By Chris Blake, Hyannis Mets Radio
Just by looking at the Hyannis Mets’ record, the team doesn’t appear to have improved all that much from 2007 to 2008, as it won just one additional game. But looking at everything else that happened around Hyannis and McKeon Park, there were significant improvements in nearly every aspect of the organization, culminating with the Mets winning the Commissioner’s Cup for outstanding franchise.
General manager Bill Bussiere and head coach Rick Robinson brought about a culture around McKeon that could be easily seen. The new lights attracted more people to the park than ever before, setting records at the gate. Robinson, who has a career winning percentage above .700 at Young Harris College in Georgia, accepts nothing but the best.
The Mets got off to a blazing start, going 16-9 through 25 games to hold a commanding lead in the West Division. Pitching got the Mets off to their hot start. Virginia’s Andrew Carraway established himself as the staff ace, going 4-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 10 games, and Russell Brewer of Vanderbilt was the team’s stopper, posting a team-record 12 saves with a 2.74 ERA on his way to winning the Russ Ford Award as the CCBL’s outstanding relief pitcher.
If Carraway was No. 1 in the rotation, then Central Florida’s Austin Hudson was 1A. Hudson, who returned to the Mets for a second season, went 1-2 with a league-best 1.50 ERA in seven starts before having his season ended with a broken jaw.
The Hyannis season took a downward turn when players started dropping like flies during a tough stretch of 20-plus games in a row. Ten different players came and went over the course of the summer, and at one point the Mets were operating with a 19-man roster, 10 position players and nine pitchers.
The rest of the West caught up to the Mets when Hyannis fell into a seven-game losing streak just before the All-Star break. Although the Mets were able to put together a surprising three-game winning streak after the break, the team never recovered and ended up missing the playoffs by three points with a final record of 22-22.
The offense struggled all season for Hyannis, but it did have its bright spots. Third baseman Chris Dominguez of Louisville led the league with 10 home runs and drove in 31 runs. First baseman Ben Paulsen of Clemson was arguably the team’s best all-around player. He hit .290 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs, setting a league record at first base by playing all 44 games without committing an error. Outfielder Trent Ashcraft out of East Carolina was among the league leaders in batting average all summer, finishing with a .327 average.
All three of the hitters were starters on the West Division All-Star Team. Paulsen won the West’s MVP Award in Chatham.
Despite all the promise that started the season, it ultimately ended with a tough stretch that saw a playoff berth evaporate in a last-day doubleheader. With a season of positive change at McKeon Park under their belts, Hyannis will look to cross over to postseason play in 2009.