Friday, March 08, 2013


Two big home runs in the last 24 hours seem certain to keep Independent Baseball fans interested as the World Baseball Classic builds up a head of steam.

I can't help but wonder if first basemen Curt Smith and Chris Colabello had ever played in domed stadiums before their big clouts.

Smith, who hit .335 for Lincoln, NE in the American Association in 2011 and very recently signed to play for Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League this season, hit a round-tripper to help The Netherlands's chances in its second-round competition in the Tokyo Dome.  It was an important run in the 6-2 victory over Cuba.  Smith was 2-for-5.

Colabello sent a line shot into the leftfield stands at Chase Field in Phoenix (the game was moved to Chase because of inclement weather) with two on and two out in the bottom of the third this afternoon to give Team Italy a 5-1 lead over Canada.  The Canadians closed to 6-4 in the seventh, but the onslaught continued from Italy, which closed out a 14-4 win on the 10-run rule in the eighth. 

The Italians already were riding a crest from their nail-biting victory over Mexico last night, and now have a definite advantage toward moving to the second round. 

Colabello, the longtime Can-Am League star (Worcester, MA) hit fifth in the order and also had three singles in five at-bats, scored three runs and drove in four.  He is 5-for-10 for the two games. Mike Costanzo (Camden, NJ, Atlantic League), moved from his normal infield role to the outfield, hit right behind Colabello and is 3-for-7 for the two games.  He went 2-for-3 (both doubles) against Canada, walked twice, drove in two runs and scored once.

Colabello is hoping to work his way onto the Minnesota Twins' roster this spring while Costanzo got to play briefly for the Washington Nationals prior to the WBC, as we outlined in yesterday's subscription-only Independent Baseball Insider column, which devoted much of its space to the WBC.

Not to ignore the pitchers, recent Atlantic Leaguers Chris Cooper (York, PA) and Dan Serafini (Bridgeport, CT) and Brian Sweeney, who started his lengthy pro career in the Heartland League (Lafayette, IN, and trained with the Atlantic's Somerset Patriots in New Jersey), all have gotten key outs for Italy.  Cooper worked three innings (in the third to sixth), allowing two hits and a run, Serafini was charged with two runs in two-thirds of an inning and Sweeney picked up a swinging strikeout to end the top of the seventh.  He only faced the one hitter.

Detroit farmhand Shawn Hill, who pitched for both York and the Toronto Blue Jays last season, started for Canada and was charged with two runs in 2.2 innings.  R. J. Swindle, who had not even been listed on earlier rosters posted for the Canadians, came on in the eighth inning.  He has major league experience as well as spending time with both Schaumburg, IL (Frontier League) and Newark, NJ (Can-Am League) when those cities were in other leagues.  

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