|SUMMER 25: Owls Retain No. 1 Rank
Compiled by Allan Simpson (PG Crosschecker) / Andrew Hartwell (College Summer Ball Blogspot)
So far, so good for the Coastal Plain League's Forest City Owls. After posting the CPL's best first-half record in league history at 24-3, the Owls jumped out to a quick 5-1 start (only to lose Tuesday night) to take over first place again in the Western Division—and retain their position as the nation's No. 1-ranked summer-league team.
The Owls also finished first in the first half a year ago, but were swept aside by the hard-charging Thomasville Hi-Toms in the second half. The Hi-Toms (41-20 overall) then went on to win their third straight CPL title and finish with a No. 7 national ranking.
Forest City is in its second season in the CPL after moving to the western North Carolina community from Spartanburg, S.C., after the 2007 season. It has gotten a lot of mileage from unexpected sources this summer.
Righthander Spencer Patton went just 4-6, 5.24 with 77 strikeouts in 69 innings as an undrafted starter at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville this spring, but has gone 5-0, 1.26 with a league-best 68 strikeouts in 43 innings as the Owls ace this summer. Closer Robbie Andrews also went undrafted in June after posting a modest 1-1, 5.56 record with two saves and just 24 strikeouts in 44 innings at Virginia Commonwealth. But he has responded this summer by posting a perfect 0.00 ERA along with nine saves for the Owls. In his first 12 innings, he didn't walk a batter.
Morevover, the Owls have gotten significant offensive production from corner infielders Konstantine Diamaduros (.299-7-50 at Wofford) and Pratt Maynard (.261-6-40), who were both college freshmen this spring. Diamaduros, a first baseman, has hit .347-3-26 for the Owls, while Maynard, the team's third baseman, leads the CPL with 31 RBIs, 32 runs scored and 24 walks, while batting .353 with four homers.
No doubt, it will be a challenge for the Owls to hang on to the No. 1 spot through the balance of the summer season. They would have to supplant Thomasville as the CPL's top team in 2009, but also hold off an expected charge from the top team in the prospect-rich and more established Cape Cod League.
That may end up being No. 2 Chatham, No. 5 Bourne or No. 6 Yarmouth-Dennis, who all have considerably more raw talent than Forest City, but may have to win the Cape League title to have a shot at overtaking Forest City—if the Owls should win out.
Chatham raced out to a 9-1 start this season, and its roster has only been enhanced since with the addition of hard-throwing, 6-foot-6 righthanders Matt Harvey (North Carolina) and Jesse Hahn (Virginia Tech), both former teammates at a Connecticut high school. Harvey and Hahn are projected early first-round picks in the 2010 draft.
Yarmouth-Dennis, meanwhile, won Cape Cod League titles in 2006-07. The Red Sox have picked up their pace considerably after a slow start, and were expected to make a run at Chatham in the Cape's Eastern Division with the anticipated addition of catcher Micah Gibbs and righthander Anthony Ranaudo, two stalwarts from Louisiana State's 2009 College World Series championship team. However, only Gibbs, who homered twice in his second game at Y-D, made it to the Cape. Ranaudo, who pitched for Y-D last summer, decided to shut it down for the balance of the summer after a 124-inning workload this spring for LSU.
We'll rank the top 25 summer college league teams every Tuesday or Wednesday from 20-plus leagues around the country, and here's our take on the top teams in Week Four (last week's ranking noted in parentheses).