The Boys of Summer

Courtesy of Dave Roback

Oh, the sweet sounds of summer: waves crashing at the beach, hamburgers sizzling on the barbecue and most importantly, the distinct smack of a ball colliding with a wooden bat. For most college baseball players, summer means a host family, up to three or four games a week and double headers on the weekend. This year, fifteen ’Eaters have left the familiar Irvine streets for the chance to get more time at the plate, on the mound and in the field.

Andrew Thurman, who finished his sophomore season at UCI with a 2.66 ERA, has relocated to South Yarmouth, Massachusetts for the warmer months and his summer vacation. Playing in the Cape Cod League, Thurman made his debut with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox against the Wareham Gatemen on June 23 when he gave up just one run in five complete innings for a 12-1 victory.

The Gatemen jumped out early after just four pitches into the first frame when Thurman gave one up over the right field fence. It would be the only run of the night for Wareham before Thurman came back with a groundout and a strikeout to end the top of the first. Thurman allowed only two more base runners all night and totaled six strikeouts in five dominant innings. As his sole performance for the Red Sox thus far, Thurman will have made his second appearance on July 6 against the Cotuit Kettleers.

Also in the Cape Cod League is soon-to-be junior Jimmy Litchfield, who finished the 2012 campaign with a 3.60 ERA and a 3-2 record for the ’Eaters. With three appearances for the Chatham Anglers, or more commonly known as the Chatham A’s, Litchfield has totaled 10 innings pitched for two losses and two starts.

Thurman and Litchfield’s clubs have faced each other three times this season, and Thurman’s Red Sox have a one-win advantage over the Anglers after a 9-2 finish on June 15 and a 12-2 win on July 1. The Anglers defeated the Red Sox with an identical 9-2 win on June 22 and will have their shot at redemption with three more matchups before the season comes to a close.

Two more ’Eaters also traded their west coast zip code for an eastern one after classes ended mid-June.

Playing in the Northwoods League, infielder Dillon Moyer boasts a .242 average with 66 at-bats in 17 games for the Battlecreek Bombers located in Battle Creek, Michigan. Moyer has hit two over the fence and has driven in 10 of the Bombers’ 184 runs. On Saturday, June 30, Moyer walked away the hero after he belted the game-winning run over the fence in the top of the eighth to lift the Bombers over the Green Bay Bullfrogs for a 4-3 win.

Irvine teammate Connor Spencer, now playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, finished his first season with the ’Eaters with the fourth-highest average at .306, just behind seniors D.J. Crumlich, Christian Ramirez and Jordan Fox. Spencer is currently spending his summer in Holyoke, Massachusetts with the Holyoke Blue Sox who were 8-12 on the season at press time. Not only is Spencer delivering while wielding a bat, but on Thursday, July 5, against the Great Britain National 23U team, Spencer delivered with a mic in hand as he sang the National Anthem before the first pitch was thrown.

While four ’Eaters are experiencing the East Coast humidity, nine are a little bit closer to home as they spend their summer months in the West Coast League. Ryan Cooper and Kris Paulino play for the Walla Walla Sweets in Walla Walla, Washington while Jerry McClanahan and Jonathan Munoz play for the Kelowna Falcons in Kelowna, British Colombia. Andy Lines and Mitch Merten play for the Klamath Falls Gems in Klamath Falls, Oregon while Taylor Sparks, Jeff Stephens and Kyle Davis play for the Wenatchee Apple Sox in Wenatchee, Washington. Chris Rabago is playing for the Corvallis Knights in Corvallis, Oregon and Justin Castro is spending his summer with the Nashua Silver Knights in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Summer baseball is known for faithful fans, crowded ballparks, warm night games and local heroes. While the players look for more experience, they give their town something to root for with every crack of their wooden bats.