Three-Team Battle For No. 1
With no definitive on-field championship to decide the No. 1 team in summer-college league competition, the race for the nation’s top team of 2008 presents an interesting dilemma. A case can be made for a number of teams, but in the end we’ve decided there are three candidates most deserving of finishing No. 1 in the final PG Crosschecker Summer 16 rankings. A case can be made for all three.
Case No. 1 is the Harwich Mariners, champions of the Cape Cod League, unquestionably the nation’s most prestigious and powerful summer league.
Case No. 2 is the Maryland Orioles, who passed every test this year on their way to capturing their sixth consecutive All-American Amateur Baseball Association championship.
Case No. 3 is the California Collegiate League’s Santa Barbara Foresters, who capped a strong late-season surge by winning the 42-team National Baseball Congress World Series, their second title in three years.
Harwich won its final eight games of the 2008 summer season, sweeping both the Cape League’s Eastern Division title in two straight games from the Orleans Cardinals, the league’s best regular-season team, and two straight from the Western Division champion Cotuit Kettleers. The 2006-07 Cape Cod League champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox finished No. 1 in PG Crosschecker’s Summer 16 rankings in each of the last two years, and the league produced 10 players last summer that were among the first 25 drafted this year. The Mariners will be heavily represented in PG Crosschecker’s list of the Cape’s Top 100 Prospects, which will be unveiled later this month.
The Orioles went a gaudy 54-8 on the summer, with six of their losses by one run. They scored a clean sweep of every challenge, winning the Cal Ripken Sr. League regular season title, the Cal Ripken Sr. playoffs, the Baltimore City League title (which qualified the team for the AAABA tournament) and the 16-team AAABA title. In their final three games at the AAABA tournament, the O’s outscored their opponents 38-1. We’ll rank the Top 25 Prospects in the Cal Ripken Sr. League later this month, and Orioles players will occupy 13 positions on the list.
Santa Barbara, meanwhile, overcame a sluggish 13-12 start, including three losses in Havana to Cuba’s Olympic team, to win 31 of their final 35 games. The Foresters, who have advanced to the championship game of the Wichita-based NBC World Series four times in six years, ran the table at this year’s event, winning seven straight games. Eight teams in the accompanying Summer 16 rankings participated in the tournament, and the Foresters outscored their opponents 67-26. The Cal Collegiate’s list of the Top 25 Prospects will include 12 Santa Barbara players.
So who’s No. 1?
Unlike a year ago when the Cape League’s Yarmouth-Dennis club was ranked No. 1 in the season’s first ranking and never surrendered that spot in sweeping convincingly to the league playoff title (and boasting a roster that included Buster Posey, Gordon Beckham and Jason Castro—three of the top 10 picks in this year’s draft), there has been significant jockeying for position for the top spot all summer. No team with a college mix displayed season-long excellence against strong competition quite like Team USA’s college national squad, featuring projected 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg, in rolling up a perfect 24-0 record and the championship at the World University championship in the Czech Republic. So the choice is not clear cut.
In the end, our choice for the No. 1 position is Santa Barbara, and the recognition isn’t likely to be lost on the Foresters players. “It was really interesting how the players on our club paid attention to the Crosschecker rankings, and don’t think they didn’t,”said long-time Foresters manager Bill Pintard. “They were well aware of who a lot of the top teams were once we got to Wichita, and we were ready for them.”
Our criteria in ranking the nation’s top summer-league teams isn’t scientific by any means, but includes (a.) overall record, (b.) league dominance, (c.) a roster deep in legitimate professional prospects, (d.) the strength of competition in the league overall vs. other summer leagues, and (e.) ending the season on an upbeat note.
The Foresters (44-16) scored well on all counts, particularly in their dominating performance at the NBC World Series. We felt that showing at a larger, stronger and more competitive national tournament trumped the performance of the Orioles, who were forced to come through the loser’s bracket at the more-regionalized AAABA event with a younger, more inexperienced—albeit extremely talented—roster. The Orioles roster was dotted with a number of premium high school players.
While Harwich, with a roster that may produce upwards of a dozen players who will be drafted in the top 10 rounds in 2009 or 2010 may have the most talented roster of the three finalists, the Mariners were a mere .500 club late in the season before turning it on in their final eight games. Unlike the last two years, the Cape simply didn’t have a dominant team this summer and scouts and league managers generally agreed that the talent in the league was down considerably.
The West Coast Collegiate League was the last summer league to conclude its season. The Corvallis Knights, with one of the most dominant young pitching staffs in the country, duplicated their regular-season success on Monday by winning a best-of-3 playoff against the Wenatchee AppleSox in two straight games. The Knights (35-12) leapfrogged several teams to finish the season at No. 5 in the PG Crosschecker rankings.
Here are the final PG Crosschecker Summer 16 (times 2) rankings, with overall records:
||Santa Barbara Foresters (8)
|Texas OF Kevin Keyes (.478-1-10) was selected MVP and UC Santa Barbara RHP Mike Ford won three games for NBC champs |
||Youse's Maryland Orioles (2)
||Cal Ripken Sr.
|O’s win sixth straight AAABA title behind Louisiana State OF Leon Landry’s 13 RBIs, Maryland RHP Scott Swinson’s MVP showing |
||Harwich (Mass.) Mariners (14)
|Mariners run table in Cape playoffs, win 2-1 over Cotuit in deciding game on walk-off, 2-run single by North Carolina C Brian Fleury |
||Luray (Va.) Wranglers (3)
|VMI LHP Travis Smith (6-1, 1.88), Ohio State RHP Alex Wimmers (5-1, 1.70) led pitching-rich Wranglers to seven playoff wins in row |
||Corvallis (Ore.) Knights (10)
||West Coast Collegiate
|Fireballing Oregon State duo of LHP Josh Osich (4-0, 1.54) and RHP Taylor Starr (10 SV on season) combined on 3-hitter in clincher |
||Cincinnati Steam (6)
|Ohio State OF Zach Hurley (.433-3-30), league batting champ and top prospect, powers Steam to regular season, playoff sweep |
||Thomasville (N.C.) HiToms (7)
|Clemson RHP Justin Sarratt (7-1, 1.05) plays instrumental role in leading HiToms on second-half surge, third straight CPL championship
||Sanford Mainers (10)
||New England Collegiate
|Mainers post league’s best record, roll to six straight playoff wins behind George Washington RHP Pat Lehman (4-1, 1.52)
||Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers (4)
|Tennessee LHP Nick Hernandez (6-3, 2.54), Arizona State RHP Seth Blair (4-1, 1.55) lead Kettleers to runner-up finish on Cape |
||Anchorage Glacier Pilots (1)
|Pilots were nation’s No. 1 team entering NBC World Series, but went just 2-2; Miami 1B Joe Terdoslavich (.366-5-23) swung big stick |
||Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores (5)
|Notre Dame OF A.J. Pollock (.377-4-25), recent Rockies signee Jimmy Cesario (.387-1-30) finished 1-2 in Cape League batting race |
||San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Blues (11)
|Blues capture inaugural Sierra League title, even after ex-Nebraska LHP Zach Herr (no runs, 40 IP) leaves early to sign with Padres
||Beatrice (Neb.) Bruins (13)
|Texas OF Jordan Danks (.391-0-5), Texas A&M RHP Shane Minks (3 SV, 12 IP/20 SO) lead Bruins to third place at NBC World Series
||Thunder Bay (Ont.) BorderCats (16)
|Dominant Belmont RHP Jimmy Stanley (4-1, 0.49, 15 SV) adds win, two more saves in playoffs to lead BorderCats to NWL title |
||Hays (Kan.) Larks (18)
|Eastern Kentucky RHP Patrick Cooper (8-3, 2.75), Notre Dame RHP Steve Mazur (5-0, 0.99) lead Jayhawk champs to four NBC wins |
||Vienna (Va.) Senators (12)
|No. 1-ranked after 22-1 start to season, Senators bid to become first Eastern-based NBC World Series champ in 25 years falls short |
||Orleans (Mass.) Cardinals (15)
|San Diego RHP Matt Thomson (4-0, 1.66), Loyola Marymount OF Angelo Songco (.261-8-26) lead Cards to Cape’s best record
||Newport (R.I.) Gulls (17)
||New England Collegiate
|Vanderbilt RHP Chase Reid (5-0, 1.75, 51 IP/70 SO), Washington OF Kyle Conley (13 HR in 50 G) lead Gulls to NECBL playoff final
||Havasu (Ariz.) Heat (21)
|’07 NBC World Series champs finish fourth in encore; Washington RHP Jorden Merry, 14th rounder in ’08 draft, is team’s best prospect |
||Waynesboro (Va.) Generals (22)
|Tennessee Tech LHP Adam Liberatore (6-1, 1.36), Charleston 2B Brandon Sizemore (.377-10-34) lead Generals to No. 1 playoff seed |
||Mat-Su Miners (23)
|Washington teammates Troy Scott (.289-2-30), RHP Jason Erickson (7-1, 2.62) help Miners push Anchorage for Alaska pennant |
||McKinney Marshalls (24)
|Prairie View OF Myrio Richard (.283-6-36, 21 SB), Alabama LHP Del Howell (2-2, 2.41) lead Marshalls to TCL season, playoff wins |
||Mankato (Minn.) MoonDogs (19)
|Arizona State-bound C Carlos Ramirez (.331-10-41), league MVP, Elon LHP Jimmy Reyes (4-2, 1.63) lead MoonDogs to NWL playoffs |
||Wisconsin Woodchucks (20)
|Tusculum (Tenn.) RHP Rob Currie (8-0, 2.58), Central Arkansas RHP Bobby Pritchett (6-2, 1.75) pitched Woodchucks into NWL playoffs |
||Kenai Peninsula Oilers (25)
|UC Santa Barbara-bound RHP Joe Gardner (6-0, 0.92), Washington State LHP Ross Humes (5-0, 1.13) were dominant arms for Oilers
||Bourne (Mass.) Braves (26)
|Coastal Carolina RHP Nick McCully (5-0, 1.98) earned Cape League pitcher of year as Braves season ended in play-in game loss |
||Florence (S.C.) Redwolves (27)
|Coastal Carolina RHP Kent Altman (5-0, 0.92), Mercyhurst (Pa.) RHP Steve Grife (4-1, 1.65) led Wolves to CPL championship game |
||Clermont Mavericks (29)
|Expansion Mavericks capped first season with FCSL playoff title; Nova Southeastern OF Brayan Valencia (.314-4-34) swung big bat |
||Brockport Riverbats (30)
||New York Collegiate
|Merrimack (Mass.) LHP Ryan O’Rourke (6-1, 2.61; 2-0, 0.60 in playoffs) leads Riverbats to upset win over Glens Falls in NYCBL final
||Maxim (Calif.) Yankees (28)
|Cape Cod League pick-ups Brett Milleville (.353-1-2), Ty Kelly (.333-0-5) helped beefed-up Yankees to four wins at NBC World Series .|
||Kutztown (Pa.) Rockies (31)
|League pitcher of year and local Kutztown State product Darren Gorski (7-0, 1.33, 61 IP/78 SO) leads Rockies to third straight crown |
||Springfield Sliders (NR)
|Sliders resorted to sizzling first-half form in playoffs behind Valparaiso RHP Bryce Shafer (6-1, 2.75), who won opener on way to title|
--COMPILED BY ALLAN SIMPSON