UCF pitchers Lively, Skoglund, Nuss and Matulis play in Cape Cod Baseball League this summer
Published: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Updated: Sunday, July 8, 2012 15:07
They’re a group of players with a singular mindset, even while spending their summer in the beautiful Northeast United States.
For UCF pitchers Ben Lively, Eric Skoglund, Garrett Nuss and Chris Matulis, the summer boils down to one thing — improvement.
The four Knights took the opportunity to improve as players this summer by heading north and competing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, where Skoglund said they are playing with college baseball’s best players.
“It’s an honor and a privilege, and I’m just embracing all that I can while I’m up here and trying to learn all that I can so I can take that back to UCF,” Skoglund said.
The Cape Cod League is a collegiate summer baseball league in Massachusetts. The league, which is celebrating its 128th season, features 10 teams and has produced notable Major League Baseball players such as Tim Lincecum, Mark Teixeira and Nomar Garciaparra.
It is universally regarded as the premier summer league in the nation, one where merely being invited to play for the summer is a considerable achievement.
Skoglund and Nuss play for the Harwich Mariners, reigning league champs with a record of 14-6 before time of press, while Lively pitches for their division rival, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, sitting at an even .500 record of 10-10 at time of press. Matulis plays in the Western Division with the Bourne Braves, who are 4-15 at time of press.
Playing in the Cape Cod League gives collegiate players a few different advantages. Some athletes use the league as a tool for being scouted for the major leagues while others use the high level of competition to improve their game.
The teams play games nightly with one off day a week, giving the players the opportunity to focus solely on baseball and improving themselves.
Skoglund said the level of competition is different from what he’s seen before, and that gives him the chance to become a stronger pitcher.
“It’s a big difference because every guy in the lineup in the Cape league is usually a one-through-four hitter for their college. You can’t take any slack on a No. 9 hitter because they’re just as good as a No. 4 hitter in college,” Skoglund said. “It’s a little bit different but it’s also great because you’re playing the best players in the country.”
As far as individual improvement, Skoglund said that playing summer ball gives him a great opportunity to practice what head coach Terry Rooney has been teaching him throughout the year.
“On the mound, I’m trying to learn the game a little more,” Skoglund said. “I’ve really been trying to focus on separating each pitch and getting control of the next pitch. You can only think about the next pitch and that’s really what I’ve been trying to focus on up here.”
Of the three, Skoglund has jumped in front with the best ERA and a win. The tall lefty has a 2.46 ERA to pair with five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings of work. Nuss has a 5.54 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 13 innings on the hill, while Lively has been roughed up a bit in his appearances en route to a 9.72 ERA and a loss in 8 1/3 innings. Matulis, who pitched in his first game on June 28, has seen time in three games for 3 1/3 innings and a 0-1 record.
Skoglund and Nuss, both rising sophomores, grew accustomed to pitching back-to-back for UCF last season and are hoping to use their knowledge as teammates to contribute to the Mariners.
“[Nuss] is smart. He helps me with fundamentals, and we usually back each other up and fix each other’s problems,” Skoglund said. “It’s really good to have someone up here you really know and trust as a teammate.”
Besides Nuss, Skoglund has teammates from colleges across the country, giving him the chance to develop new friendships through baseball. It makes for a unique opportunity both within the game and outside of it, as well.
“It’s great to meet new guys, and a lot of this will be friendships for the rest of our lives,” Skoglund said.