By Corey Hodges (Media Relations Director/Play-By-Play Voice, Morehead City Marlins)
The Morehead City Marlins are scheduled to make two more trips to Fayetteville, NC before the summer is over in order to complete their eight-game season series with the Swampdogs.
For Marlins Christian Campbell, Luke Watts and Tyler Weyenberg, however, their already-busy itinerary will now include one additional trip to "The Swamp" as the trio was selected on Tuesday to participate in the 2016 Coastal Plain League All-Star Game (July 10th-11th) as representatives of the CPL's Eastern Division.
Of the 28 players (with one final selection for both East and West due on Wednesday, July 6th courtesy of a Fan Final Vote that returns for a third straight year), 56 in total, currently on each roster, the three plucked from Morehead City to assist the Eastern Division in their quest for an All-Star Game victory in the 18th playing of the event comprise an all-around sampling of what the Marlins have to offer both offensively and defensively.
In plate-producers Christian Campbell (Rutgers University) and Tyler Weyenberg (Presbyterian College), the East receives two Marlins who will head to Fayetteville this weekend confident in what they can lend to the cause with the numbers to back it all up.
The digit that immediately draws attention when glancing at Campbell's 2016 stat line thus far are the three home runs off his bat that currently only trail MHC duo Michael Druhan (Spring Hill College) and Romeo Cortina (St. Edwards University), each of which owns four yard balls apiece.
While two of those three homers came in one early-season outing (June 6th, 2016 in MHC's 6-2 victory over Holly Springs), the wood power for Campbell has nevertheless still maintained day in, day out consistency as his start total will attest to (24 lineup spots in 27 total games for MHC).
Whether by coincidence or a strange case of foreshadowing, Campbell (who was also a member of the Marlins in 2015 as he finished with a top-team batting average of .316) enjoyed the two best outings of his season so far against the very same Fayetteville team that will hand over their J.P. Riddle Stadium this weekend to host the All-Star festivities.
In back-to-back meetings with the Swampdogs on June 9th (at Fayetteville) and 10th (in Morehead City), Campbell combined to post five runs, six hits and five RBIs in 10 plate appearances as the Marlins swept Fayetteville 13-8 in meeting one and 16-0 the following night.
On the rare instances when Campbell hasn't manned third base this season, he has worked second plus played as DH when called upon and even boasts two mound appearances with one of the start variety (1.0 IP at Peninsula in GM 1 of a June 20th double-header between Marlins and Pilots).
Though Campbell may dwarf Tyler Weyenberg in homers (three to zero), the latter tops the former in almost every other category as he holds Morehead City team-highs in runs (21), hits (33) and doubles (seven) through July 4th.
Despite not seeing his first start of the season for the Marlins until June 4th at Wilson, Weyenberg (who also vaulted to the top of the list for Presbyterian College this spring as his .358 batting average and 83 hits constituted team-bests for the Blue Hose) hasn't let the delay stop him from becoming both a sure-fire lockdown presence in centerfield (44 put-outs on the season, most as a position eight starter) and all-around "Mr. Dependable" at the dish (collected two or more base knocks in seven of his first nine appearances for MHC).
Like last year's three-player Marlins grouping (Luke Bolka, Stephen Wallace, LHP Zach Reid) which was shipped to Florence, South Carolina for the 2015 CPL All-Star Game, this year's trio of Morehead City shining stars also includes a starting pitcher capable of exacting precision-like strikeouts on the mound.
In an All-Star game that ended in a 4-4 tie last summer due to both sides depleting their hurling reserves, this year's meeting of East and West should be one that ends with one clear winner especially considering the pitching talent slated to be present in Fayetteville, NC.
Right at the peak of that talent sits Morehead City right-handed force Luke Watts (Appalachian State) who figures to even give Eastern Division bump starter Mike Castallani (LHP, Wilmington Sharks) a run for his money.
While the lefty Castallani may have Watts' number when it comes to ERA, win total and innings pitched, the Mountaineer turned Marlin for a second straight season (2-1, 1.47 ERA, 17 K's for MHC in 2015) is nipping at the heels of his Wilmington neighbor in the all-important ring up category: Watts has 33 K's, Castallani is just one better at 34.
And remember, Castallani has worked over nine innings more than Watts this summer.
An unblemished (2-0) wins/loss tally on the hill was joined with a sixth-lowest in the Marlins' bullpen ERA of 2.25 to pave the way for Watts' selection as the righty will get one frame of work to show off his already-established talent on Monday, July 11th during the Coastal Plain League All-Star Game as he, along with the six remaining Eastern Division pitchers selected, will file in behind Castallani inning by inning.
Complete coverage of the Marlins in Fayetteville, North Carolina for the 18th Annual Coastal Plain League All-Star Game at J.P. Riddle Stadium from July 10th (Fan Fest/Home Run Derby) through 11th (AS Game) will be available by following along with the team on Twitter (@mhcmarlins).
Follow the author on Twitter, too! @The_CoreyHodges