Rapids stay in playoff battle

Watertown Rapids

WATERTOWN — Watertown Rapids outfielder Derek Kasperzyk is known for always being on the move on the basepaths, but it’s been that way the entire summer.

Kasperzyk has been a key cog in the Rapids (15-21 overall) occupying one of the four playoff spots in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s West Division.

The Killingworth, Conn., native is hitting .292 with a home run and nine RBIs going into Monday’s game against league-leading Amsterdam.

The Quinnipiac University product missed the start of the of the season because his team was involved in the NCAA Division I tournament. The Bobcats were in the Greenville, N.C., regional and beat the host East Carolina Pirates in the first game.

“I never seen a stadium of 10,000 people so dead silent after we beat them,” Kasperzyk said.

Qunnipiac dropped the next two games in the double-elimination series, but Kasperzyk had plenty of baseball to play. He packed up his car and made the long, 314-mile commute from Hamden, Conn., to Watertown.

“I got back from North Carolina, packed my bags and started the drive up here,” Kasperzyk said.

Watertown coach Mike Wood had to wait for the speedy outfielder to finish the season with the Bobcats before he joined the team June 6 — about a week into the PGCBL season. However, Kasperzyk didn’t have any struggles to the PGCBL as he’s gotten a hit in all but five games.

“It was a smooth transition for him,” Wood said. “He’s a veteran player and he’s going to be a senior next year; he knew how to make the switch right away.”

Wood was an assistant with the Boynton Beach Buccaneers of the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League and coached Kasperzyk last season. He remembered Kasperzyk’s skill set and brought him to Watertown.

“I knew Derek could play, he’s really fast and he’s really improved his hitting,” Wood said.

Kasperzyk wasn’t the only Rapids’ player that arrived late to Northern New York. Infielder Dylan Sanchez was on the Central Connecticut State squad that also made the NCAA Tournament. Sanchez’s Blue Devils were in the Fayetteville, Ark., regional, where his team beat California before being ousted by Texas Christian.

“It’s a big deal for Northeast teams to go down and play, especially with two smaller teams from Connecticut, and we can show people (that) Northeast baseball is really good and has a lot of talent,” Kasperzyk said.

Kasperzyk leads the Rapids with 16 stolen bases and is part of a Rapids’ offense that relies on speed.

With Drake Smith and Emil Matti setting the table, Wood likes to put his speedy players at the top and bottom of the order, and Kasperzyk knows that speed is the strongest asset that he utilizes.

“I try to create havoc on the bases,” Kasperzyk said.

The 5-foot-10, 160 pounder has really improved his hitting and he said that coach John Delaney was pleased with his progress. Wood said that Kasperzyk has put a lot of work into being a better hitter.

“He’s really improved his two-strike approach,” Wood said. “He’s starting to drive balls and his bunting has gotten even better.”

His speed also serves him well on defense as Matti and Jonathan Catapano cover a lot of ground in the outfield.

“We’ve got a commodity with Derek in right field,” Wood said. “Him and Emil cover so much ground.”

Kasperzyk’s hard work was rewarded with an appearance in the PGCBL All-Star Game last Tuesday in Saugerites, where he doubled and scored a run.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Reporter/Agate Person

A lifelong resident of Northern New York. Dan graduated from Lyme Central School and attended SUNY Oswego. He's worked in all forms of media, including radio and print. Dan covers hockey, wrestling, track and field, tennis, volleyball and golf.

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