Big-time exposure – Pisani makes his mark in the NECBL

Anthony Pisani is getting a taste this summer of what it might be like to play baseball at the next level. The University of Rhode Island junior southpaw is pitching in front of sizable crowds, traveling by bus to road games, signing some autographs for young fans, and competing side by side with the best players in his age category in the country.

Home away from home in Revere for Pisani is New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the former Bishop Fenwick High School standout is making his mark as a pitcher for the New Bedford Bay Sox in the highly competitive New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).

The NECBL is one of the top-tier collegiate summer leagues where the nation’s elite players go to sharpen their skills and hopefully attract the attention of Major League scouts for the annual draft held in each June.

Pisani, who is 6 foot and 190 pounds, has demonstrated that he can compete and excel against the best players in college baseball. In a June 19 start against the North Shore Navigators at Fraser Field in Lynn, Pisani had his full repertoire (near-90 mph fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup) working against a team of Division 1 college players – a caliber similar to what has faced as a starter and reliever for the past two seasons at URI (One of the Rams’ opponents this season, the University of Virginia, had 11 players selected in the Major League draft).

Pisani earned the win over the Navigators by allowing one run and five hits through six innings, delighting his own family rooting section led by his parents, Paul and Rosemary Pisani, who have been at virtually every one of his games since his days in the St. Mary’s Cal Ripken League in Revere.

“I was very happy with my performance at Fraser Field,” said Pisani. “It was great to have my family there. I had played in Lynn several times while I was at Fenwick so it brought back some good memories.”

Pisani says he’s enjoying life in the NECBL and his summertime residence in New Bedford.

“I like it a lot. The kids on the team are cool and it’s been a lot of fun and my host family is nice,” said Pisani. “The competition is very good. There are a lot of Division 1 players and even the Division 2 and Division 3 players come from great programs.”

Despite being an excellent hitter in high school, Pisani is strictly a pitcher in college and the NECBL. “I wish I was hitting, but they don’t usually let pitchers hit anymore in college. None of our pitchers at URI hit.”

Pisani has been working closely with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Brian Rose, who is the pitching coach for the Bay Sox.

“He’s very knowledgeable and helpful and it’s been fun working with someone who has his background as a Major League pitcher,” said Pisani. “I was about eight years old when he [Rose] was pitching for the Red Sox.”

New Bedford Bay Sox manager Ray Ricker said Pisani has become a dependable hurler in the team’s rotation. He is one of only two left-handed pitchers on the staff.

“Anthony is pitching very well,” said Ricker, associate head coach at Post University in Connecticut. “His best game by far was his effort against North Shore. He’s been very consistent for us all season. He’s very tough on lefties. Anthony is a battler – a very big competitor. Whenever he goes out there, you know he’s always going to give it everything he has. He’s one of the quiet leaders on this team. I’ve met Anthony’s family a couple of times and they’re very nice people, very supportive.”

Ricker feels that Pisani could hear his name called in the draft next June. Six Bay Sox players were drafted from last year’s team.

“If he keeps working hard, I could see him getting an opportunity,” said Pisani. “He throws all his pitches for strikes. Everybody could use a really good left-handed pitcher on their team.”

URI head coach Jim Foster said Pisani is starting to blossom at the collegiate level.

“Anthony’s making good progress and really developing,” said Foster. “He’s just starting to be the kid we want him to be. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of time, but Anthony has put the work in and it’s starting to pay off for him.”

Foster is projecting that Pisani will be a key member of the starting rotation in 2011 for the Rams.

“He has the stuff – he just needs a little bit more command,” said Foster. “He definitely has the potential to be a top starter. He’s doing a good job this summer and that’s a great sign.”

Does Foster see a shot at pro ball in Pisani’s future?

“He’s a left-handed pitcher and if he throwing as hard as he has been, he’ll be on some teams’ radar screen,” said Foster.

What Pisani is learning that when you play Division 1 college baseball and have your eye on professional baseball, there’s no rest for the weary. Following his busy 42-game stint with the Bay Sox, Pisani will immediately begin preparing for the URI Rams’ fall baseball season. He’ll work out indoors in the off season and then begin the 2011 season on a southern swing in late February.

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