July 11, 2012
Billy Ferriter strode to the plate in the top of the seventh inning with runners on second and third in a 1-1 ball game. Ferriter’s average had already dropped to a summer-low .188 after flying out in the fifth. The count was one ball and zero strikes when he laid down a bunt up the first base line and raced to the bag. Ferriter was out at first by a step as a teammate raced home with the go-ahead run on the squeeze play. For Ferriter, it was his second sacrifice bunt of the game as he propelled the Falmouth Commodores to a 2-1 victory over the host Hyannis Harborhawks on Tuesday night.
Ferriter, in his second season playing with Falmouth in the Cape Cod Baseball League, started in center field and batted eighth for the Western Division leading Commodores (13-9). He is joined in Falmouth by Connecticut teammate Ryan Moore, while Carson Cross wears the blue and white for Hyannis.
“The team is doing real well,” stated Ferriter. “We got off to a better start than last year. We’ve just got a great group of guys.”
Over the last 10 summers, 41 Connecticut players have shown up for a summer of baseball on the Cape. Some have included Cape League all-stars such as Joe Pavone (Chatham ’10) and recent MLB draft picks David Fischer (Wareham ’09-’11) and LJ Mazzilli (Wareham ’10-’11).
The CCBL, a wood bat collegiate summer league, is widely considered as the most prestigious and competitive league of its kind and a gateway to the majors. Droves of fans head to the fields in hopes of seeing the Major League stars of tomorrow. The likes of Jeff Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra and Tim Lincecum have dug in at the plate or toed the rubber of the mounds along the Cape.
For the players from Connecticut and everywhere else across the country, the Cape League is an opportunity to compete against the best of their peers, showcase their skills and prepare for their collegiate and prospective professional careers.
“Being up here, we’re definitely facing the best competition in the country; that helps,” said Moore. “You’ve got to minimize mistakes and when you make them, you’ve got to learn to get through them and keep working hard.”
The differences from the college season to here are clear to the players. Most notably to the hitters are the use of wood bats and the talent of the opposing pitchers.
While Ferriter’s average is down, he remains a fixture in the lineup and is among the Cape’s leaders in stolen bases with 11 to go with 11 runs scored, two home runs and stellar defense.
“[Hitting] has been a little hard," said Ferriter. “I started off slow, so I’m just pressing a little bit and everything is tight and I just need to loosen up. [The Cape] is a lot different than school ball. I see a lot more off-speed stuff. I’m looking for the fastball, but every count it seems like I get two or three off-speed pitches.”
For the pitchers, it’s a matter of being ready to go at a moment’s notice and seize the opportunity to perform. Moore, who made just eight appearances on the hill for UConn in 2012, but started 32 games in the outfield, has pitched in six games this summer. Through 9.1 innings pitched, he holds a 7.71 earned run average and has struck out five batters.
“It’s been kind of tough, pretty much playing catch up.” Moore started. “Not having a lot of innings at school hurt. I’m trying to get back in my rhythm, back in my groove, where I was last summer.”
Hyannis (6-16) has struggled as a team out of the gate and sits seven games back of Falmouth. Cross, primarily used as a reliever for the Huskies before making two starts in the final two weekends of the season, has come out of the bullpen on seven occasions for the Harborhawks. He is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 10.2 innings of work, but has blown hitters away with his fastball as he has 16 strikeouts and just four walks.
“I’m hoping to be a starter at school [next spring],” began Cross. “When we showed up [on the Cape], every single kid is a starter. I was one of the only kids who had thrown out of the bullpen and started.”
All in all, it’s been a terrific experience for the players on the Cape. The weight of the opportunity is something that hasn’t passed by any of them.
“[The experience] is great,” stated Moore. “There are a lot of great people up here. Saying that you play for the Commodores or the Harborhawks goes a long way. Anywhere you go, you’re noticed and people say ‘hey that kid plays in the league’.”