It was a gorgeous day for baseball Thursday at the Pete. The newcomers took on the veterans in a five innings affair. I am going to give you guys a quick run down of some of the goings on of the day.
Righty Peyton Lee 6-0 195 PRCC transfer took the hill first for the rookie squad. Lee has fastball in the 88-90 range and has breaking ball with some nice movement. Lee recorded two strikeouts in two innings, but also allowed several big hits, which lead to four runs in two innings for the veterans. Lee has some good stuff, but is going to have to keep the ball down at this level.
Left fielder Hunter Slater greeted pitcher Peyton Lee rudely with a two run blast over the right field wall to get things going early for the black squad. Later in the day the hot hitting Slater added an rbi double that bounced off the left center field wall.
Juco transfer catcher Jake Viaene 6-5 218 got the start at first base for the rookies. He was fine in the field, and shined at the plate, with an opposite field rbi single early in the contest. The hard hitting lefty added a two rbi single to center late in the game for three rbi''s on the day.
Matt Wallner 6-5 220 Fr. got some work in center field for the rookie squad. Wallner was 1 for 4 on the day with a sharp single to right field. Wallner adds some nice pop from the left side of the plate.
Mason Irby 6-0 195 transfer from Jones was working in right field during the scrimmage. Irby actually got play with the vet squad and led off the contest with a triple to left field. Mason can really handle the bat and has above average speed on the base path.
Returning starter Daniel Keating was roaming center field for the vet squad Thursday. With his athleticism and speed, he looks like a natural fit in center. He was also hot at the plate with a two run smash that hit the eagle head on top of the scoreboard, and later he provided a two rbi double off of the left field wall.
Trey Davidson 6-2 230 juco transfer lefty pitcher from wabash CC Got some productive work in on the mound for the vet squad. His out pitch is a nasty curve that does not look like much on the way to the plate, but has some serious late break that had batters beating the ball into the ground or simply whiffing to the tune of five strikeouts over two innings of work. Davidson is a guy that could provide nice left on lefty middle relief.
Juco transfer catcher Cole Donaldson had a nice day for the rookie squad and appears to be the heir apparent to Chuckie Robinson. Cole is very active behind the plate and brings an above average arm. Donaldson gunned down two would be base runners during the contest and showed he could handle the bat, with a triple he ripped into the gap. Later Donaldson showed he could handle the bat in a bunt situation laying down a clutch sacrifice that moved runners up to second and third.
The second pitcher of the contest for the vets was Hunter Stevens. Stevens shows off a 92 mph fastball, but was high out of the zone most of the day. Until he is more consistent down in the zone with his fastball outings will be tough for him. I am hoping that he settles in and has better performances down the stretch. He is an experienced arm that needs to give this staff some quality starts this season.
Every Fall their seems to be a rookie that comes in with little to no fan fare and just impresses the heck out everyone, from the staff and players to the casual observer. Last season that player was Storme Cooper. This season it is Gabe Montenegro. This little guy is a scrappy, dirt bag that just makes play after play. At only 5-7 and 160 pounds the sweet swinging lefty has proved to be a very difficult out for the Southern Miss pitching staff. Yesterday Gabe started off the day with a two strike rbi single and the promptly stole second base two pitches later. Later in the contest the little lefty laid down a beautiful drag bunt for a hit that scored a run. Late in the game he found himself up against stud reliever Nick Sandlin. One would think that the diminutive rookie would be at a big disadvantage. Not. Montenegro takes Sandlin opposite field for an rbi double. Clutch, clutch hitting. The youngster can really handle the bat. I am not sure how much Montenegro will play this season, with all the depth USM has in the outfield, but it is just a matter of time before the little scrapper becomes a big time fan fave at the Pete.
Another Rookie that really shined Thursday was freshman pitcher Alex Nelms 6-3 200 righty out of Gulfport high. Helms showed a nice cut fastball and a nasty breaking ball. His location was deadly accurate and he used his breaking ball to record three strikeouts in two innings of work against the veterans. The command he had was very impressive for a youngster. He could be a big help this season in week day starts.
Another newcomer that had a nice day was juco transfer infielder Casey Maack. Maack played short Thursday, but can also play second base. At 6-3 190 and above average speed, Maack brings some nice size and athleticism to the middle infield. Maack provided a sharp single to center field late in the contest.
Stevie Powers also pitched late in the contest for the veteran squad. Powers has been nails in earlier scrimmages, but was a little erratic Thursday. I am not concerned about Powers. He will be a legit lefty starter this season for the Eagles.
In other observations, second baseman Storme Cooper has filled out a bit adding around 15 pounds to his frame. If Leemarcus Boyd turns out to be what I think he is, he will have shortstop pretty locked up. In that scenario, you might find a talented Casey Maack pushing Storme Cooper very hard for the second base job. Boyd is currently on the shelf with a hamstring injury.