Noah Zavolas has certainly seized upon his opportunity this summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
A rising senior at Harvard University, the 6-foot-1 righthander from Acton initially received a temporary contract with the Wareham Gatemen. The Acton-Boxborough grad was tasked with holding one of the slots reserved for players who were still competing in the NCAA Division 1 baseball tournament in Omaha.
Ultimately, one player backed out of his commitment to the Cape. After Zavolas hurled three scoreless outings in June, he was offered a fulltime spot.
“It opened the door for me,” said Zavolas. “It’s been a dream to be down here.”
And he has been a nightmare for opposing hitters. In 10 games, including three starts, Zavolas has compiled a dazzling 0.79 earned run average, racking up 40 strikeouts, and just four walks, in 34.1 innings.
On Sunday night, he delivered six innings of one-run ball, fanning nine with no walks as Wareham advanced to the Western Division finals with a 4-3 win over the Falmouth Commodores. He threw 63 of his 88 pitches for strikes.
Wareham travels to Bourne for Game 1 of the Western final Tuesday night at 6.
Facing hitters using wood bats on the Cape, Zavolas has attacked hitters more often early in counts.
“You’ve got more confidence on the mound when you know they’re swinging a wood bat,” he said. “I definitely feel more comfortable throwing the fastball inside.”
Last summer, Zavolas caught the eye of the Gatemen with a dominant run pitching for the Charlestown Townies of the Yawkey League, compiling a 0.19 ERA. Short on arms, Wareham added him to the roster for the postseason.
“The Yawkey League was instrumental for me,” he said. “I was able to get innings and it helped me rekindle my love for the game that I had lost a little bit at school. It was awesome to go out and compete on a weekly basis was those guys.”
Zavolas said he grew frustrated with baseball as an underclassman at Harvard; he made just 13 relief appearances in his first two seasons, allowing 12 runs in 12.2 innings.
“I didn’t play baseball the summer after my freshman year and that was a mistake on my part,” he said.
“You want to play baseball in the warm weather in the Northeast. I needed to prove to myself that I could pitch and pitch at high level.”
This past spring, on a Harvard roster listing nine pitchers — five of whom were underclassmen — Zavolas earned a spot in the starting rotation, thanks in part to his work on the mound last summer. He compiled a 3-6 record with a 5.95 earned run averaged in nine starts.
Zavolas is not the only player from the western suburbs pitching in on the Cape this summer.
Teddy Rodliff, a 2014 Newton North grad, has once again emerged as a valuable and versatile lefthanded reliever for the Harwich Mariners.
“It’s great to be back for a second year,” said Rodliff, a rising senior at Stony Brook.
“I’m back at home. It’s great to see the comparison between this year and last year. We’ve got the same group of personalities. It’s a bunch of great guys around here. It’s great.”
Since entering college, the 6-foot-3 Rodliff has dropped his arm slot and become a sidearmer who has delivered multiple innings in relief for the Seawolves.
“Whatever team you’re on, you’ve got to do what the coach asks of you whether it’s starting, middle relief, closing,” he said.
“If that’s what they want out of me, then I’m happy to give it. I don’t like to be held down to one lefty specialist role, I like doing all sorts of things out there.”
In 14 outings (including one start) for the Mariners, Rodliff owns a 3.66 ERA with three saves and 13 strikeouts over 19.2 innings as he displays his ability to Major League scouts.
“Massachusetts baseball I’ve grown up with, so I know a lot of good competition comes out of [of this state],” he said. “This is the best summer league in the country, so it’s great to be able to showcase that talent at home.”
Around the bases
Here are five other players making their mark in summer ball:
Joe Caico, Hopedale: In 37 games for the Worcester Bravehearts of the FCBL, the rising senior outfielder at the University of New Haven has blasted nine home runs.
Thomas Joyce, Newton: The rising sophomore first baseman at Merrimack was hitting .299 with a .398 on-base percentage in 35 games for the Nashua Silver Knights of the FCBL.
Nolan Kessinger, Southborough: A rising sophomore outfielder/pitcher at UMass Amherst, Kessinger hit .250 with a .358 on-base percentage and three homers in 39 games for the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs of the FCBL.
Ben Porter, Newton: Manning the outfield for the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, the rising junior at Columbia University was hitting .273 with a .351 on-base percentage and 12 stolen bases in 41 games.
Patrick McGowan, Wellesley: The rising junior at Holy Cross is 2-1 with a 3.46 ERA and 31 Ks while surrendering just two walks in 26 innings for the Ocean State Waves in the NECBL.Tom Joyce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.