Matt Snyder hit eight home runs to lead the University of Mississippi baseball team this spring, and the Rebels advanced all the way for the NCAA Super Regional, a three-game series that they eventually dropped to the University of Virginia.
And although that power surge came on the heels of Snyder’s eye-popping performance as a senior at Westfield, where he set three school records with 15 home runs, 40 RBIs and a slugging percentage of 1.197, Snyder entered this summer with one goal: gaining weight.
That, he knew, would further increase his power numbers.
So instead of playing in South Carolina’s Coastal Plain League, Snyder asked Ole Miss for an exemption, saying that he and his twin brother, fellow Rebel Mike Snyder, would benefit more from staying home. In Centreville, working -- an obvious, away-from-home requirement -- was unnecessary. So was cooking. Linda Snyder had that covered.
“I’m crushing my mom’s cooking right now,” joked Matt Snyder. “She makes some good food, and she’s been putting all kinds of weight on us.”
Since early June, Matt and Mike Snyder have both played integral parts for the Carney Pirates, a second-year entrant in the Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League. Because of the Snyder twins and others, Carney has challenged the Vienna Senators atop the league’s standings with a mark of 15-7 through Wednesday morning.
“We just come out here every at-bat, every pitch and make the plays and have good at-bats,” said Mike Snyder, who has found his groove this summer, hitting .286 with two home runs and eight RBIs prior to Monday’s contest against the Southern Maryland Cardinals. “We string ‘em all together, and that’s why we’ve been doing pretty well in this league so far.”
In five head-to-head meetings this season, the Pirates hold a 3-2 advantage, although they’ve lost the past two contests, including Tuesday night’s 7-1 decision that dropped Carney’s record to 15-7 this summer.
In addition to Matt and Mike Snyder, the Pirates dress 12 players who graduated from Paul VI. Meanwhile, from a baseball standpoint, Carney has been supported by its dynamic pitching staff. In 22 games, Carney pitchers had a combined ERA of 2.29 and have allowed a league-low 42 earned runs.
<b>THE SAME</b> thing that makes this team special for first-year manager Billy Emerson is the same thing that sometimes makes his head spin. Because he coached almost the entire group either at Paul VI or through various travel teams, Emerson is familiar with his players and how they operate.
They, in turn, are familiar with him.
“I still have to stay on them about everything,” Emerson joked.
Among the Paul VI guys that Emerson benefits from, infielder Matt Murakami has taken a liking to the wooden bats, as evidenced by his .308 batting average with eight RBIs and 12 runs scored through Monday.
One of three catchers on the team from Paul VI, Rob Lamas was hitting .333 through Monday. Same for shortstop Brett Bowers and catcher Chad Morgan -- both former Panthers.
Ironically, however, the team’s hottest hitter didn’t graduate from Paul VI and doesn’t look like one of the Snyder brothers. George Piccirilli gradated from Osbourn Park High School in Manassas and was hitting at a .359 clip. He led the team with six doubles and 14 RBIs.
“We’ve been getting the job done,” he said. “Getting guys on base and moving them over … quality plate appearances. That’s what our coach takes pride in us doing: going up there and having a quality at-bat.”
Emerson also pointed out that staying home to play summer ball has its share of distractions, whether those include after-game plans or more money in players’ pockets. (When traveling away from home to play summer baseball, working often rivals practice time and weightlifting, leaving players poor but strong.)
“There are more distractions for the local guys playing in this league than there are for the out-of-town guys,” Emerson said. “The out-of-town guys are here to play baseball.”
So too, apparently, are the Snyder twins.