With the college baseball season winding down with some random tournament in Omaha, it is time we switch our focus from what happened to what is happening. Every year after the season ends countless boys from programs all over the country travel somewhere away from their homes and play another two months of mindless baseball.
No matter where you are these days you can likely find a summer collegiate wood bat league fairly close to home to check out some of America's college prospects. Obviously if you are in the northeast you will find the better prospects in the Cape Cod League or the Northeast Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), but the leagues stretch as far and wide as Alaska and Wisconsin to DC and South Carolina.
This year is no different for the Cavaliers who are looking to prove they can hit with a stick of wood just as well as they can hit with a piece of metal. The pitchers on the other hand love it because they look like Sandy Koufax on the mound against a bunch of high schoolers.
In the most prospect heavy and widely considered to be the best summer league on the cape, the Cavaliers have sent four returning players to prove their worth. Kyle Crockett(Orleans) and Scott Silverstein(Hyannis) will both be matching up against the top hitters in the country in front of dozens of pro scouts every night. Both have gotten off to great starts but I can't imagine either will be in the Cape the whole summer. Scott and Kyle each through 60+ innings this year for UVa, so Coach O'Connor and Kuhn won't want them to jeopardize their arm by throwing more in the summer. I spoke with Scott a few weeks ago who told me he would likely start four or five games before heading back home for some rest.
In the position player realm on the Cape, rising 5th year Jared King(Harwich) and rising 4th year Reed Gragnani(Orleans) look to build off what they did this year for the Hoos. Summer is particularly difficult for any hitter since you have to not only face the best pitching in the country, but with a bat that has a sweet spot about the size of two baseballs. If you don't get off to a fast start it makes for a long and drawn out summer wishing you were back home laying by the pool eating Mom's cooking.
The NECBL is considered the 2nd best league in the country and has a rich history of Cavaliers. This year Artie Lewicki is the sole representative from the Hoos. Artie will take his talents to the Keene Swampbats who have hosted the likes of Greg Miclat and Tyler Cannon in year's past. Like Scott and Kyle, I am not sure if he will be there through August, but if he pitches like he did during the regular season, Keene won't be happy to see him go.
Speedster and rising 3rd year Mitchell Shifflett heads down to my neck of the woods to play for the Peninsula Pilots. He should get the regular playing time with the Pilots that he missed this year which will benefit him greatly. Hopefully Mitchell can come in next year with a new sense of confidence at the plate that could translate in to a dangerous leadoff guy.
The league I had no idea about til I went to Virginia is the Northwoods League. Scattered throughout the midwest, many of the nation's underclassmen prospects hone their craft in the land of cheese. This year is no different as six Cavaliers will be on three different teams in the league and all of them will be 2nd years in the fall. Derek Fisher and Nick Howard will be a part of the Madison Mallards, Brandon Downes and Kenny Towns play for the Wisconsin Rapid Rafters (what a nickname by the way), and the Wisconsin Woodchucks will play host to Nate Irving and Brandon Cogswell.
If you're in the Charlottesville area often in the summer I am sure you are familiar with the Valley League. Many Wahoos will play for Waynesboro while taking summer courses or working out early and often in the weight room. This year is no different with Rob Amaro (who is coming off surgery) and Austin Young both playing for the Generals.
Finally, if you find yourself in Yankee country but not near the ocean, the New York Collegiate Baseball League is likely close by. Nathaniel Abel hopes to build up his innings for the year in Oneonta for the Outlaws. Abel appeared in 7 games this year so more competition is just what the rising 2nd year will need.