Summer a time to shine for former ECC baseball players
Fond memories of competing in summer collegiate baseball leagues will last long after their tans fade away.
There's a lot to savor for several former Eastern Connecticut Conference standouts that recently wrapped up productive summers. Some Mitchell College players also made an impact.
At the top of the list is Montville High School graduate TT Bowens, who had a monster season with the New England Collegiate Baseball League's Mystic Schooners. He was rewarded with two major honors, the league's Top Pro Prospect and Most Valuable Player honors.
"It definitely means a lot seeing my hard work finally get rewarded and get recognized," Bowens said on Wednesday of winning the two awards.
Kevin Ferrer, a Stonington graduate, put together a breakout performance with the Adirondack Trail Blazers, earning him Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League first team honors. And East Lyme's Matt Malcom enjoyed a stellar season in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League playing for the Pittsfield Suns.
And that's just the start of the list of accomplishments from players with local roots.
Here's a rundown:
The day after being named the NECBL's top pro prospect, Bowens became the second Schooner in three years to be selected as the league's MVP on Wednesday. Tommy Jew won the award in 2017.
It's been a challenging road for Bowens to reach this point. He's finally healthy after spending a long stretch of his Central Connecticut State University career recovering from injuries.
The time on the sidelines ended up helping Bowens in the long run.
"It was a long journey with no cameras on me and no one watching me and me just doing my rehab day in and day out," Bowens said. "That was definitely the toughest part. Now that it's all starting to come together it's a really satisfying feeling.
"I definitely matured a lot while I was recovering (from injuries). I was able to study the game from a whole different perspective. It was a year and a half that I missed. ... I was able to get my body a lot stronger and get in better shape."
Bowens inflicted some major damage in his first full season with the Schooners, leading the NECBL in home runs with 16 and setting the record for most RBI in a season with 53 while playing in 39 games. He also batted .331 and ranked among the league leaders in extra base hits (tied for first, 25), slugging percentage (first), total bases (second, 109) and runs scored (fourth, 41).
Pro scouts regularly flocked to watch Bowens play.
Bowens vows to work even harder when he returns to CCSU for what's expected to be his final college baseball season and then hopes to hear his name called next June on Major League Baseball draft day, something that didn't happen this past spring.
"To be quite honest, I think I'm in a better situation than if I did get picked in this past draft," Bowens said. "When I was going into the draft this past June, only three teams were interested in me. And I know it's at least 10-13 different teams and I still have another whole season ahead of me to attract more scouts."
Buddy Dewaine, a Montville graduate and CCSU teammate of Bowens, made his mark with his glove and steady bat. A third baseman for the Bristol Blues, he was named the Futures Collegiate Baseball League's defensive player of the year. He made eight errors in 282.2 innings and led the league in assists and putouts.
Dewaine helped the Blues reach the league finals and batted .285 overall with 21 RBI in 35 games.
Malcom carried over the momentum of a strong freshman season at Eastern Connecticut State University right into summer ball. He batted a team-best .336, ranking him sixth in the league, and had 11 doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI. A catcher, he also stole 11 bases.
In the Western Canadian Baseball League, Mitchell College teammates Dougie DelaCruz (Montville) and Jeremy Santos (New London) contributed to the success of the Moose Jaw Miller Express. DelaCruz, the New England Collegiate Conference player of the year as a freshman last spring, was third in the team in batting at .339 and also chipped in six doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI in 39 games. Santos, who joined the team later in the season, went for 3-for-10 at the plate and drove in a run in seven games.
Ferrer (UConn), Waterford's Walker Sutman (Fairfield) and Mitchell College pitcher Ryan Solimine spent their summers competing in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which features teams from upstate New York.
Ferrer and Solimine both received PGCBL first team honors as teammates on the Adirondack Trail Blazers, who advanced to the championship series before losing to Amsterdam.
An outfielder, Ferrer finished second in the league with a .385 batting average and also had a team-high 20 doubles, one home run, 24 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 41 games. He had a hit in all but seven games and posted a 17-game hitting streak.
Solimine, the only pitcher on the first team from a Division III program, put up some impressive numbers coming off a NECC Rookie of the Year season for the Mariners.
During the regular season, Solimine ranked first in the league in complete games, tied for third in wins and fourth in earned run average (2.83). In seven starts, he went 47.2 innings, allowing 48 hits while striking out 30 and walking only five. He won a postseason game, allowing one run in eight innings, to finish with a 6-1 overall mark.
Sutman was an effective left-handed reliever for the Oneonta Outlaws. In 12 appearances, he was 1-0 with a 2.40 earned run average. He allowed 10 hits in 15 innings while striking out 23 and walking 15.
Now the former ECC athletes will try to benefit from the confidence gained from productive and memorable summer baseball seasons once they rejoin their college programs.
"Hopefully, we can start putting Connecticut more on the map," Bowens said.
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