SOUTH KINGSTOWN - The league’s top offense powered the Ocean State Waves to a runner-up finish in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer.
Similar production hasn’t given the Waves the start they wanted this season, but the production is nice all the same, and they’re confident it will eventually lead to good things.
Ten games into the season, the Waves are sitting at 4-6 but they’ve scored the most runs in the league. They added to their total Monday with a 10-4 win over Danbury on Monday at Old Mountain Field.
“Once we got everybody out here, it’s been great,” outfielder Garrett Hodges said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can hit and it’s not just one group. We rotate guys and every guy we throw out there gets the job done.”
The Waves have scored 61 runs so far and are averaging almost the same exact total per game that they logged in last year’s 25-19 campaign. They lead the league in total bases and slugging percentage, are tied for the top spot in home runs and rank second in team batting average with a .270 mark. They’ve also done damage on the base paths with a league-best 29 stolen bases.
Pitching has been more of a work in progress, with the staff holding a 5.15 ERA. But the Waves pitching staff also leads the league in strikeouts, so that number seems likely to come down, which would set the stage for continued success.
“We started off a little slow, but we’ve got some really good talent on the mound and some really good guys in the field,” Hodges said. “I think we’ve got a really good shot to do what we did last year and maybe win a ring.”
Three of the hitters who helped the Waves come close last year are leading the chase this season. Hodges, Casey Dana and Cullen Smith form a nucleus that few teams in the league can match.
Hodges was coming off a down year at Kennesaw State when he arrived in Wakefield last year. Under the guidance of Waves hitting coach Pete Clays, Hodges made a few adjustments and took off like a rocket, delivering one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. He carried that improvement back to school, where he had a strong junior year.
“It’s been awesome. I love this town. I love the people and the organization. It’s just been real fun coming back for a second time,” Hodges said. “I give a lot of credit for the year that I had last summer and the year that I had in school ball this year to coach Clays and the coaches on this staff. They really helped me and got me to where I need to be. I’m continuing it this summer. It’s really good and really comfortable that I could come back to the people that believed in me and got me to where I am today.”
Hodges hit his second homer of the summer in the win over Danbury, while going 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Dana also homered, a blast that soared over the bullpen in right field. It was the third home run of the year for the Seton Hall sophomore. He hit seven last summer. Smith was 0-for-2 against Danbury but is hitting .313 a year after an all-star campaign with the Waves.
By the end of last year, those three were part of a talented but shrinking core of hitters that was impacted severely by injuries. While the injury bug could strike at any time, for now, the returning trio has plenty of help. Six Waves are batting above .300 so far, led by Joe Simone at .409. Indiana standout Elijah Dunham, one of the team’s more highly-touted players, is batting .381, as is Brett Helmkamp of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Daniel Seres of Southern Mississippi, URI’s Xavier Vargas, Kent State’s Nicholas Elsen and Winthrop’s Dillon Morton