Former first-round pick shaking off rough first half with hit streak
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Between an injury that cost him all but eight games in July and an otherwise mediocre second professional season when he was at full health, Brooklyn Cyclones shortstop Gavin Cecchini was suddenly looking like a reach as the Mets' first-round pick (12th overall) in the 2012 MLB Draft.
But then came August.
The 19-year-old prospect, whose dad is a legendary baseball coach in Louisiana and whose older brother Garin is working his way up in the Red Sox's organization, remained steadfast in his belief that things would turn around for him this year.
And suddenly they have. In a "Major" way.
“Just go out and play the game hard and help your teammates out and everything is going to take care of itself," Cechinni insisted after an ankle injury left him on the bench last month with Brooklyn in last place. “As long as I just keep playing hard and being a good teammate, everything will take care of itself.”
Cecchini is taking caring of business himself these days, riding a team season-high 12-game hitting streak as the resurgent Cyclones enter the weekend on a three-game winning streak, leaving them just one game out of first place in the tightly packed McNamara Division.
The Lake Charles, La., native, who contributed $10,000 to the Hurricane Sandy relief fund earlier this year, singled in the first inning and lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly during a decisive three-run eighth Wednesday night as the Cyclones came from behind to knock off visiting Hudson Valley, 3-1, before 5,962 fans at MCU Park.
In 2012, fresh off receiving a whopping $2.3 million signing bonus, Cecchini hit .246 with a homer and 22 RBIs in 53 games at Rookie-level Kingsport before getting a late-season callup to Brooklyn, where he went 0-for-5 with two runs scored before the Cyclones were eliminated in the postseason.
While fellow 2012 first-rounder Brandon Nimmo moved up to full-season Savannah, earning South Atlantic League All-Star honors this summer, Cecchini was stuck in neutral here in Brooklyn, benched with an injury and not making much of an offensive impact when he did play.
But thus far this month, Cecchini is batting a sizzling .391 (18-for-46) with four doubles, six RBIs and four runs scored, helping Brooklyn pull within easy striking distance of earning a playoff spot for the third straight year under manager Rich Donnelly.
Cecchini, who indicated earlier this summer that he was looking forward to playing on the newly installed field turf surface on Coney Island, has more than lived up to his words. He's batting .362 in 16 home games.
“Whenever you can come here and be in the dugout and get to play a little bit in the games, it's great," Cecchini said. "I was here a little bit [last year] and it’s still the game of baseball, and I’ve played it all my life."
Suddenly, he's playing it exactly the way the Mets' braintrust envisioned when they selected him in the opening round the June before last.
Combining with second baseman LJ Mazzilli to give the Cyclones a dynamic duo in the middle of the infield, Cecchini has batted .415 over the last 10 games, helping the Baby Bums to seven wins during that hot stretch.
He'll try to keep that blistering pace at the plate going Thursday night when the Cyclones visit the Renegades before opening a critical six-game homestand against Vermont and Staten Island this weekend on Surf Avenue.
This, That and the Other Thing: LHP Dario Alvarez didn't get the win Wednesday, but pitched six strong innings, yielding an unearned run on four hits while striking out three and walking two. ... RHP Akeel Morris, who wasn't selected to the NY-Penn All-Star Game despite a brilliant campaign out of the bullpen for Brooklyn this summer, earned the win in relief. The 20-year-old right-hander from the Virgin Islands fanned five over three innings of scoreless relief, lowering his miniscule ERA to 0.54. ... 1B Matt Oberste capped the scoring Wednesday with an RBI single. Despite a .213 average, the "Oklahoma Kid" is second on the team behind All-Star 2B Mazzilli (23) with 19 RBIs this season.