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Peninsula Pilots get ready for exhibition against USA Baseball college national team
Peninsula Pilots get ready for exhibition against USA Baseball college national team

With the Peninsula Pilots about one-third of the way through the Coastal Plain League season, there hasn't been any time for advance scouting heading into Saturday's exhibition game against the USA Baseball collegiate national team at War Memorial Stadium.

When you're talking about a collection of some of the best college players in the nation getting set to arrive in Hampton, Peninsula coach Hank Morgan doesn't need a lengthy description of skills, specialty pitches and tendencies to unearth what he already knows.

These dudes are good.

"We're pumped about it," Morgan said. "We know we've got our hands full. That's a good looking team. I don't even need to see the names. I'm sure whatever they bring through here is going to be absolutely ridiculous."

Though some players on the national team are in Omaha, Neb., participating in the College World Series, or have just finished playing in the CWS, Peninsula still will welcome 23 of the 32 full roster of camp invite players from USA Baseball for a 7:05 p.m. exhibition. Virginia first baseman/outfielder Mike Papi and catcher Nate Irving are two of the players on the USA Baseball team.

The stop in Hampton will be USA Baseball's first of eight games it will play between Saturday and June 30 against CPL teams. Wood bats, which are in play in all CPL competition, also will be used in the exhibition games.

USA Baseball trains in Cary, N.C., so games against CPL teams provide an opportunity for the national team to get some work against quality competition without having to travel far. USA Baseball opened training camp Thursday in Cary.

The exhibition games against the CPL will provide good workouts for USA Baseball prior to a much more ambitious travel schedule later this summer.

USA Baseball will go to Japan from July 5-11 for six games in the 39th USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star series. USA Baseball also is slated to play six games July 18-23 against Cuba in Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Cary and Durham, N.C.

"Quite honestly, the credit for this series goes to the Coastal Plain League," said Eric Campbell, the general manager for national teams at USA Baseball. "They really responded. They're right in our backyard, so this is great for us. It's definitely a win for us, but it's also hopefully a win for the communities we're going into."

As much as Morgan would've loved to have had a leisurely few days to get ready for the exhibition, there's been no such prep time. Peninsula (10-9 entering Friday night) had a game Friday night in Florence, S.C.

Morgan said Peninsula planned to leave Hampton by bus at 12:30 p.m. Friday for the five-hour drive to Florence. He anticipated his team would get back on the bus after the game about 11 p.m., and hopefully be back in Hampton by 4 a.m. Saturday.

"We've just been so busy trying to find ourselves as a team, there hasn't been a lot of bravado or game-planning (for the USA Baseball exhibition game)," Morgan said. "We're just figuring ourselves out, just like Team USA is. It's something that has us all excited, and it's been in the back of everybody's mind, but we've kind of had a whole lot of other stuff going on, too."

At least Morgan knows how he plans to deploy his pitching staff against USA Baseball. He said he'll startGeorgia Tech right-hander Josh Heddinger and go with him for three innings.

Then, the Pilots will turn to Longwood left-hander Brandon Vick, a Warwick High graduate, for an inning, before going with Longwood right-hander Aaron Myers, a Denbigh High graduate, for three more innings, Liberty left-hander Jared Lyons, a Tabb High graduate, for an inning and Richmond right-handed closer Ryan Cook for an inning.

Of course, that's the best-case scenario pitching plan for Peninsula. Morgan said Heddinger, Vick, Myers and Lyons would be left behind in Hampton on Friday to prepare for the USA Baseball game.

Though this will mark the first time USA Baseball has played a series of games against the CPL, it won't be the first time the two entities have met. USA Baseball has played 12 previous exhibition games against CPL teams, with USA Baseball coming out on top every time.

"Hopefully, that'll change this year," CPL commissioner Justin Sellers said. "We're hoping we'll be a little bit more competitive this year.

"I think these games work both ways – the more competitive (the CPL teams) are against USA Baseball, the better they're going to get for their international trips. It kind of works hand in hand. We've played some really close games in the past. An error here or there has cost us."

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