Current, former Salukis play well in summer, professional leagues


By D.w. Norris Daily Egyptian

August 4, 2006

Carbondale, IL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- If summer is a time for rest, somebody forgot to tell some current and former Saluki baseball players to relax.

Current Salukis Kevin Koski and Danny Wells made waves on two different coasts in summer league ball while former players Grant Gerrard and Tyler Norrick began their professional careers.

Koski, SIUC's center fielder, wrapped up his summer stint in the wood bat Alaska Baseball League with a selection to the All-ABL team as a member of the Anchorage Bucs.

His numbers backed up the selection.

Koski hit at a .331 clip for the Bucs, the ABL's top hitting team, and his 55 hits led the league. Koski stroked eight extra-base hits, including a home run, and proved pesky to pitchers at the plate and on the bags.

Koski reached base 91 times in 166 at-bats as the Bucs' leadoff hitter, good for a .541 on-base percentage, and his 23 walks led the team.

As far as Saluki coach Dan Callahan was concerned, Koski was simply being Koski.

"He has a knack for putting the bat on the ball and not everybody can do that," Callahan said.

Koski also tore up the base paths with 27 steals in 33 attempts. Four of those steals came after July 22 when Koski was the ABL's second-leading thief.

Callahan was pleased to see Koski running in Alaska and said he hoped the lightning-quick left-hander would bring his newfound aggressiveness back to Carbondale.

"One of the things we asked him to really focus on was, if you are on base, do what you can to work on your jumps," Callahan said. "We'd like to see him steal more bases. Hopefully it's a precedent for 2007."

Saluki pitcher Danny Wells, a sophomore from Plainfield, joined Koski as a top performer in a summer wood bat league.

Wells (4-2) earned Pitcher of the Year honors for the Harrisonburg Turks of the Shenandoah Valley (Va.) Baseball League. The left-handed reliever tied for the league lead in wins and his 22 appearances topped the SVBL.

Wells also struck out 46 batters, 15 looking good for third in the league in both categories. Wells' three saves tied him for second in the league.

For Wells, the reasons for his success were simple.

"I got more confident in my fastball," Wells said. "I got a lot of guys down 0-2 immediately and I didn't mess around with them. I've got a pretty good slider so I stuck with that as my strikeout pitch."

The Turks finished the season with a 25-17 record before bowing out of the playoffs in the second round. There was talk of Wells joining the prestigious Cape Cod League as a postseason addition after he finished with Harrisonburg but Wells said the logistics did not work out for either side.

Recently drafted Salukis Grant Gerrard and Tyler Norrick also stayed busy during the summer and their wood bat leagues come with paychecks.

Gerrard, an All-MVC selection and seventh-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers as an outfielder, continued his strong 2006 play as a member of the club's Class A Short-Season Spokane Indians.

Gerrard's .278 batting average was good for second-place on the team and 11 of his 30 hits, which included a home run, went for extra bases. Gerrard carried a .426 slugging percentage over 108 at-bats and his three triples were second best in the Northwest League.

"His batting average is a little deceiving," Callahan said. "He was hitting in the .280 to .290 range before he had to sit out about a week with a groin injury."

Norrick, a sixth-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, proved timing was truly everything as a member of the club's Class A Short-Season State College Spikes.

Norrick mowed down nine batters in four innings in his first start as a farm hand with Cardinals' general manager Walt Jocketty in attendance.

"He did it in front of the right person and that's all it took for him to get an almost immediate promotion," Callahan said.

Norrick's next start came for the Swing of the Quad Cities, the next rung up in the Cardinals' ladder to the big leagues. In seven starts as a Swing, Norrick carried a 1-1 record with a 4.46 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 34.1 innings.

(C) 2006 Daily Egyptian via CSTV U-WIRE

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