New Hampshire Hardball

NECBL may see spike in talent

THE NCAA’S DECISION to grant an extra year of eligibility to its spring athletes affected by COVID-19 could result in the Winnipesaukee Muskrats and the Keene Swamp Bats, New Hampshire’s two entries in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, having better talent on their rosters this summer than in a typical season.

Players who opt to return to school and use that extra season of eligibility will also be eligible to play in the NECBL this summer (all NECBL players must have at least one year of NCAA eligibility remaining). According to Keene general manager Kevin Watterson, the fact that the NCAA baseball season was canceled earlier this month has left many coaches scrambling to find summer teams for their players.

“We’re being inundated with calls from coaches around the country who normally would shut down many of their kids based on games played,” Watterson explained. “If a pitcher has pitched 60 innings (in college), that coach doesn’t feel like he needs to send his player out any more. Now these coaches want their kids to play.

“I think the level of talent will be higher in the entire league — and in (the Cape Cod Baseball League).”

Pitchers Chris McElvain (Vanderbilt), Luke Murphy (Vanderbilt), Billy Price (Virginia) and Evan Webster (Louisville) are among those expected to play for the Swamp Bats this year. The Muskrats’ current roster includes four New Hampshire residents: pitcher Devin Gates (Nashua/UMass-Lowell), pitcher Derek Goldrick (Weare/Quinnipiac), catcher Teddy Beaudet (Franklin/Northeastern) and infielder Kyle Maurice (Exeter/UMass-Lowell).

No tournament games in college baseball also means many of the top college players in the country will be able to report to their summer teams sooner than usual. Watterson said each NECBL team will have a training period, a shorter version of MLB’s spring training, to make sure the players are physically ready for the 44-game regular-season schedule.

“In the past, those kids we had coming from Louisville, LSU and Vandy wouldn’t get here until July 1,” Watterson said. “With no regionals, super regionals or Omaha (site of the College World Series) this year there is none of that. They will be here on time, so we’re gonna have our strongest team on Day 1. In the past, we’ve had kids coming in June 10, June 20, July 1.”

The Muskrats and Swamp Bats are both scheduled to open their season on June 3, and Watterson said he’s hopeful the NECBL won’t have to delay the start of its season.

“We have a conference call weekly just to update where we’re at,” he said. “I tell people the calendar is our friend today. The NECBL doesn’t start for a little less than three months. We don’t have to make that decision today. We’re hopeful that’s what’s going on with (the coronavirus) that some positives take place and that we’re able to play a season. If things don’t go in the right direction society-wise and we ought not to be playing, then we won’t play. At least we have the calendar on our side to see what happens in the next five or six weeks.”


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