Preseason Preview: Getting to know the Cape League West Division

Ahead of the 2024 Cape Cod Baseball League season, dig into the Bourne Braves, Cotuit Kettlers, Falmouth Commodores, Hyannis Harbor Hawks and Wareham Gatemen
Bourne Braves 2023 Champions

With the 2024 Cape Cod Baseball League only a week away from its first pitch on June 15, managers, coaches, and GMs have spent the offseason furiously scouting and filling their rosters with talent from around the country. The League is split up into two divisions: the West and the East. The West division comprises the Bourne Braves, Cotuit Kettleers, Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Falmouth Commodores, and Wareham Gatemen.

The Bourne Braves are back-to-back Cape League Champions -- the best in the West -- and are looking for a three-peat in this stacked division. So without further ado, here is a preseason rundown of the West Division.

Bourne Braves

The two-time reigning champion Bourne Braves, under manager Scott Landers, are gunning for a three-peat this season – last achieved by Yarmouth-Dennis in 2014-16. The Braves are coming off a 23-20-1 2023 campaign and return two former players from last season. It was a sweet victory in August for Bourne, defeating the Orleans Firebirds in a three-game series.

The Braves return Garrett Michel (Virginia Tech) and Nolan Sparks (Rochester) from the championship roster of last season. Michel hit .300 during the CCBL playoffs, including three homers in the eight-game span. Sparks also found his stride during the winning run, pitching 4 1/3 innings of no-hit ball in Bourne’s 13-3 win over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.

Most notably, however, are some of the new faces that will be wearing the blue and red jerseys: Zane Adams (Alabama), Gabe Gackle (Arkansas), Miller Green (Vanderbilt), Braden Holcomb (Vanderbilt), Marek Houston (Wake Forest), Aiden Knaak (Clemson), Camden Kozeal (Vanderbilt) and Donvoan Zsak (Rutgers).

Both Adams and Gackle found success in a stacked SEC conference. Adams was named to the Freshman All-SEC team and delivered a masterful SEC Pitcher of the Week-worthy performance in mid-April. Gackle proved to be a pen weapon for the Razorbacks, appearing in 22 games, amassing seven saves, and striking out 57 in 42 2/3 innings pitched.

Marek Houston comes out of a competitive ACC conference and provided stalwart defense at shortstop for the Demon Deacons while hitting .324 with a .957 OPS.

Bourne also brings in multiple talented college duos with Coastal Carolina teammates Blake Barthol and Caden Bodine -- who combined for 24 homers for the Chanticleers -- back together, as well as a host of players from Clemson, Vanderbilt, and Rutgers.

Opening day:

Bourne vs. Orleans, 6 p.m.

Cotuit Kettleers

The Kettleers, managed by longtime North Carolina coach Mike Roberts, bring in a whole new crew this season in hopes of rivaling Bourne for the CCBL title. Before Bourne's titles, Cotuit was the last West division team to hoist the trophy, taking it home in 2013 and 2019 under Roberts. The Kettleers finished the 2023 season 28-15-1 -- the best record in the West -- and will look to go deeper in the playoffs this season.

Roberts will helm a host of new faces, including Big XII Player of the Year Max Belyeu (Texas) and All-ACC Freshman Team outfielder AJ Gracia (Duke). Belyeu mashed in the Big XII, hitting .329 with 18 homers and 53 RBI -- including a three-homer game against Baylor -- to lead the University of Texas team. Gracia recorded three multi-homer games in his freshman campaign for the Blue Devils and earned an All-Regional team selection after his performance in the Norman, Oklahoma regional.

The Kettleers will also be swimming with Virginia Cavaliers -- four of them to be exact -- all of whom bring experienced bats and arms from the best offensive team in the ACC. The talent goes from coast to coast with talent coming from the West in Arizona State’s Brandon Compton and Kien Vu, San Diego’s Anthony Eyanson and California Berkeley’s Ian May.

Other standouts include the trio of Seahawks hailing from UNC Wilmington in Jacob Shafer, Tanner Thach and Brock Wills. Both Thach and Wills hit over .300, the two combining for over 55 hits and RBIs on the season. They both also have proved to be patient bats at the plate, limiting strikeouts and showing good bat-to-ball skills.

Opening day:

Cotuit vs. Harwich, 5 p.m.

Falmouth Commodores

The Falmouth Commodores -- one of the four original Cape teams -- under the management of Jeff Trundy, also hope that their new crop will improve their 2024 season. This year will mark Trundy’s 30th season with the League and 26th year as head coach of the Commodores.

The end of 2023 was heartbreaking for the ‘Dores, losing to Hyannis in extras during the West Division semifinals. The Commodores did, however, cultivate Travis Bazzana, a star at Oregon State, and one of the names being tossed around for being the first overall pick in the 2024 Major League Draft. The Commodres finished in the middle of the pack in the West with a 24-18-2 record.

Bazzana’s Oregon State teammate Trent Caraway and Gavin Turley are committed to trying to replicate some of Bazzana’s Cape magic this upcoming summer. Caraway has been a dependable infielder for the Beavers, beginning his career in Corvallis with back-to-back homers on the opening weekend.

A host of Aggies will also be donning Commodore uniforms this summer. Gavin Grahovac headlines the Texas A&M class and emerged as a dependable RBI machine playing next to a fellow Cape Cod League player, Brewster’s Kadaen Kent, at the hot corner for his freshman season.

Other notable additions include LSU’s Steven Milam -- who hit a walk-off homer against Wofford to send LSU to the winners' bracket in the Chapel Hill regional -- Gage Wood (Arkansas), James Tallon (Duke), Chase Spencer (Air Force), Chase Krewson (Duke) and Zion Rose (Louisville).

Spencer -- who has become an emergency arm should Air Force need him -- hit .326 for Air Force and has speed on the base paths, ending his season second in triples in the Mountain West, and will hope to continue his upward trajectory this season.

Opening day:

Falmouth @ Hyannis 6 p.m.

Hyannis Harbor Hawks

The Hyannis Harbor Hawks are also looking forward to finding some postseason success after a 25-17-2 2023 campaign where they finished with the second best record in the division. Hyannis adds new manager Mitch Karraker to the staff for the 2024 season. Karraker previously worked under George Horton at Oregon, spent time with the Baylor Bears as a volunteer assistant coach and most recently served as Loyola Marymount's hitting coach. Now he will be taking his talents to Hyannis to serve as their manager.

The Harbor Hawks have reached into a plethora of different leagues across the country, including the Big XII save leader Stone Cushing, 2023 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Ryan Dromboski (Penn) and the ASUN batting average leader Jon Jon Gazdar (Austin Peay).

Cushing now ranks second in a single season in saves for the Cougars and fifth on the all-time list after recording 10 in 34 1/3 innings pitched, including two pivotal appearances in BYU’s series win over the Texas Longhorns. Prior to BYU, Cushing appeared in 16 games for Southern Idaho, striking out 41 batters in 27 1/3 innings.

Gazdar comes out of a stacked Austin Peay lineup -- the Governors are second in all of D1 baseball in homers with 146 -- and slashed an impressive .405/.484/.667 during the 2024 season. The infielder also led the entirety of the ASUN in batting average and hits (96).

Another new face joining the Harbor Hawks is Alex Sosa, one of the 12 Wolfpack players who will be making the journey from Raleigh, NC, to the Cape this summer. He and Florida State’s Jaxson West will both spend time behind the dish for Hyannis.

The Harbor Hawks also bring in Michael Dattalo (DBU), who spent last summer in the Coastal Plains League and is making the jump up to the Cape. Dattalo in 2023 was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball at Northwestern State before transferring to DBU this past season. As a Patriot, Dattalo slashed .345/.395/.517 with only a 15% strikeout rate.

Opening day:

Hyannis vs. Falmouth 6 p.m.

Wareham Gatemen

Last, but certainly not least, are the Wareham Gatemen who are led by second-year manager Ryan Smyth, who will look to bounce back from a 15-27-2 season, in his sophomore campaign.

The Gatemen return infielder Bayram Hot (Marist College) from last season’s squad. The rest of the pack are new faces to Wareham, including a host of West Virginia Mountaineers and a few Clemson Tigers.

Jacob Jarrell (Clemson) pops out as one of the notable faces for the Gatemen. Jarrell in his sophomore season with the Tigers provided steady defense behind the plate and slashed .301/.402/.548 in a talented ACC conference. He is joined by Tiger arm Lucas Mahlstedt, a transfer from Wofford, who became a dependable reliever for Clemson, fanning 39 in his 53 innings of work.

The Gatemen also brought in another talented relief arm, this time out of the Big XII, in Maxx Yehl (West Virginia). The lefty sophomore showed up for the Mountaineers big during their winning run through the Tucson regional and has amassed 32 strikeouts in his 29 innings of work this season. He is joined by teammates Samuel White and Logan Suave.

Jacob Faulkner (Princeton) is another power arm Wareham is bringing in. Faulkner struggled at points during the season with the Tigers but ended his 2024 season by throwing a complete game against Columbia in the Ivy League Tournament. He ended his season with a 3.14 ERA in 66 innings pitched with an 8-1 record.

Opening day:

Wareham vs. Chatham 6 p.m.

All rosters are subject to change throughout the season.

(Top Photo Credit: MK Prosky Gilbert)