northwoods (37-28); Madison Mallards/Northwoods (35-29); Glens Falls Golden Eagles/Perfect Game (31-19); Newark Pilots/Perfect Game (28-23); West Virginia Power/Prospect (30-27); Nashville Outlaws/Prospect (29-24); Winchester Royals/Valley (31-18); Covington Lumberjacks/Valley (27-25); Bend Elks/West Coast (29-25); Cowlitz Black Bears/West Coast (28-25); Regina Red Sox/Western Major (38-10); Okotoks Dawgs/Western Major (40-14).
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