The dog days of summer are winding down for Notre Dame players active in the various collegiate wooden-bat leagues and teams featuring six different Irish players currently are competing for postseason titles. Two of those players - Sam Elam and Ross Brezovsky - have stopped by und.com to file a Summer Baseball Diary (see below) recapping their season with the Hays Larks team that won the Jayhawk League and is off to a 2-0 start in the National Baseball Congress World Series. Brezovsky's fellow junior-to-be Wade Korpi and his Staunton Braves have overcome a subpar regular season to make a playoff run into the Valley League championship series. Sean Gaston and Brett Lilley have helped position the Cotuit Kettleers for a strong bid at winning the prestigious Cape Cod League - and Eddy Mendiola will play alongside his Altamonte Springs teammates in the Florida Collegiate League title game, to be played at Tropicana Field on Sunday, Aug. 6 (one hour after the completion of the big-league game between the Devil Rays and Red Sox).
With various scheduling and logistical conflicts being resolved in recent weeks, an updated schedule for the Notre Dame Summer Baseball Diaries is included below. Mike Dury (Grand Lake Mariners) and Lilley recently submitted their diary entries while Korpi will rehash his memorable summer next week, after returning to his home state of Florida (Mendiola also then will send in his diary from the sunshine state). Two rising sophomores - Jeremy Barnes and Kyle Weiland - who played during the first half of the summer with the Delaware Cows then will submit diaries. Barnes currently is training with an Olympic speed coach is hit native Texas while Weiland's summer has included attending tryouts for the USA National Team (he currently is working out in his hometown of Albuquerque).
The 2006 Summer Diaries also are slated to include several potential bonus offerings, including early-September reports from head coach Dave Schrage and Scott Lawler as they reflect back on their busy summers and the start of fall baseball practice with the Irish. Two 2006 graduates - Craig Cooper and Tom Thornton - also may make a return to the diary lineup while reliving their first season in professional baseball.
An archive of links to the 2002-05 ND Summer Baseball Diaries can be found at the following link (with the 2006 schedule to be added soon): http://und.cstv.com/genrel/basebl-summerdiaries.html.
Tues., Sept. 19 - 2006 graduate Tom Thornton (Oneonta Tigers; single-A New York-Penn League)
Hays followed up its Jayhawk League title by opening play at the NBC World Series in Wichita with wins over the Houston Apollos (20-10) and the Havasu (Ariz.) Heat (11-1), sending the Larks to the final-8 of the winners bracket and a game versus the Southern Cal Heat on Saturday, Aug. 5. The 72-year-old NBC World Series features 43 teams from throughout the nation, with the Larks turning into a regular participant after winning five of the past six Jayhawk titles.
Elam was the starting pitcher in the Aug. 1 game versus the Apollos, as Hays overcome a rare off-night from Elam (3.2 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 5 BB, 6 Ks) to post the win. The rising sophomore lefthander still owns an impressive stat line for the summer, compiling a 2.98 ERA, 7-0 record and lowly .107 opponent batting average while totaling 73 strikeouts, just 22 walks and only 16 hits allowed in 45.1 innings (he also has a pair of saves, 6 wild pitches and 7 hit batters).
Two of Elam's teammates combined on a five-hitter in the win over Havasu, as Hays improved to 38-14 overall for the summer. The team's upcoming opponent the Fire joined the Larks in receiving a first-round bye before posting wins over the Rock City (N.C.) Red Sox (5-2) and the Clarinda (Iowa) A's (8-0). The winner of the Larks-Fire game will advance to the final-4 of the winners bracket and will play next on Monday, Aug. 7, versus any one of four teams that are in action tonight (the Wichita Braves vs. the Pueblo Chieftans and the Sequin Steelers vs. the Santa Barbara Foresters, with the winners of those games playing on Saturday for a spot in the bracket's final-4). If Hays loses, it next would play an elimination game on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Brezovsky has been one of the top players and a regular at second base for Hays this summer before recently being sidelined with an ankle injury. A second-year player with the Larks, Brezovsky filed a diary entry last summer (http://und.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/080105aab.html) and has passed along a quick update below, with Elam providing the primary report from Hays this summer.
Korpi's stellar summer includes a 1.25 ERA but he has picked up just four decisions (2-2) in nine starts, as the Braves struggled during the regular season (15-27 record). But five wins have followed for Staunton (Va.) in the Valley League playoffs, as the fourth-place Braves knocked off the division-winning Waynesboro Generals (7-4, 4-12, 12-8; winning both games on the road) before advancing past the second-place Harrisonburg Turks (5-4, 4-3). Korpi pitched well enough to close out Waynesboro in game-2, allowing just one earned run in 7.0 innings, but a pair of errors led to two unearned runs and the bullpen let in nine more while the Braves offense totaled just four (Korpi also had 4 Ks, 2 walks and allowed 6 hits in his playoff start).
The best-of-5 Valley League championship series now is pitting Staunton versus the Luray Wranglers, the north division's second-place finisher (and a team that featured ND's Joey Williamson during the 2005 season). Luray feasted on Staunton's depleted pitching in the first game on Aug. 2 but the Braves recovered to win game-2 (7-2), slowing down a Wranglers team that had outscored the opposition 65-12 in its first five playoff games.
Thursday's pivotal third game saw Luray 9-hole hitter Justin Miller launch a game-ending, solo home run for the 4-3 win. Friday night's game was set to be played at Luray's Moxie Stadium, with the series returning to Staunton's Bulldog Field if necessary.
Korpi's other summer stats have included a .204 opponent batting, 49 strikeouts, 32 walks and 14 more innings pitched (50.1) than hits allowed (37) for the lefthander, plus 9 wild pitches.
Cotuit (now 26-14-1) clinched its divisional title in the Cape Cod with week to go and will face either the Wareham Gatemen (22-18) or the Falmouth Commodores (20-20-1) in the divisional playoffs (Aug. 8-10). The CCL championship series then follows later next week, with the top teams in the other division including the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (26-15), the Brewster Whitecaps (23-16-2) and the Orleans Cardinals (21-19-1). Rising senior Gaston again has been one of Cotuit's top players this season and was named to the CCL all-star game while junior-to-be third baseman Lilley has seen time at third base this summer with the Kettleers.
Mendiola has been the regular third baseman for the Altamonte Springs team (26-7) that dominated the Florida Summer League before posting playoff wins this week over the Sanford River rats (5-10 and the Orlando Shockers (7-0). Sunday's championship game on Aug. 6 will be played one hour after the end of the 1:15 Devil Rays-Red Sox game. The Snappers will face the winner of Saturday's game between the Shockers and the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.
Notre Dame 2006 Summer Baseball Diary #3-A (Sam Elam Hays Larks; Jayhawk League; Aug. 4)
"Hey there Irish fans, this is Sam Elam checking in from Hays Kansas. This summer has been so much fun playing for the Larks. We just finished the regular season as the first-place team and have headed to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas. Our first game was Monday and I was the starting pitcher. It was not my best outing of the season but we won and then won again, putting us into the final-8 of the winners bracket.
"I would first like to start out telling you about my host family. I live with Terry and Lori Meier and their two sons. This summer reminds me a lot of home in the sense that there are three boys in the house that all play baseball. The only difference is that I am the oldest of the three here, unlike at home where I am used to being the youngest of three. You can always count on Nathan (16), Nolan (12), or me having a baseball game every night. The Meier's have a lovely house that I am grateful for them opening up to me this summer. I know it is a great expense to them, especially the food bill, and I am very appreciative of their generosity towards me.
"This summer I have really been relaxing while getting to play with a great baseball team. I started off as a short-relief pitcher, then after a few appearances I was extended into long relief. One day I went up to my coach and asked if I could get a start and he agreed. I did pretty well in first start and that is what I have been doing ever since. There is a big change going from a relief pitcher to a starting pitcher, mainly the amount of time you have off. Starting pitchers have to find ways to amuse themselves in the four games out of the week that they don't play and practical jokes usually are the best way to pass the time.
"This team has a great group of guys on it that I have been able to get to know each other really well. We have come together as a team better than almost any team I have ever been on, except Notre Dame. We have a lot of guys from the south and - with me being from Texas - I have been able to bond with those guys because of our similar upbringings, and going to a northern school I can share similar stories with the guys from the north. Hays has a very hot summer climate, with temperature of 109 in the shade.
"As much as I have enjoyed this summer I cannot wait until I get back to school to see all my teammates and meet the new coaches. I am pumped about this fall and just itching to get started on fall ball.
"In closing, I would like to congratulate coach Maiineri, coach Rooney and coach Godwin on their new opportunity at LSU. I always will be grateful to these men because they made it possible for me to go to a great school like Notre Dame."
- Sam Elam
Notre Dame 2006 Summer Baseball Diary #3-B (Ross Brezovsky; Hays Larks; Jayhawk League; Aug. 4)
"Greetings Irish Fans! This is Ross Brezovsky reporting once again from Hays, Kansas. This is my second consecutive year playing for the Hays Larks summer collegiate team. My summer has been amazing. I was hosted by the same family as last year, the Karlins, and could not ask for better living conditions. I was joined in Hays by my Notre Dame teammate Sam Elam, who has emerged from being a long reliever in the bullpen to become our ace as a starter. Sam has dominated the hitters in the Jayhawk League and almost averages two strikeouts per inning while compiling a perfect record of 8-0.
"For the second year in a row, I have participated in another Jayhawk League title with the Larks. Hays has become the team to beat in the league, winning five titles in the past six years. By winning the league, we have earned a top seed in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas. Our team is currently 2-0 in the tournament and hoping to be a contender for the title.
"I would like to congratulate coach Schrage and coach Lawler on obtaining the new coaching positions at Notre Dame. The selection committee was very impressed with your credentials, personalities and assets as coaches. We are very anxious to get started working with you, and most of all, winning! I hope all of my teammates are having great summers and come back healthy. I'll see you guys in a couple weeks!
- Ross Brezovsky