Summer baseball league performances fare well for Trojans

Junior catcher/utility player Blake Sabol led the Chantham Anglers in batting average this past summer (.340). (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

The USC baseball team is back on campus, and that means the return of the 14 incumbent players who participated summer ball. Here’s a recap of how they fared the last few months.

Four Trojans earned All-Star or All-League honors in 2018. The standout was junior catcher/utility player Blake Sabol, a member of the East Division team for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game. Sabol led the Chatham Anglers with a .340 batting average, good for fourth in the league. He also paced his team with seven home runs, which ranked second in the league and earned him a spot in its home run derby.

“Sabol has this summer played everywhere on the diamond but pitcher, second base and shortstop,” wrote Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill in naming Sabol one of Cape Cod’s five rising star hitters in July. “Wherever Sabol plays this summer, he has produced at the plate.”

Fellow junior Brady Shockey also impressed as a member of the Palm Springs Power of the Southern California Collegiate League. The outfielder led his team with a .384 batting average, to go with a .419 on base percentage and .535 slugging percentage. Shockey earned a spot on the 2018 All-SCCBL first team as one of three outfielders selected.

Junior infielder John Thomas was selected to the California Collegiate League Prospect Game, as he placed fifth in the league in batting average at .341. He also posted a .439 on base percentage and a .514 slugging percentage.

Junior Chris Clarke was the only USC pitcher to be honored in such a way; he was chosen as the starter for the South Division in the Ripken League All-Star Game. His 2.73 earned run average was a big part of his team-best 4-0 record, along with his 27 strikeouts in 31.1 innings.

Although these were the only four honored by their leagues, they were not the only successful Trojans this summer. Sabol was joined in Chatham by two sophomores in pitcher Kyle Hurt and shortstop Ben Ramirez. Hurt posted a 3.38 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 26.2 innings, as well as notching a save for the Anglers in the playoffs. While Ramirez struggled at the plate for the most part, he tallied 14 RBI on 22 hits and six stolen bases.

Junior closer Connor Lunn, also in the Cape Cod League, was impressive, with a 3-1 record, 2.28 ERA, and a miniscule .174 opponent’s batting average. Junior outfielder Matthew Acosta led the Green Bay Bullfrogs of the Northwoods League with a .588 slugging percentage and .980 OPS. He also held the second-highest batting average on the team at .338.

Sophomore pitcher John Beller touted a team-best 0.48 ERA and a .127 opposing batting average. His 0.80 WHIP was good for second on his team, the Portland Pickles of the West Coast League. Beller was joined in Portland by redshirt sophomore catcher Daniel Edson (14 runs in 30 appearances) and sophomore pitcher Augie Sylk (44 strikeouts in 30.1 innings).

Freshman utility player Bart West flashed a good eye in the California Collegiate League, leading the Conejo Oaks with 16 walks. He also posted a .273/.380/.352 line in 88 at bats for Conejo and placed second in the league in sacrifice flies with three.

Sophomore pitcher Riley Lamb played for the New England Collegiate League champion Valley Blue Sox. He held hitters to a batting average of .217 and finished the season with a K/9 average of 9.17. He pitched one inning of relief in the team’s championship-clinching game against the Ocean State Waves.

After a 26-28 season in 2018, the Trojans will feel the pressure to improve. Those who had successful summer ball stints will look to build on their progress; those who disappointed will have to address their weaknesses, heading into the 2019 season.