The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is only five years young, but it exists as a division within a league that is 40 years older, the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Despite its youth, the HCBL sees the talent of young ball players from across the nation, from state school powerhouses to Ivy League schools, and is considered one of the top 10 collegiate leagues in the country.
Amongst the players in the league are two pitchers, Brandon Kruel and Kyle McGowin, both of whom play for the Sag Harbor Whalers, whose success this season is reflected in their statistics.
So far this season, McGowin has a team low 1.29 earned run average, recording a team-high 16 strikeouts through 14 innings pitched. Nine of those strikeouts came during a masterful 10-inning performance, which led to the Whalers’ first victory against the Westhampton Aviators on June 9. Kruel also has a low 2.45 earned run average, with 11 strikeouts in as many innings. In their recent game against the Southampton Breakers on Tuesday, June 19, Kruel struck out three batters in two innings pitched, holding off the Breakers long enough for the Whalers to clinch their third victory on the season.
As local Sag Harborites and Pierson High School graduates, Kruel and McGowin originated from a small school within a small class that competed within a small section of athletics. Regardless, the two pitchers are each having very strong seasons in the HCBL, and are proving to be some of the more dominant pitchers in the league.
Playing for the Sag Harbor Whalers at Mashashimuet Park is a unique experience for both Kruel and McGowin, who both pitched many years on the various fields within the park.
“I get to pitch at my home town field where I played throughout high school,” said Kruel. “It’s a great place, great atmosphere.”
Likewise, McGowin said he feels comfortable on the mound, he’s used to it. The two pitchers grew up watching the HCBL. According to Kruel, he has followed it since it first started.
“I love the league,” he said, “really enjoyable, and there are great people around me.”
Kruel , currently a sophomore at C.W. Post, has been pitching since he was nine, and says he has loved every minute of it. As he entered college, he stopped hitting to focus on pitching, and admits the transition was difficult.
“It’s tremendously different,” he said. “I didn’t realize how different, how competitive it would get, but I’ve achieved the next step, and I believe I’ve gotten a lot better.”
McGowin started pitching in 7th grade, and pitched all four years of high school.
Currently a sophomore at Savannah State University, he is thrilled to be pitching in the HCBL.
“I feel good so far, I’ve had a good year,” he said, “And last year I had a good year. That’s another reason I wanted to come back. I feel it’s a really good pitchers’ league.”
The HCBL is a pitchers’ league, both observed, because of the use of wood bats instead of metal bats, which are more commonly used in collegiate baseball. The Division I conference that McGowin pitches in at Savannah State uses metal bats, which both he and Kruel say behave very differently.
“With metal bats,” said McGowin, “you can jam someone and they can still get a little flare hit. If you jam someone with a wood bat, the bat is done.” The East Coast conference that Kruel pitches in at Post, however, uses wood bats, and he says it has gotten a lot easier as a pitcher to work.
“There’s going to be less pop from the bat,” said Kruel. “When I spot up it’s a lot easier to pitch, I don’t have to worry about the ball going as far.”
Brandon Kruel is majoring in physical education in his second year at C.W. Post. Kyle McGowin is majoring in criminal justice at Savannah State. Both say that they would like to pursue baseball professionally.