'09 Preseason Preview: Harwich Mariners

by Dave B. in

Harwich MarinersWebsite: www.harwichmariners.org Manager: Steve Englert (7th year)

Team USA and statistical info is as of June 1.

The Harwich Mariners ended a 21 year drought as they swept through the playoffs in four games to win the 2008 Cape League championship. The Mariners finished the regular season with a 24-20 record, good for second place in the Eastern Division. Harwich went on to defeat first-place Orleans 4-3 and 1-0 (18 innings) before downing Cotuit in the championship series by scores of 11-2 and 2-1.

Along the way, Mariners players picked up their share of hardware. Chris Manno (P; Duke), Tommy Medica (C; Santa Clara) and Joe Sanders (Utility; Auburn) were chosen to the All-League Team. OF/DH Andrew Giobbi (Vanderbilt) was picked as the Manny Robello 10th Player Award winner. Ryan Quigley, a lefthanded pitcher from Taunton, MA. and Northeastern was the recipient of the John J. Claffey Award as the Outstanding New England Prospect. Second baseman Jason Stidham (Florida State) and Mark Fleury (C; North Carolina) capped the season by earning the PA SportsTicker Star of Stars Award as co-MVPs of the Cape League playoffs. Yes, 2008 was a magical season in Harwich.

What do Mariners fans have to look forward to this year? D.J. LeMahieu (Louisiana State), Alex Hilliard (Vanderbilt) and pitcher Brian Dupra (Notre Dame) return to Harwich for a second season. LeMahieu was picked as the league’s number six pro prospect by Baseball America. He played 26 games at short and only committed 3 errors while batting .290 with a homerun and 13 RBI. LeMahieu led the Tigers with a .341 avg. this spring. Hilliard’s name does not appear on the Mariners roster but his name is mentioned as a returnee in the team’s preview on the league website. The success that Hilliard and Dupra experienced last summer did not carry over to their school season. Hilliard only appeared in 5 games for Harwich. He is a versatile player who played one game at second base, one at third base and three in the outfield. He batted .333 in only 15 at-bats in his short stay on the Cape. Hilliard only started 19 games for Vandy and put up unimpressive numbers with a .220 avg., 0 HR and 7 RBI. Dupra was a valuable arm out of the bullpen for the Mariners. He appeared in 18 games - all in relief - and compiled a 3-1 record to go with a 3.40 ERA in 39.2 innings. Somehow, Dupra managed a 6-5 record for the Irish this year. That was quite an accomplishment considering his 7.13 ERA and 116 hits allowed in 82 innings. On top of that, opponents batted .334 against him.

PITCHERS: Daniel Renken may be the big name on the Mariners staff this year. Problem is, the 6'4" righty from Cal State Fullerton may be a big name on the Team USA staff instead. His 9-2 record and 2.50 ERA in 14 starts is what earned him the invitation to the Team USA trials. Opponents batted a miniscule .204 against him. Renken has shown that he can go  deep into a game as he averaged better than seven innings per start.

Chase Reid, a sophomore lefty from Vanderbilt was the Rookie of the Year in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer. While pitching for the Newport Gulls, Reid set a NECBL record by striking out 19 batters in one game. He went 3-0; 4.78, but only threw 32 innings for the Commodores this spring.

Geoff Parker had a very good year at Florida State. He was 6-1 with a 4.41 ERA and struckout 63 batters - an average of one per inning pitched. FSU teammate, lefthander John Gast, went 5-3; 5.26 for the Seminoles.

Justin Wright started 12 games for Virginia Tech and posted a 7-2 record to go with a 3.95 ERA. Aaron Meade led the Missouri State staff with 90 IP. He put up very impressive numbers, going 9-2 with a 3.39 ERA while holding opponents to a .232 avg. Daniel Bradshaw (RHP; Louisiana State) features a 90+ mph fastball. The sophomore was 4-0; 3.38 for the Tigers. Josh Bowman compiled a record of 4-3 with a 4.96 ERA at Tampa. More impressive is the fact that Bowman struckout 52 in 45.1 innings and had a 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Glen Troyanowski (RHP; Florida Atlantic) went 4-3 with a 5.75 ERA.

Nate Striz, a 6'2", 240 lb. righthander from North Carolina moves to Harwich after spending last summer with Falmouth. Striz only pitched 8 innings for the Commodores and went 2-1; 5.63. He was used sparingly this spring also, appearing in 23 games but only tossing 23 innings for the Tar Heels. He was 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA and held batters to a .221 avg. Striz' UNC teammate, Garrett Davis, joins the Mariners after throwing only 8 innings over 9 games this spring.

Three incoming Mariners pitchers struggled this spring. Freshman Mathew Price was 3-4; 6.90 at Virginia Tech. Mike Gipson, a sophomore from Florida Atlantic finished 4-5 with a 5.93 ERA. Eric Jokisch (LHP; Northwestern) ended his sophomore season with a record of 4-7; 5.48 and opposing batters hit .307 off him. Obviously, all three will be looking forward to starting with a clean slate this summer.

Overall, on paper, the Harwich staff looks like a mixed-bag. Some are coming off successful seasons after posting impressive numbers. Others had less success. Not much different from any other Cape League team at this point. I believe the Mariners offense will produce runs. The pitching staff will ultimately determine Harwich's chances of defending their title.

CATCHERS:  Anthony Sosnoskie, a junior from Virginia Tech, started all 53 games. He batted .314 with 7 homeruns and 51 RBI while often hitting third in the order for the Hokies. Coach Peter Hughes referred to Sosnoskie as the "Poster child for our program" because of his strong work ethic. He also saw some playing time at first base.

Both catchers on Harwich's roster have proven to be durable. Bryant's Jeff Vigurs also played in all 54 of his team's games. The lefty hitter led his team in average (.389), doubles (23), RBI (70), slugging pct. (.645) and OBP (.447). He also contributed 9 homeruns. Vigurs' 70 RBI placed him in a tie for 23rd overall in the country. Bryant just finished their first year of play in Division 1.

INFIELDERS:  I think this will be a position of strength for the Mariners. Beyond the possible return of 2B/SS LeMahieu, there is a lot of talent. Start with Florida State teammates, thirdbaseman Stephen Cardullo and shortstop Stuart Tapley. Cardullo batted .383 in 60 games and added 10 HR, 48 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Tapley batted .316 with 13 HR and 59 RBI.

Phil Gosselin (Virginia) put up very solid numbers: .302 with 6 HR, 61 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Gosselin is listed as an infielder but he also DH'd and played leftfield. Also joining the Mariners from UVA, Daniel Grovatt had an outstanding year for the Cavaliers with 7 HR and 50 RBI to go with his .378 avg. Grovatt was 13 for 15 in stolen base attempts. Grovatt also is listed as an infielder but he has been playing rightfield for Virginia.

While following North Carolina this year, I have been very impressed with the season Levi Michael has put together. As a freshman, he stepped into the middle of the order on a team with national championship aspirations and has performed very well. While holding down second base for the Tar Heels, Michael batted .293 with 13 homeruns.

Another freshman, Joe Loftus (Vanderbilt) was a 29th round pick of the Minnesota Twins coming out of high school. He batted .263, 4 HR, 28 RBI. Loftus is another versatile player who is listed as an infielder but played a lot in leftfield this spring.

Shortstop Chris Wade was a Freshman All American for Kentucky in 2008. He followed that up by batting .314 with 6 HR and 42 RBI to go along with 14 stolen bases.

Another player changing teams this summer is Alabama's Ross Wilson. Wilson played 39 games for Bourne last summer, mostly at second base, while batting just .218 with one homerun and 13 RBI. He rebounded nicely, batting .353 with 9 HR and 47 RBI this spring. College football fans are familiar with the name. Ross' brother, John Parker, just finished his career as the quarterback of the Crimson Tide where he holds many team records. He was recently signed by the Atlanta Falcons.

OUTFIELDERS:  The Mariners only list four outfielders on their roster. The best-known name of those four has to be Bryce Brentz. Drafted in the 30th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2007, the sophomore from Middle Tennessee State has put up some staggering numbers. In 60 games, he batted .465 and had an OBP of .535. His power numbers include 28 HR, 73 RBI and a .930 slugging pct. The First Team Louisville Slugger All American and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist has been invited to the Team USA trials. Brentz would be an imposing force in the middle of the lineup, but now Harwich must play the waiting game to see if he will be available to them.

Trent Mummey is a speedy lead-off htter and centerfielder from Auburn. As a freshman, he batted .305 but dipped to .289 this year while starting all 56 games. He was successful on 17 of 20 stolen base attempts. Leon Landry (Louisiana State) also batted lead-off. The leftfielder had a very good season, posting a .305 avg. with 12 HR and 41 RBI. Jacob Goebbert (Northwestern) batted .305 as a freshman and .355 as a sophomore, but dipped to .280 this year. With only those four on the roster, and the possibility of Brentz not making it to the Cape, it would not be surprising to see Loftus, Gosselin and Grovatt get some playing time in the outfield.

NOTES:  LeMahieu is a draft-eligible sophomore. Coming into this season, many expected him to be a middle of the first-round pick. His projected power has not developed as hoped for, and the feeling now is that his stock could drop because of that. LeMahieu only hit four homeruns during this college season.

There is a lot of speed among the Mariners infielders. Cardullo, Gosselin, Grovatt and Wade swiped a total of 66 bases.

In Florida State's 37-6 victory over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl....  uh, rather their clinching win in the Tallahassee Regional on May 31, Cardullo had 7 hits in 9 at-bats, scored 5 runs and added 5 RBI. Among his hits were three doubles and a triple. Not a bad day at the office. Yes, the score really was 37-6 ! Maybe the NCAA needs a mercy-rule.

Potential Returnees: Brian Dupra, D.J. LeMahieu and Alex Hilliard.

Team USA invitees: Daniel Renken and Bryce Brentz.

First Game: Harwich will host Cotuit in a rematch of last year's Championship Series. The game will be the only game played on Thursday, June 11th. Game time is set for 7:00 at Whitehouse Field.