Friday, June 20, 2008

Team USA 8 Newport 3

Had a chance to take in the game between the USA National Team and the Newport Gulls of the NECBL Thursday night, and came away very impressed.

Cardines Field in Newport, R.I., is a treat. The two dugouts are situated side-by-side along the first-base line and the two teams share a bullpen along the left-field line, while there is a 20-foot high fence all the way around and a restaurant in the right-field perch.

With 2,763 fans in attendance, the atmosphere was electric -- even better than the Cape League -- as the Gulls ran numerous promotions to keep the youngsters entertained. There were also a number of scouts seated behind home plate. I counted at least eight radar guns and San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta and Kansas City, among others, were on hand to watch Team USA win 8-3.

Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor did not pitch, but I had a chance to catch up with him after the game (you can read the interview here). Fellow Commodores Joey Manning and Chase Reid are off to good starts this summer, but both struggled last night.

Manning struck out twice against Missouri's Kyle Gibson, a hard-throwing right-hander from Missouri. Reid gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits with two walks and one strikeout in two innings of work.

Scouts are definitely intrigued by Gibson, who is 6'6'' and very projectable. He looked overpowering at times, striking out six in four innings of work. However, when Newport was able to sit on his fastball, Gibson paid. Gibson surrendered a leadoff homer and gave up back-to-back hard-hit doubles in the fourth. Still, Gibson has a devastating slider that, when thrown for strikes, makes him very difficult to hit. It will be interesting to see how Gibson fares the rest of the summer.

The most impressive performance of the night came from Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis, who I think is going to be a very special player. Davis is off to a torrid start this summer and Thursday night was no different. In the third, the freshman blasted his fourth homer to deep right field, turning on a fastball to clear the 20-foot high fence with ease. In the sixth, Davis added a long double off the wall in the right-centerfield gap after fouling off two tough two-strike pitches.

Davis led the Vols in batting average (.330), home runs (13) and RBI (44) as a freshman and has only elevated his play with Team USA. He stands at just 5’9’’, but weighs 198 pounds and is extremely strong with quick hands and a sweet left-handed stroke. Expect Davis to be a first-round pick in 2010. Until then, good luck to the college pitchers try to get him out.

Click here for my full Team USA breakdown on The College Baseball Blog.

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