By Jim Hagerty
The 2014 baseball season has taken a positive turn for two former NIC-10 stars, as Boylan grad Jake Smolinski and former Guilford pitcher Cody Scarpetta are making their marks in the pros.
Smolinksi made his major league debut with the Texas Rangers Monday July 7, coming in late and going 0-2 as a pinch hitter. It was a different story Tuesday as Smolinski started in left field and drove an RBI double off the left-field wall for his first big-league hit. The former Boylan shortstop added a single in the ninth, finishing 2-4 in a 8-3 loss to the Houston Astros.
Smolinski, 25, hit safely in 7 of 8 games with Triple-A Round Rock this year batting .267 (8-30) with 6 doubles and 6 RBI since a promotion from Double-A Frisco June 25. He was selected to the Texas League All-Star Game after batting .267 (71-266) with 15 doubles, 10 home runs, and 35 RBI in 72 games with Frisco.
Signed as a minor league free agent over the offseason, Smolinski previously split his professional career between the Nationals (2007-08) and Marlins (2009-13) since being picked up by Washington in the second round of the 2007 June draft. He was a part of a Nov. 11, 2008 trade involving Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen.
Smolinski is the first NIC-10 player to play in a major league game since 2002. He is expected to start tonight at home against Houston.
The road back to the big leagues may be a short one for former Milwaukee Brewers top prospect Cody Scarpetta. The former Guilford right-hander went seven innings for the Class A Lynchburg Hillcats Friday, June 27, combing with Benino Pruneda for the club’s second-straight no-hitter. Scarpetta fanned seven and walked one for the Atlanta Braves affiliate.
Like Smolinski, Scarpetta was drafted out of high school in 2007. He was called up to the Brewers July 10, 2011 but did not pitch. He was sent down the next day. From there, Scarpetta’s future was questionable at best. Tommy John surgery kept him out of baseball in 2012. He was released by the Brewers last December.
Scarpetta began the 2014 campaign with the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers. He was picked up by the Braves last month.