I made the drive up to Orleans on Tuesday night to see Orleans take on Wareham. It was really foggy and about 30 degrees colder than it was in Hyannis in the afternoon, but the Orleans fans were really impressive with their loud support and general knowledge about their team.
I spoke with one elderly gentleman during batting practice who asked my opinion about several players on Orleans, nodded, then politely responded "I've been coming here for many years, and between you and me this year's team is a little thin." He then wistfully told me about the time he saw Mark Teixeira hit a home run off a big rock beyond the 434 sign in dead centerfield and said the players don't look as big to him as they used to.
The starting pitching matchup is what brought me to Eldridge Park, as I had heard good things about Wareham starter Matt Barnes from UConn and Orleans starter Cole Cook from Pepperdine. Both pitched very well and showed good stuff on Tuesday. Orleans won 4-2.
Cook is very tall with a thin, athletic build at 6'7" 215. He has a really jerky motion in which he moves his hands all over the place and then speeds up everything right before he delivers. He throws with a lot of effort for a guy who is so big. Cook's fastball sat in just the 88-89 mph range, but it had really good sinking action that got him a lot of ground balls. In fact, Cook induced 12 ground ball outs in his eight innings of work. Cook also threw a very good 77-78 mph slider with really tight break. He relied mostly on two pitches, and they were enough for him as he kept everything down in the zone and threw a lot of strikes. If Cook smoothed out his mechanics he could be even better.
Barnes was also really impressive and had one of the Top 5 arms I have seen so far. He just turned 19 earlier this month, and there are indications that he has not even reached his full potential. Barnes has good size at 6'4" and a thin, very projectable 185-pound frame. He throws with really smooth arm action and makes everything look natural and easy. Barnes' fastball sat in the 90-93 mph range, and for the most part he spotted it really well and worked both sides of the plate. He threw a very good 75-76 mph curveball with tight break that he was able to throw for strikes, and also showed a good 83-84 mph changeup with sharp downward movement. Barnes is definitely a freshman to watch.
Among the position players, Wareham rightfielder Brett Eibner from the University of Arkansas is somebody who has made big strides since last summer. Eibner always had raw power, and he is clearly an athletic kid with a strong arm in the outfield, but he never had any approach at the plate and he struck out far too often last summer. He did strike out to end the game Tuesday, but he had three quality at-bats and ended up 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk. He appears to have shortened up his stroke a little bit and is a little more patient in the batter's box. His opposite field home run, which plated the only run scored against Cook, showed he still has some pop.
Orleans third baseman Riccio Torrez, who was playing in his second game after arriving late from Arizona State, also looked good. He had two hits, hit the ball hard another time, and made a couple of athletic plays in the field.
Orleans first baseman Jaren Matthews from Rutgers is still impressive as well, as he can really turn on the ball and drive it, and Orleans centerfielder Gary Brown from Cal St. Fullerton showed incredible 4.0 second speed down to first base from the right side of the plate.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Harwich 1 Brewster 0: Harwich Left-handed starter Aaron Meade from Missouri State pitched seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out 12. Brewster left-handed starter Matt Lujan from the University of San Francisco allowed one run on three hits in seven innings pitched.
Chatham 2 Falmouth 0, 6 innings: Chatham right-handed starter Patrick Johnson from North Carolina pitched five no-hit innings in a game shortened by fog. Leftfielder Steven Brooks from Wake Forest had two hits for Chatham.
Bourne 3 Hyannis 2: Leftfielder Stefen Romero from Oregon State and designated hitter Nick Schwaner from the University of New Orleans and San Francisco's 42nd round pick each went 2-for-4 for Bourne. Second baseman Nick Crawford from UAB and third baseman Dustin Harrington from East Carolina each went 2-for-4 for Hyannis.
Yarmouth-Dennis 7 Cotuit 3: Centerfielder Jonathan Jones from Long Beach State went 3-for-5 and designated hitter Mickey Wiswall from Boston College went 2-for-4 with a home run for Y-D. Zach Cone from the University of Georgia hit a pinch-hit three-run home run for Cotuit.
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