Mike Ness Keeps Winning as Can-Am No-Hit Hurler Moves Into Heat of Last Remaining Atlantic League Race
Even though Mike Ness still is pitching in Independent Baseball, the 24-year-old has established quite a prestigious fan club while wearing three different uniforms this summer. It is important to understand this fan club is made up exclusively of his managers.
It is not difficult to see why the field bosses would like the 6-foot-4 right-hander since he put together a combined 13-3 record for them with a no-hitter thrown in along with successful feats in two pennant races.
Ness’s latest effort, even without his best stuff, was to scatter seven hits in six innings (seven-inning game) Wednesday night to start Bridgeport, CT toward a double whitewash (1-0, 2-0) of powerful Lancaster, PA and keep the Bluefish within one and one-half games of Southern Maryland (Waldorf) for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic League. Lancaster needed one victory to break the all-time league record for wins in a single season.
Before being picked up by Bridgeport for the stretch run, Ness won nine of 11 decisions for the struggling Newark (NJ) Bears, including the no-hitter. He was swapped to the more successful New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls) and won two of three decisions to help them reach the Can-Am League’s championship series.
Bridgeport Manager Willie Upshaw and Jackals skipper Joe Calfapietra, veterans in their respective positions, sounded like they had compared notes when praising Ness, who was drafted twice and had two so-so seasons as a reliever in the lower ranks of the Houston farm system before improving his fortunes in Indy play this year.
“He commands both sides of the plate,” praised Calfapietra. “I was impressed (in his first Bridgeport start) with his command; both sides of the plate,” Upshaw said in a separate chat moments later. “He’s always in attack mode, and had an idea of what he wanted to do; an approach,” added Calfapietra. Upshaw said Ness is “a strike thrower; that’s what I like.” Both men also praised his breaking pitches.
“He’s a true professional,” described longtime major leaguer Ken Oberkfell, who was managing the Bears at the time of Ness’s July 11 no-hitter, a 3-0 victory over eventual four-time Can-Am champion Quebec. The managers also could laud Ness’s consistency since in his last 14 starts beginning with the no-hitter he has gone less than seven innings only twice (he went six both times) and has not given up more than three earned runs in any of the outings.
DeMark Gets Win, Clevlen Stars in Triple-A Title Game
Former Independent Baseball pitchers were on both ends of the Triple-A championship game with Arizona farmhand Mike DeMark (York, PA, Atlantic League, and, Florence, KY, Frontier League) getting the win in Reno’s 10-3 triumph over Pawtucket, RI after striking out three in 1.1 innings. The loss went to Nelson Figueroa (Long Island, NY, Atlantic), who had an off night after previous stardom for Boston’s top minor league club. Onetime Wichita, KS (American Association) outfielder Brent Clevlen was a hitting star for Reno with a home run and single, two RBI and two runs.
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Indy Stars Active in WBC Qualifiers
The World Baseball Classic qualifiers, which will determine the last four countries for next spring’s third such bonanza, is barely under way, but it is already evident current and former Independent players are going to play major roles.
Toronto hopeful Shawn Hill and first baseman-third baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand (Washington), both purchased earlier this season out of the Atlantic League, starred in Canada’s 11-1 pounding of Great Britain today (Thursday). Hill (York, PA) gave up just three hits and a run while striking out seven in 5.2 innings to get the victory while Van Ostrand (Sugar Land, TX) hit a two-run homer as part of a three RBI game. In the Wednesday night opener, outfielder Adam Greenberg (formerly with Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic), best remembered for getting beaned in his only major league at-bat, scored one of Israel’s runs in a 7-3 triumph over South Africa.
Pacific Rim Discussions Get Some Clarification
One curiosity for this corner about future international play has been the dialogue coming out of Hawaii about the formation of some form of world independent league, perhaps as early as next season.
Chris Osgood, a longtime radio executive including time with the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros and now a consultant who has been given added duties as Chief Operating Officer for Maui and the Hawaii Stars (Hilo) of the North American League, gave some clarity to the discussions by explaining that while nothing has been finalized a Pacific Rim league was discussed for many hours recently in Japan.
It sounds like some type of television agreement coming out of China is key with teams in Taiwan, Korea and China all expressing interest in addition to the six-team Baseball Challenge League, a Japanese independent circuit.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)