Written By: Evan Budrovich, Director of Broadcasting
MOREHEAD CITY—When you look out at the Morehead City Marlins defense on a nightly basis, the ever-reliable double play tandem of the energetic Justin Weigle (Ouachita Baptist) flipping the ball over to a rather subdued but hard working second baseman Aaron Wilson (Hartford) has created quite the automatic pair out on the diamond.
Both players joined the squad mid-way through the Coastal Plain League campaign, but their immediate presence, whether that be together on the infield or hitting consecutively in the order, gives everyone on the MHC Marlins more security in what to expect from the final outcome.
"One thing I love about both of those guys is that they have really great instincts on the field," says head coach Jason Wood.
As the coaching staff notes, their integral impact on the box score starts with defense. Both are natural at their positions, playing 40-plus games during the collegiate season, and both enjoy the process of taking each and every repetition as if it were their last.
In one way or another, Aaron Wilson and Justin Weigle approach the game with something to prove. For Wilson, players and coaches notice the Hartford product giving max effort on every ground ball, exemplifying the professional approach to the grind that is summer collagiate baseball. After spending the early part of his summer season in the Cape Cod League, Wilson arrived in Morehead City excited about getting more consistent playing time.
Although calling his impact through 15 games rather consistent would actually be right on the mark.
"I'm just here trying to make plays and whenever I get a ground ball we are confident in one another," said Wilson, describing his working relationship with Weigle, his warm up partner before each and every game.
"I can tell that he wants to win more than some people do," Grant Tyndall (Mt. Olive) comments, before adding that, "He just works extremely hard, you can tell from the second we starting batting practice."
For someone as relentless as Tyndall, the man notorious for hustling out fly balls in batting practice, providing commentary in such high fashion speaks wonders about Weigle's overall impact on his teammates. As you'd expect, the numbers are starting to back up that claim. Over their last 10 games, the Marlins are 7-3 overall turning six double play balls in the process along with and numerous tough putouts at one point or another, surely helping out those commanding the rubber.
"With these guys up the middle, I can focus on leaving the ball down in the zone and know they will make the play," said Hayden Jones, who had some impressive words about the double play tandem, "And our defense has (since) been incredible."
That trust wasn't necessarily an acquired taste, however, as both Weigle and Wilson needed time to adjust with one another. But like any development process, the passion and intensity both place on grinding through one repetition after another forged a solid bond over making plays on the diamond. The results have been positive, but really the process is what satisfies both players desires.
"When we are working together, it's an easy two outs up the middle," said Weigle, an All-Great American Conference selection this past season. That relationship together is centered around hustle, whether that be in Weigle's favorite time of the day, fielding live balls in batting practice or during the game itself.
Now it would be foolish to overlook their strongest bond, the one fusing the No. 9 hitter in the lineup with the versatile threat Wilson, the Marlins first true leadoff hitter of the season, that according to Jason Wood, the man who spends plenty of his time mixing and matching the lineup on a given night. His instincts seem correct as Wilson has reached base in each of his first 15 games with the Marlins, along with recording a nine-game hitting streak just as the club won six straight.
"You just try to make every single play you can," said the ever-focused second baseman. "You don't want to let coach down, let the players down or given all the reps we take, let yourself down."
In fact, the one game Wilson didn't record a hit over the last two weeks, the Hartford product reached base with three walks, providing yet another spark for the Marlins offense back on July 23rd.
His instant impact at the top of the order has provided coach Wood the credence to call Wilson one of his more flexible pieces in the offensive equation. It sure helps when the man hitting directly in front of him, basically as the lineup turns around, develops an aggressive stick at the plate. Weigle earned Big Rock Performer of the Week honors last week hitting over .400 with six runs scored.
"For me, something this team has been lacking is a true leadoff hitter," Wood initially cautioned. "With Aaron (Wilson) though, I feel like he's a true leadoff hitter." Now in terms of Justin Weigle, the man who hit .338 this past season, coach Wood said, "I really like him in the No. 9 spot because having that presence in the bottom of the order has been huge for us."
Whether the presence is felt on the bases or in the batters box, the Marlins threats hitting right behind one another are starting to find legitamite roles in the lineup. Fittingly enough, their improved offensive performance has only helped fortify their work with the gloves, and that impact has been strongly felt by those around the clubhouse.
"Some balls that are hit up the middle that I'd usually get, those are being turned for double plays," Tyndall notices. "It's almost unreal because when I run up, I expect to the get the ball, and then it gets turned."
These two are starting to mesh just at the right time, exactly when the squad needs all hands on deck for a late playoff push. Both players want to take this journey in the Coastal Plain League as a gateway for growth, working together to ensure that not only does their skill set improve but also for the overall game of the Morehead City Marlins. What happens from there is relient on the countless number of ground balls taken from the moment these two step on the diamond. Especially when that double play comes to life and the combination of Justin Weigle and Aaron Wilson gets recognized on full display.
"When you are working hard every day and you see it paying off, it's just a great feeling," says Wilson.
The Coastal Plain League is the nation's hottest summer collegiate baseball league. Celebrating its 19th season in 2015, the CPL features 15 teams playing in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The CPL has had over 1,200 alumni drafted and 79 of those – including 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander – make their Major League debut; while another notable alum - Russell Wilson - won Super Bowl XLVIII. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at www.coastalplain.com and follow us via Twitter @CPLBaseball.