COLCHESTER, Vt. - With their college seasons complete, 14 Saint Michael's College baseball student-athletes are heading off to play summer ball in leagues stretching from New England to Florida and Iowa. Head coach Jason Szafarski returns for his second season as skipper of the Upper Valley Nighthawks of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), while assistant coach Ryan Feeney will serve as head coach of the North Myrtle Beach Marauders of the Carolina Shores Collegiate Baseball League (CSCBL).
Rising senior Trevor Allen (Dennis, Mass./Dennis-Yarmouth Regional) and rising sophomores Nick Albano (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug), Anthony Azpeitia (Tampa, Fla./King), Joe Brady (Hanover, Mass./Bridgton Academy), Cameron Cuellar (Seminole, Fla./Seminole), Shane Epps (Queens, N.Y./Saint Francis Prep), Dan Favicchio (Massapequa, N.Y./Saint John the Baptist Diocesan), Julien Giroux-Harvey (Montreal, Québec/Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf), Holden Jackman (Eliot, Maine/Marshwood), Cameron Kroeger (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside), Iset Maldonado (Brooklyn, N.Y./Saint Francis Prep), Alex Mendez (Fallon, Nev./Churchill County), Danté Moran (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Dixie Hollins) and Zach Rodgers (Parrish, Fla./Manatee) will all suit up for summer teams.
Epps, Favicchio, Giroux-Harvey, Maldonado and Rodgers are playing in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL), with Epps, Favicchio and Maldonado assigned to the Cortland Crush, and Giroux-Harvey and Rodgers slated to play for the Genesee Rapids. The NYCBL is a summer wooden bat league established in 1978, and each squad in the league, whose budget is partially funded by Major League Baseball, plays 42 regular-season contests. Visit nycbl.com for more.
Rodgers logged a team-high 53.1 innings on the mound this spring, making 10 appearances, including nine starts. His staff-best 44 strikeouts tied Austin Ziskie's '09 program mark for a first-year. Favicchio yielded a .242 opposing batting average over nine innings in five games, with two starts, and Epps allowed opponents to hit .286 while working 9.1 frames over eight games of relief. Maldonado started all 41 games at shortstop, slugging eight doubles with 18 runs, 12 RBIs and 15 walks. His 111 assists were the second-most in program history. Giroux-Harvey made 22 appearances, mostly behind the plate, while drawing 12 walks and hitting one home run.
Azpeitia, Kroeger and Moran will all play in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League (SFCBL). Kroeger and Moran are members of the Boynton Beach Buccaneers, while Azpeitia is playing for the Boca Raton Blazers. The SFCBL is a premier wooden bat summer league that was established in 2011, with each team playing 40 regular-season contests. Visit southfloridacollegiateleague.com for more information. The Purple Knights' starting third baseman this year, when he landed on the Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie Team, Moran hit .278 with eight doubles while at one point putting together a 20-game hitting streak. Azpeitia was the team's regular second baseman, as he fielded at a .982 clip while adding 14 runs and 10 walks. An outfielder, Kroeger knocked eight doubles while placing third on the team with 16 RBIs.
Allen is playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cranberry Baseball League (CBL), while Brady has joined the Marshfield Green Harbor Hawks. The CBL, which was founded in 1960, is a wooden bat league with teams located along the eastern shore of Massachusetts. Each team plays 28 regular-season contests; visit cranberryleague.com for more. Allen batted .293 with nine doubles, three triples, three home runs, 17 runs, 24 RBIs and 16 walks as a first baseman and designated hitter while also notching three saves and a 1.50 earned run average, fanning nine in six innings while yielding a .150 opposing batting average. Brady drove in three runs and scored three more while playing flawless defense at first base.
Albano and Jackman are both members of the Myrtle Beach HammerHeads of the CSCBL, which began operations in 2015. Each team is located in South Carolina and plays 15 regular-season games. More information can be found at carolinashoresbaseball.com. Jackman walked 10 times while driving in six runs as the team's primary catcher, while Albano, a pitcher, missed the season due to injury. Feeney, who will coach in the league, just finished his first year at Saint Michael's.
Cuellar is heading to Iowa to join the Bancroft Bandits of the Pioneer Collegiate Baseball League (PCBL), a wooden bat league in its second year of existence. Teams are scattered about Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, and play more than 30 regular-season games. Learn more at pioneerbaseballleague.com. Cuellar turned in a 3.46 ERA with one save in 10 relief outings, fanning 10 and walking only three in 13 innings.
Mendez will suit up for the Brockton (Mass.) Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), a wooden bat league whose teams play 56 games and are located in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Visit thefuturesleague.com for more. Mendez made eight of his 10 appearances as a starter this year, allowing a .253 batting average over 45 innings while surrendering only 10 extra-base hits, none of which were home runs.
Now two years into his Saint Michael's tenure, Szafarski enters his second summer guiding the NECBL's Upper Valley Nighthawks, based in Hartford, Vt. He led his charges to a 29-15 mark and the Northern Division title last year before suffering a divisional championship series loss to eventual NECBL champion Valley Blue Sox. Szafarski's players hail primarily from Division I institutions but also represent a few Division II and III colleges. The NECBL began play in 1994 and has become a nationally-recognized top-tier league, with teams in all six New England states. Learn more at necbl.com. Szafarski is head coach of a summer squad for the fifth straight year.
This season's Purple Knights bettered school standards for saves (6) and pitching strikeouts (231) while yielding a .286 opposing batting average, their lowest in 12 years. They also cut more than two runs from last year's ERA and matched their highest fielding percentage (.947) in five seasons. At the plate, their 125 bases on balls were their most in six seasons, they tied for third all-time with 54 doubles, and the 54 bases the Purple Knights stole were four short of a 1994 record.