23 June 2006

Local flavor to Brewcaps' brew

It's a mini-high school and college reunion when the Brewster Whitecaps take the field, with three local players, former foes and friends, on board as temporary players this year.

For most of the last two decades, no Lower Cape natives played in the Cape League, but last year Cody Crowell of Harwich pitched for the Mariners. This year, he has returned as a temporary Brewcap, along with former Harwich battery-mate Adam LaPlante and Nauset high grad Jake Yagjian.

"I had a pretty good season (at Vanderbilt)," Crowell said Wednesday after Brewster's 7-5 loss in Bourne. "I was the Saturday/Sunday starter and we ended up losing to Georgia Tech in the regionals. I was 6-3 and pitched 96 innings."

Crowell holds the record for wins at Harwich High and struck out 19 Nauset Warriors in one seven-inning high school game. He was a reliever with the Mariners last year, starting well and then tailing off to a 1-6 record in 18 games.

In this young season, he has been the Whitecaps' ace. With 17 strikeouts in 11 innings, he has nearly half the team total. He got a start on Tuesday and tossed seven frames of six-hit ball as Brewster beat Falmouth 4-2.

"I had command of all my pitches the whole day," he said. "That really helped me. The fastball was there, my second and third pitches (curve and changeup) and I'm working on a slider, too."

Crowell whiffed 11 against Falmouth. He relieved in the Caps' season opening 2-0 loss to Orleans and threw four innings of two-hit shutout baseball while whiffing six.

He had planned to take the summer off.

"I'm living at home and the field is five miles away," Crowell said. "I wasn't going to throw that much since I threw 96 innings in college, but the opportunity came along and I took it."

Crowell welcomed the chance to start instead of close.

"It is nice; it's real nice," he said "I like closing, too, but starting is what I'm doing here and at school. You know when you're pitching, and you have four or five games to get ready."

And pitching to his old high school catcher, LaPlante, is a pleasure as well.

"It's nice to be in the game and being able to throw to him. We went to high school together, and he knows what my strengths are," Crowell said.

Yagjian was a rival.

"We played against each other, but we were also friendly with each other, and being friends, I always supported him, and it's easier now that he's on the same team," Crowell said.

As a temporary pitcher, Crowell might have a better chance of staying the summer. The Whitecaps have already lost one pitcher, Erick Davis of Stanford, to an eye injury.

"I'm just taking it game by game," Crowell said. "I've set the goal of coming out and winning every game I throw, but I have no long-term goals, I'm just taking it day by day. I can't complain about days like this; playing in the Cape League, you can't so much better."

Crowell just got back, so he missed most of Harwich High's tourney run to the state championship this year, but he's happy for his old teammates.

"It's good for them," the college junior said. "It's a good group of kids. The year before they did well."

LaPlante, who also graduated from Harwich in 2003, agreed.

"It's pretty cool. Good for them," he said. "When you're young, it's like a dream. It's what you want to do. Ryan Soares will be good at the next level, too. Coach (Fred) Thacher always manages to get the best out of his players somehow."

Wheaton's duo

Old rivals Adam LaPlante and Jake Yagjian were reunited at Wheaton College. LaPlante is a junior and Yagjian a sophomore. The Lyons won a school record 42 games and the NCAA New England Division III title. They lost in the final round of the national tournament, 7-2 to Marietta.

Yagjian led the team with a .368 average and 71 hits while playing second base. He has had five Cape League at-bats and has drawn three walks.

"It's great," he said. "The level of play is awesome. The kids are great. It's fun getting thrown together. We really didn't have too many practices here, and we're not familiar with everyone's style of play."

"Baseball is a game of adjustments," LaPlante chimed in. "It's just how quickly you can make the adjustments when you're playing at another level. You're hitting with wood, and that's an adjustment and a lot of the guys are throwing 90 every day. But the more you play, the more you feel at home. You have to trust your ability and make sure you don't get too far over your head."

At Wheaton, LaPlante hit .319 with nine home runs and 38 RBI in 52 games. He hasn't had a hit yet in the Cape League, but he also has to adjust to catching all new pitchers, except for Crowell.

They're roommates at Wheaton, where LaPlante will be a senior and Yagjian a junior. They were also teammates on the Lower Cape Senior Babe Ruth team, and Yagjian noted his Nauset pals have come out to see the games.

"They're very supportive," he said.

Yagjian is an economics major who will go into business, but he'd love a shot at playing baseball.

"I want to do well here and represent Division III a little bit. There aren't many D-3 guys in the Cape League," he said.

They're still basking in the glow of playing for the national championship.

"The whole team jelled and came together," LaPlante said. "We were 7-6 at one point. It was just finding the groove. It hasn't sunk in. It still hasn't hit us. We were one game away from the national championship. All the guys on the team, I love them like brothers. I'll never forget any of them." 

By Rich Eldred/ reldred@cnc.com