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2006 TCL High Profile – Denton Pitcher Kurt Pessa, 6-2, 190, So., Lubbock, Texas (Rice)

No one raised eyebrows when Denton righthander Kurt Pessa (pictured right), a Rice sophomore, did not allow a run in his first start in ’06.

Thirty-plus innings and six weeks later, the slender righty ended the Texas Collegiate League regular campaign without allowing an earned run in 34 1/3 innings – the second TCL standout to toss 30-plus frames and post a 0.00 earned run average.

Coach Derek Matlock’s “go-to” moundman worked seven total games with four starts, 34 1/3 innings pitched, 33 strikeouts, walked 12, allowed just 12 hits, did not give up a homer, and yielded a measly .108 batting average to opposing league hitters.

Pessa, a Lubbock Coronado High School product, had seen limited activity with Coach Wayne Graham’s pitching-deep Rice Owls for his first two college years. He had one save and a 0-1 mark in 11 appearances over 12 innings and yearned to prove himself in summer 2006.

Prove he did as he joined a sound Outlaws’ staff (3.48 team ERA and 28-20 record to the Rogers Hornsby Division for the second year in succession) and ended as one of our TCL hurlers to post ERAs below 1.50. The others included Coppell’s Randy Boone (1.09), Denton teammate Brice Ary (1.21) and Plano standout Jake Wortham (1.49).

2006 TCL High Profile – McKinney Infielder Matt Cavagnaro, 5-11, 170, Jr., Bridgewater, N.Y. (Penn State)

Matt Cavagnaro of McKinney via Penn State flirted with a .400 batting average –achieved by just two players in Texas Collegiate League history in the persons of Erik Lis (.418) of Colleyville-Grapevine in 2004 and Josh Banda (.400) of Denton in 2005.

He dropped slightly to .345 at the end of the 2006 season but had a greater reward: topping the dogpile when Coach Kyle Hope’s Marshals captured the TCL crown over Denton 2-0 in games Aug. 12, 2006.

Cavagnaro, a regular for Coach Robbie Wine’s Nittany Lions in 2004 and ’05, started his TCL reputation with a 3-for-5 contest in the 2005 championship series opener for the Marshals against eventual titlist Denton. That momentum carried into 2006 as he roped 26 hits in his first 63 trips of ’06 to keep McKinney at or near the top of the Tris Speaker Division in an airtight battle with the Coppell Copperheads.

The 2B-SS eventually closed in a tie with Denton’s Aljay Davis with 60 hits in 2006 to lead the circuit while the speedy McKinney standout was second in runs scored league-wide with 37. Cavagnaro also set a TCL mark with five triples (achieved at the 42-game mark of the 48-contest season) while he drove in 23 runs and popped a pair of homers.

McKinney’s leadoff man walked 31 times and posted the third-most official times at-bat (174) while adding seven doubles. His on-base rate provided many early-inning rallies for the 2006 TCL champs.

While he barely missed the league batting title and had outstanding overall stats, Cavagnaro’s greatest satisfaction came from McKinney’s 30-18 regular-season mark – four games better than third-place Euless for a Speaker Division playoff slot against Coppell – and a 4-0 sweep of the Copperheads and Denton in both playoffs of ’06. The Marshals’ composite scores of 29-2 in the postseason encounters were the highest by any team in the three-year history of the TCL.

2006 TCL High Profile – Euless 2B-3B Matt Willard, 5-11, 175, Fr., Newtown, Pa. (Arkansas)

To hit .336 after getting off to a late start and finish second in the pitching-talented Texas Collegiate League are heady accomplishments for Euless LoneStars’ freshman second baseman Matt Willard of Arkansas via Newtown, Pa.

Thanks to NCAA activity by the Razorbacks (they hosted the Fayetteville Regional) and a stellar freshman campaign, the youngster received some ample coverage of his exploits as he became one of the TCL’s top contact hitters.

Willard came to the DFW Metroplex in mid-June and promptly started most of his 36 games with head coach Rob Penders (now head coach a St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas) during the scheduled 48-contest season. He went 43-for-128 with 21 runs, five doubles, a triple and 11 runs-batted-in at Euless and put on a late-season batting splurge to climb all the way into second place individually in final TCL stats.

The redshirt freshman at UA for Coach Dave Van Horn and 2004 Bucks County (Pa.) Player of the Year started 50 of Arkansas’ 65 contests at third base in ’06 while finishing fifth on the squad among regulars with a .286 average.

Willard launched seven doubles, two homers, drove in 20 runs, and had an on-base percentage of .357. The yearling also stole eight bases in 11 attempts.

If the young infielder returns for 2007 TCL duty, he will be one of the potential superstars of the fourth-year summer amateur wooden bat league.

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