Coastal Plain League...O'Hare's No-Hitter, Handelsman's 500 Wins, & A Dominating Start By Cornelius
Companies functioning today that can trace their roots back into the era of black and white movies naturally demand respect. It proves a legendary success, and only an unsurpassable longevity could legitimately boast that. Baseball as a business has that status. It doesn’t only hold true with the Major Leagues, but many minor league organizations have withstood many decades of economic strife, world wars, and an evolution of trends that leave everything in their path unrecognizable. Amongst all of that, there is a Collegiate Summer league based in Holy Springs North Carolina called the Coastal Plain League. Through its many phases of existence, we can look back at the Old Coastal Plain League and see as far back as 1937. It began as league in the minor league system and it operated until it was downsized by WW2 in 1941. Legends like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Cal Ripken Sr. played their way through the league, and today it is a highly respectable wood bat Collegiate Summer League that offers off season collegiate baseball players a chance to sharpen, loosen, tighten, and improve their skills. There are 15 teams in the league and they are divided into 3 divisions (North, South, and West). In recent years, the league has had some interesting alumnus with major league careers. In 1999, Kevin Youklis of the Boston Red Sox played for the Florence Redwolves, and in 2003 Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals played for the Peninsula Pilots. Both were Coastal Plain League All-Stars and both are members of the leagues All-Decade Team. We can’t forget the Detroit Tiger’s Justin Verlander. He pitched for the Coastal Plain League in 2002. In ’10, 2 Coastal Plain League Alumni were drafted in the 1st round, both were pitchers, and both will go from being League mates to practically teammates in the Toronto Blue Jays system. Deck McGuire played in the Peninsula Pilots in 2008 was an 11th overall pick, and Asher Wojciechowski played with the Thomasville Hitoms in 2009 and was the 41st overall pick. It seemed like the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t want to break up a family.
As the summer league season begins another journey towards what the Coastal Plain calls the Pettit Cup named after the Chairman/CEO of the league, there have been some interesting developments. A freshman pitching for Yale University has joined the Costal Plain League and has already made history. Chris O’Hare as an Outer Bank Dare Devil became the 18 th pitcher in the leagues history to toss a no-hitter. Despite such a tremendous outing, there is another pitcher off to the best starts in the league and probably of the entire national summer league scenes Jonathan Cornelius was only a freshman at Florida Tech in ’08 when he went down with a shoulder injury after striking out 11 in his first 7 innings of work. In ’09 as a sophomore, he bounced back with a vengeance and posted stellar numbers. Cornelius pitched 53.1 innings, struck out 69 hitters, his ERA was 2.19, and opposing hitters were only batting .201 against him. This year he struggled with his ERA, but did strike out 95 batters in his 90.2 innings of work. Once school was out, he became a Martinsville Mustang in the Coastal Plain League and has quickly jumped out ahead of the average pitcher across the nation. In his first 3 games he is 3-0, and in 22 innings of work has not allowed a run or a walk. As impressive as his 33 strike outs are, the fact that opposing hitters are only batting .082 against him is what’s most tantalizing about his early showings.
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We should also keep a close watch on the head coach of the Fayetteville Swamp Dogs. Darrell Handelsman is only 3 games away from reaching 500 wins as a summer league head coach. The moment he achieves that, he will be one of only 4 coaches in summer history to claim such an astounding feat.
By Adrian Nevarez
DFN Sports Staff Writer