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Orleans Cardinals 2008 Season Preview

06/09/2008 9:45 AM

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Orleans Cardinals 2008 Season Preview

With Pitching Set, Orleans Cardinals
Look to Figueroa to Strengthen Offense, But San Diego Padres Have Other Ideas

ORLEANS, Mass. – The Orleans Cardinals owned the top pitching staff in the Cape Cod Baseball League last season, but wound up tied for third (23-20-1) in the East Division and out of the playoffs. 

     Their league-best 2.79 staff ERA was stellar, but their .221 team batting average proved to be their Achilles' heel. 

     Hoping to correct that problem, the Cardinals are counting on infielder Cole Figueroa (Florida), who started at second base for the East Division in last year's All-Star Game. As a freshman, Figueroa was a .281 hitter last summer for Orleans, but he blossomed this spring and was Florida’s second leading hitter (.350) team leader in home runs (9) and RBI (57).

     Complicating things a bit, however, is the fact that Figueroa was selected by San Diego in the sixth round of last week’s baseball amateur entry draft. Should the Padres convince him to sign, it would leave a huge hole in the Cardinals’ offense. 

     The 2007 first-team Freshman All-America selection and member of the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team started all 58 games for 34-24 Florida this season and led the Gators in total bases (119), RBI (57), multiple-hit games (24), multiple-RBI games (15), home runs (9) and sacrifice flies (7). He was second on the squad with a .350 batting average and was the runner-up in hits (78), runs (61), doubles (12) and slugging percentage (.534). He was also 20-for-24 in stolen-base attempts.

     Figueroa was chosen as the SEC Player of the Week for the first time in his career on May 19 after going 8-for-17 (.471) and driving in seven runs to help the Gators to a perfect 4-0 week, highlighted by a three-game sweep of No. 13 Vanderbilt that secured the third seed for the SEC Tournament. 

     Field manager Kelly Nicholson is back for his fourth season as head man at Orleans. The 2005 CCBL Manager of the Year joined the team in 2001 as its pitching coach and since then, the Cardinals have led the league in ERA three times and finished second twice.

     The Cardinals have six more players returning from last year's roster. including two of their top pitchers. Southpaw Rob Catapano (North Carolina) and Kyle Kamppi (Georgia Southern) were crucial out of the bullpen in 2007, sporting ERAs of 0.92 and 1.50, respectively. 

     At UNC this year, Catapano has a 4-0 record with a 3.19 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 36.2 innings, while Kamppi was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA at Georgia Southern. 

     Nate Freiman (Duke), Brad Gemberling (Princeton), Travis Tartamella (Pepperdine) and Hampton Tignor (Florida) will also return from Harwich’s 2007 roster. 

     Freiman was one of last season's few offensive bright spots, compiling a .286 average in 42 games. Through May 17, he was Duke’s triple crown leader, topping the Blue Devils in average (.381), home runs (11) and RBI (46). 

     Gemberling appeared in just three games last season, but will be much busier this year. He had a standout spring with the Tigers, posting a 3.50 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 45 innings. 

     This year, the Cardinals’ roster will feature many tandems from NCAA teams. Loyola Marymount will be the represented by three players in Angelo Songco, Kyle Spraker, and Martin Viramontes. And the Cardinals also will feature several tandems from NCAA teams, including Nevada’s Matt Bowman and Shaun Kort, Cal State- Fullerton’s Gary Brown and Christian Colon, Georgia’s Justin Earls and Rich Poythress, and Kent State’s Brad Stillings and Kyle Smith, plus Duke teammates Freiman and Alex Hassan, both of whom are Massachusetts natives. Freiman hails from Wellesley, while Hassen is a native of Milton. 

     Over the last two decades, Orleans has sent several notable players to the big leagues, including former Red Sox great and current Los Angeles Dodger Nomar Garciaparra (1993), Todd Helton (1994) of the 2007 National League champion Colorado Rockies, 500 home-run club member Frank Thomas (1988) of the Oakland A’s, three-time National League All-Star pitcher Ben Sheets (1999) of the Milwaukee Brewers, six-time Gold Glove winner J.T. Snow (1988), now a radio announcer for the San Francisco Giants, and Mark Teixieira (1999) of the Atlanta Braves.

 Phil Garceau, CCBL Intern ([email protected])

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