For Immediate Release
South Carolina Slugger Wins Vaunted Cape League MVP Trophy
By Sean Walsh/Web Editor
August 15, 2006
COTUIT, MA — On the balmy June morning earlier this summer, when Cape Cod Baseball League Manager of the Year Mike Roberts challenged his charges to really show the world just what caliber of players they really are, little did this year’s Cotuit squad know that the stage was being set for an even better regular season than in 1999.
1999 was the last time the Cotuit Kettleers won the coveted Cape League championship title when the team went 26-18 during the regular season, then upset the Chatham A’s for the title in three games. Since then, the Cape League has renamed the championship title trophy after Cotuit general manager emeritus Arnold Mycock… Brewster and Bourne have built new ballparks… and the Kettleers have been steered by three different field managers.
This summer, the Kettleers went 27-16-1 and walked away with the regular-season Western Division crown, but fell short in the divisional playoffs when they were swept by Cotuit in two straight games. Still, it was the same mark Coach Roberts posted when he managed Wareham in 2000 (27-16-1) and it was one win better than the Kettleers’ last best season. In his three-year tenure with the Kettleers, the popular coach has won the hearts and minds of the village and he has amassed a 69-58-5 record. All totaled, Roberts is 96-74-6 as a Cape League field manager.
But this season fell one two-game series shy of the team’s hopes, dreams and goal.
“The season didn’t end as we expected it to,” Roberts said. “But I am proud of the boys this season. They played hard.”
Finishing as the top team in batting (.256) and pitching (27-16-1, 2.36 ERA), just about every Cape League fan this side of the Rockies expected Cotuit to waltz through the postseason. But as any diehard Cape League fan knows, it’s anything goes in the one-week postseason on this peninsula.
When the Kettleers hit the all-star break, they remained firmly atop the Western Division standings and with thanks to a general consensus of the CCBL field managers, sent eight of its own to the 2006 CCBL East-West All-Star Game. South Carolina’s Justin Smoak was named the starting first baseman, followed by Loyola Marymount’s Eric Farris at second base, Reese Havens (South Carolina) at shortstop, Jeff Rea (Mississippi State) in the outfield, Sean Gaston (Notre Dame) behind the plate and James Simmons (UC-Riverside), Jay Brown (Young Harris) and Corey Gearrin (Young Harris) on the pitcher’s mound.
Smoak was more than just your run-of-the-mill CCBL all-star, though. The South Carolina slugger belted 11 home runs to lead the league, and ended with 27 RBI (3 rd ), the top slugging percentage (.565) and the league lead in extra-base hits (21). He also finished fifth in the league in runs (25) and for his efforts was named the Cape Cod Baseball League Pat Sorenti Most Valuable Player. He was also named as the top first baseman on the postseason CCBL All-League Team.
Joining Smoak as an All-League selection was Farris at second base, Ohio State’s Matt Angle in the outfield and UC-Riverside’s James Simmons on the hill. Farris ended up being tied for the league lead in stolen bases (17), while Angle ranked third in on-base percentage (.405) and Simmons ended up being ranked the CCBL’s third-best pitcher with a 4-2 record, 1.18 earned run average and an ungodly 44-5 strikeout to walks ratio in 53 innings pitched.
The honors just seemed to keep pouring in for Cotuit this summer as Cape League Commissioner Paul Galop awarded the franchise the Commissioner’s Cup for earning Top Team of the Year dibs and the Western Division Regular Season Championship crown.
With his efforts, Roberts matched the best season he’s ever had as a Cape League manager, tying the 27-16-1 mark he held at the helm of the Wareham Gatemen in 2000. Coincidentally, Roberts’ 2000 Gatemen also were swept in the Western Divisional playoffs, in much the same fashion as the Kettleers were this season.
Still, it was a summer not soon forgotten as Cotuit maintained its poise from day one in June until the planes departed in mid-August.
Some interesting facts from the season… Cotuit was 8-5 in shutouts… two of the games the Kettleers were on the losing end of a shutout came in the divisional playoff series versus Wareham… Cotuit led the league in runs scored with 206… the CCBL Champions Y-D Red Sox finished with 201 regular season runs… Cotuit plated no runs in the playoffs… Eric Farris finished as the Kettleers’ top hitter with a .298 average… good enough for 7 th best in the league … but only six batters finished this summer’s Cape League season batting .300 or better… a statistic that rarely changes…. Justin Smoak finished with a .286 batting average… good enough for 10 th best in the league this summer… Princeton righthanded ace Christian Staehely sort of got overlooked in the outpouring of postseason accolades… he finished tied for second in the CCBL in wins (5) and finished with a brilliant 5-1 record, 2.08 earned run average… and 44 Ks … he walked just 15 batters all summer… and went 51.2 innings… his numbers stood up against the very best hurlers in the Cape League this summer.