Commodores On Verge Of Starting New Season

Infielder Kevin Newman, last year's batting champion, is set to return to the Falmouth lineup this summer.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Infielder Kevin Newman, last year's batting champion, is set to return to the Falmouth lineup this summer.

It’s quiet at Arnie Allen Diamond at Guv Fuller Field right now. High school baseball season is over, so the Clippers are not practicing. The occasional recreation department activity fills the area behind the outfield, but for the most part the only regular visitors right now are the geese that like to congregate in the outfield for hours each day.

Before the weekend is out that will all change.

The boys of summer will begin their annual trek to Cape Cod in the coming days, and by this time next week the 2014 Cape Cod Baseball League season will be under way in earnest. The Falmouth Commodores begin their season with back-to-back road games, starting on Wednesday, June 11 in Brewster, followed by another 5 PM start on Thursday at Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth against the Y-D Red Sox. On Friday, June 13 at 6:30 PM, those same Red Sox will visit Fuller Field as the Commodores host their home opener.

Falmouth once again will be led by manager Jeff Trundy. The affable Trundy is one of the longest-tenured skippers in the league. He is beginning  his 16th year at the helm of the team, his 20th season as a coach in the league.

With Trundy in charge over the last decade and a half the team has been a regular playoff participant and reached the finals three times. Falmouth enters this season looking to end a drought of 34 years since it last won the Cape League title.

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Trundy has often said he’d like nothing more than to bring home a title for the fans of Falmouth, but that winning a trophy is not what the Cape League is about. His mission is to prepare college baseball players for the future and to assist with their dreams of one day playing professional baseball.

One of the most respected baseball people in the Cape League, Trundy will once again be assisted by Brad Stoll, Mike Landry and Kellen Mitts.

Roster still a work in progress
How will the Commodores fare in 2014?

The easy answer is to say they’ll be competitive with the other teams, because each Cape League squad is basically an all-star team of the top college talent from around the nation. They have an 80 percent chance of making the playoffs, since four of the five teams in each division qualify.

It will come down to how the players gel as a team, and how they perform once the entire roster is assembled.

Right now, general manager Eric Zmuda has 17 players under contract for the season, with a number of temporary players signed to fill in until the permanent players are in town.

The NCAA’s College World Series began last week, so each team in the Cape League will play the waiting game over the next few weeks as their contracted players trickle into their respective towns. Final rosters do not have to be set with the league until the first week of July, so the team that will be on the field for each club on opening day is hardly the final version that will be fighting it out over the hot days ahead.

Familiar faces returning

One player who should be in town for the Commodores that fans can get excited about is returning All-Star Kevin Newman of the University of Arizona. The shortstop became the first freshman in Cape League history to win the batting title last year, hitting .375 with 60 hits in 40 games. He stole 16 bases on 20 attempts and committed just five errors.

Newman was recently named to the Pac-12 All-Conference team at Arizona after hitting .303 for the season and also was named to the league’s All-Defensive team after playing near-flawless defense.

The shortstop is not the only player returning from last year’s playoff team.

Another middle infielder who had a nice year for the Commodores in 2013 was Leon Byrd, of Rice. Byrd batted .252 for Falmouth last year and made the CCBL All-Star team. He batted .255 at Rice this past season.

Garrett Cleavinger of Oregon will be working out of the bullpen for the Commodores again this summer. He struck out 22 over just 12-2/3 innings last year. As a setup man for the Ducks this season the lefty saved two games and finished with 49 strikeouts over just 32-1/3 innings. He had an ERA of 3.34 and a record of 3-2.

Outfielder Sam Gillikin returns for his second stint with the Commodores. The University of Auburn sophomore appeared in 30 games for Falmouth last year and had five doubles and a triple. This year at Auburn he struggled some, batting just .214 in 24 games.

Starting pitcher Kevin McCanna of Rice is also slated to return for Falmouth, where he went 2-2 last summer. This year McCann was one of the top hurlers at his school, posting an 8-3 mark with a 2.69 ERA in 17 games, including 12 starts.

Rounding out the returning players for Falmouth are a pair of hurlers from the University of Maryland, Kevin Mooney and Jared Price. Mooney served as the closer for the Terrapins, who have advanced to this weekend’s NCAA Super Regionals. He has saved 12 game for Maryland, with a 4.05 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. Price has also worked out of the bullpen, making 18 appearances.

Newcomers to watch

New to the team, Sutter McLoughlin of Sacramento State brings a quality arm to the Falmouth bullpen. After a Freshman All-American season in 2013, he went 4-2 overall this year with nine saves. Batters accumulated just 33 hits over 44-2/3 innings off the righty, who struck out 36 while walking just 10.

Switch-hitting infielder Tyler Krieger was Clemson’s leading hitter this spring, leading the Tigers to the College World Series. He hit .338 in 57 games with a team-best .410 on-base percentage. Krieger had 18 doubles and scored 49 runs in 57 games.

Krieger's teammate, Steven Duggar, who played for Cotuit in the Cape League last year, played every game for the Tigers this year and batted .294, fourth on the team. He had three triples, 11 doubles and 36 RBIs.

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