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The Daily Tar Heel

'Soaking up knowledge': Three Diamond Heels working to improve during summer ball at the Cape

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Redshirt first-year infielder/outfielder Casey Cook (16) prepares to swing the bat during the baseball game against Boston College on Sunday, April 23, 2023, at Boshamer Stadium. UNC fell to Boston College 2-6.

Three Diamond Heels are spending their summer covered in sweat and sunburns, but not because of beach vacations or lake days. Instead, Casey Cook, Dalton Pence and Ben Peterson are spending their summer immersed in the world of baseball’s premier summer league known as “the Cape”. 

Pitchers Pence and Peterson and outfielder Cook, have traveled to the over 100-year-old wood-bat Cape Cod Summer League to showcase their skills. The Cape boasts alumni such as Aaron Judge, Jeff Bagwell, Chris Sale and Adley Rutschman — along with former UNC standouts Zac Gallen and Matt Harvey — who all spent summers on one of the league’s ten teams.

Both Peterson and Pence are using their time at the Cape to fine-tune their existing pitching arsenal.

It was an easy decision for the UNC arms, as Pence sees the Cape as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches and players in the country.

“Being around different coaches and different players from different teams would be really helpful for me, just kind of picking their brain and learning more about what they see, what I'm doing wrong,” Pence said. “And what I can fix, what improvements I can make. Just getting help from others.”

The lefty, who worked as a long reliever and even started for the Diamond Heels, is spending his summer focusing on off-speed pitches. 

Mentally, the Cape has been a confidence builder for Pence and as he gets more appearances under his belt Pence said he feels a sense of self-satisfaction.

Peterson is taking his time at the Cape as a chance to get comfortable with two-pitch variations. The righty debuted a new two-seam fastball and cutter midseason after a couple of rough outings with a four-seam with subpar metrics and is looking to fine-tune those pitches.

After a rocky start to his time in the Cape with the Chatham Anglers, Peterson hit his stride in early July, recording his first save while allowing one hit and striking out four in three innings of relief.

His best outing may give head coach Scott Forbes hope for the rotation next season with the righty going 4.2 innings allowing only one hit, zero runs and striking out four. 

“Throwing against some of the best hitters in the country is always going to be a test,” Peterson said. “But so far when I've executed them well, they've really worked.”

Peterson’s primary goal of the summer is to learn from the best in a pitcher-dominated league and to leave with a complete pitching set to bring back to UNC. 

Cook, on the other hand, came to the Cape focused on power-hitting numbers. 

Cook was the most consistent bat for the Tar Heels and had a breakout year at the plate earning ACC All-Freshman honors, reached base safely in 44 consecutive games and ended the season with a .393 batting average.

He was unable to carry his momentum into the Cape, but believes the work he is putting in will be shown in time.

“You're seeing some of the best hitters so you can absorb some of the knowledge they know and you're talking to your teammates, you're talking to people on the other team,” Cook said. “So you're just kind of soaking up knowledge.” 

An additional pro of the Cape for Cook is the swinging of wood bats, which require more accuracy and precision, helping clean up mechanical flaws. 

The three Diamond Heels may have a different goal for their summer, but they all see the Cape as a place to learn from the best and personally develop heading into fall ball and the 2024 season.

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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