McClain on his way to a triple. Photo by Andrew Roth.
McClain O’Connor is no stranger to putting out fires. Having served on a California firefighter helicopter support crew last summer, the rising junior at West Coast baseball powerhouse University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has plenty of experience staying focused when the heat is on. That experience came in handy in the first game of the NYCBL Eastern Division Playoffs Tuesday evening on a wet Onondaga CC baseball field. With the Flames leading 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning, the Cortland Crush loaded the bases on a walk and two fielding errors caused by wet baseballs. After closer Keon Taylor struck out the next batter for out number one, the Crush sent up a pinch hitter who hit a sharp low line drive towards the hole between short and third base for what seemed like a sure game-trying base hit. The athletic O’Connor dove to his right and snatched the ball before it hit the turf for out number two and then threw to second base to nab the runner trying to return to the bag for out number three, for a dramatic double play to put out the fire and end the game.
The 5’10” 165 pound bundle of talent has great range, sure hands and a strong accurate arm. While McClain arrived late due to a previous personal commitment, he nevertheless, has made a strong record at the plate. In 64 at bats, he is slashing .328/.370/.531 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs and 21 RBI’s. (Wood bat – no problem!)
McClain has been a big contributor to the Flames success this season.
Personal: Dell McClain O’Connor is the son of Kodee and Dell of Pioche, Nevada. He has two siblings: McKinley and Mitchell. He plans to major in sociology and aspires to be a firefighter. McClain roots for the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Dodgers. He calls winning the state championship in his high school as his most memorable pre-UCSB sporting moment. Lists Remember the Titans as his favorite flick … Listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers … Likes to hunt, fish, and go camping in his free time … Watches Sportscenter … His top read is Louis L’Amour’s Last of the Breed.
The Flames Jarrad Grossguth is a natural talent to watch. One of the youngest Flames, the hard-hitting shortstop/third basemen has demonstrated an abundance of raw talent playing in his first collegiate summer baseball season. Fresh from the junior college ranks at CC of Rhode Island, Grossguth is slashing .273/.430/.455, proving he has seamlessly made the transition to wooden bat and the next level of competition. He also shares the team home run title with AJ DiFillipo with 3.
At CCRI his slash line was an outstanding .327/.426/.609 with seven home runs and 33 runs batted in. In somewhat of a recruiting coup for the Head Coach Chris Reardon, Jarrod will be transferring to Division II Queens College in the fall as a sophomore, eligible to play for three more seasons. Not yet 19 years old, the 5-11 185 pounder has a 60-yard dash time of 7.0 seconds and an infield velocity of 87 mph. The sky is the limit for this talented prospect.
Jarrod is the son of Donna and Randy Grossguth of Coventry, Rhode Island.
Slashing .327/.421/.469 with great range, sure hands and strong arm, outfielder Adam Gordon, a rising senior at Cal State LA, is a complete ballplayer with great instincts on the base paths. Time and again, he has amazed us with his canny ability to grab the extra base when few others would try it. His heads up play alone has won a few games for the Flames.
In his 113 at bats, Adam has 37 hits with 5 doubles, 4 triples and one home run producing 24 RBIs, second only to team leader AJ DiFillipo. His contributions to the Flames have been a large part of the team’s success. He will be sorely missed as he graduates next year.
Gordon played his first two college years at Saddleback College in his hometown, Mission Viejo, California where he hit .289 as a sophomore with 41 hits in 142 at bats. Scored 26 runs and drove in 20. Hit .328 as a freshman with 20 hits in 61 at bats, four home runs, 15 RBI and 13 runs scored. He attended Capistrano Valley High School where he competed in baseball and football. Adam earned All-CIF and All-League honors in football as a wide receiver and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Personal: Son of Jim and Gina Gordon. Majoring in economics. Enjoys mountaineering (exploring). Lists hitting a pinch-hit grand slam home run as a freshman in junior college and kicking a game-winning field goal in high school as his most exciting experiences in sports. Says deciding to hang up the football cleats for baseball spikes in college is the best decision he’s made. (We’re glad he did!)
Simply put, the Flames Collin Mathews is on fire with 14 hits in 28 at bats over the last seven games. The owner of the 4th highest batting average in the league, the redshirt freshman is slashing .380/.468/.478 on the season with 5 doubles, 2 triples and 15 RBI’s over 109 plate appearances. Collin has created 20.788 runs, second most on the team.
A two-way player, Collin has been clocked at 93-mph on the mound. The 6’2″ 200 pound Kent State Golden Flash appears to have fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. performed in the fall of 2016. However, the Flames have used him almost exclusively as an outfielder to get his bat in the lineup.
Mathews is a gifted athletic who can hit, run, throw and field. His contributions to the Flames have been invaluable.
It has been an interesting summer for Columbia University rising junior A.J. DiFillipo. After hitting a home run in the College World Series, AJ has taken the NYCBL by storm with a slash line of .359/433/.534 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 34 RBIs.
A tough out as evidenced by his .433 OBP, DiFillipo has struck out only 14 times in 103 at bats or 13.5% of the time compared to a league average of 19.1%. Not one to leave the bat on his shoulder, AJ has only walked 12 times in 120 plate appearances. His aggressive approach has created a team high 25.435 runs and an OPS of .967.
A strong-armed corner infielder/outfielder, AJ bats left and throw right. He hails from Peabody, MA.
AJ has participated in Flames community outreach events, including both visits to the Onondaga Free Library to read to children and volunteering at Meals on Meals.
DiFillipo is one of two Columbia Lions (Jack Chernow) who have been instrumental in the Flames success this season.
One of the most talented and versatile players in the league, Mike Netzel is a rare commodity in college baseball – a pitcher with a strong bat who can double as a designated hitter. Not only does Mike bat for himself when on the mound, he also DH’s when not in the lineup as a pitcher or right fielder.
The Culver City, CA native has appeared in 5 games on the bump, 4 as a starter. Over the 25.2 innings pitched he has allowed 27 hits and only 9 earned runs for a 3.15 ERA. Netzel is noted for his control as evidenced by his 29 strikeouts (an average of 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings) versus only 5 base on balls .A rising junior at Occidental College, Mike has a WHIP of 1.25 and has held opponents to a .267 batting average.
As good as he is on the mound, it can be argued that he is even better as a position player. A sure-handed right fielder with a big accurate arm, he has gunned down runners going from first to third and trying to score on sac flies. (Opponents don’t try it anymore.)
Netzel has a slash line of .330/.504/.404, which makes him one of the better hitter on the team.
This gifted athlete is an invaluable member of the Flames and a key part of the team’s success.
The workhorse of the 2018 Onondaga Flames, Bryan Hart has played in 32 of the Flames’ 35 games so far this season. He has the most plate appearances (137) and at bats (111) of any Flames player. The sturdy Bryant Bulldog seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses witnessed by his last 7 days slash line of .313/.389/.563.
Hart, a rising junior at Bryant University, packs a surprising amount of power in his 6’2″ 195 lbs. frame. Almost half of his 30 hits have been for extra bases – 9 doubles, 4 triples and 1 home run. (Bear in mind those triples might have been over the fence at other ballparks.) A power line drive hitter, Hart boasts a season slash line of .270/.394/.450 – impressive, especially for a middle infielder.
Talented with the glove, Bryan has played second, short, third, outfield and DH at D1 Bryant University of the highly competitive Northeast Conference. Hart’s big arm has allowed the Flames to use him at third as well as his more natural position at short and second. Bryan has been a big key to the Flames’ success this year.
The son of John and Janet Hart of Franklin, MA, Bryan has one brother, Neal, who played two years of baseball at Roger Williams.