The day is June 7. The Albany Dutchmen are playing their first road game of the 2014 season, battling the Amsterdam Mohawks at Shuttleworth Park in front of 1702 fans. On the mound is a redshirt freshman from Baylor, and ready for a pinch-hit role is an outfielder from Azusa Pacific.
That night, Drew Tolson (Baylor) tossed eight innings, allowing one run on three hits for the Dutchmen. In the ninth inning of that game, Sean Aspinall (Azusa Pacific) clubbed a double to lead off the ninth inning, scoring the tying run in a game Albany would go on to win.
And so began the stellar seasons of Tolson and Aspinall, the 2014 Albany Dutchmen Pitcher and Player of the Year presented by Recognize Awards.
Tolson proved to be a stalwart at the top of the rotation, winning four games on the mound for the Dutchmen. Tolson lived with his control, as the Baylor right-hander walked just six hitters over 54.1 innings. Only one pitcher in the league that threw as many innings as Tolson walked fewer hitters.
For the first seven weeks of the season, the Houston native’s standout start seemed to be Albany’s 15-1 victory over Utica on June 17, a game where the All-Star allowed just one hit over seven innings, and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He also earned a big win on the mound in Watertown on July 20, a game in which he struck out seven hitters.
But for Tolson, no win was bigger than the one that proved to be the difference between making the PGCBL Playoffs and the season ending on July 30 — the July 26 victory over the Glens Falls Golden Eagles. The 4-1 win was Tolson’s second complete game of the year, and the first of the nine-inning variety.
Tolson said he is thankful for the opportunity to pitch in Albany and get the chance to improve as a pitcher.
“I came up here with the plan to work on my craft and learn some of the smaller nuances of pitching,” Tolson said. “It was a great summer to be able to come up and spend the summer with these players and coaches.”
No Dutchmen player came from further away than Sean Aspinall — 2,793 miles separate Azusa Pacific University from Bob Bellizzi Field. However, it quickly became apparent that the Upland, California native felt right at home in a Dutchmen uniform.
Aspinall states the pinch-hit double against Amsterdam served as a springboard to his season.
“When I hit that double at Amsterdam, I realized that it was going to be a good summer for me,” Aspinall said.
The outfielder became a mainstay in the middle of the Albany order, and led the team in most offensive categories. His .327 average, 48 hits, 12 extra-base hits, 25 runs batted in were all best among the Dutchmen. He also served as a stellar outfielder, covering much of the Bellizzi outfield with ease.
Aspinall shined in July, including a notable day in which he drove in six runs over a doubleheader in Boonville with the Adirondack Trail Blazers. He drove in the winning run in the 2014 PGCBL All-Star Game, and made a great diving catch in centerfield to preserve what was then a no-hitter.
Aspinall stated his greatest takeaway from the summer will be that he can compete on the highest level — even against Division I talent.
“It doesn’t matter what level of college you go to,” Aspinall said. “I go to a D2 school, and I’m up here hanging and doing better than a lot of D1 guys. The main focus is just getting into college and getting your work in, because that opens up a lot of possibilities.”