HARWICH – Trey Dombroski arrived on Cape Cod at the beginning of the summer with a temporary contract and a crystal-clear objective.
“My whole goal was to just get exposure and get my work in, pretty much,” said Dombroski, a left-handed pitcher for the Harwich Mariners. “I wanted to work on some stuff and just kind of meet new guys and see what works for them and what doesn’t.”
Harwich pitching coach Steve Gruenberg recalls Dombroski wanted to work for the entire summer, not only a portion of the season, which was all he was guaranteed as a player with a temporary contract.
“I remember picking him up at Exit 6 at the bus stop and he was like, ‘All right, what do I have to do to stay?’” said Gruenberg of his first interaction with Dombroski. “I was like, ‘Listen buddy, you’re going to be all right. You just worry about getting one out at a time.’”
Dombroski made his Cape League debut on June 23 in Harwich’s 5-2 victory over Hyannis. He faced eight batters, allowed two hits and struck out three in two innings of relief. Six days later, Harwich manager Steve Englert called for Dombroski out of the bullpen at Yarmouth-Dennis.
The left-handed pitcher from Monmouth University, just miles away from his hometown of Manasquan, N.J., was impressive yet again. Dombroski surrendered five hits over 3.2 innings, but he made a strong impression on Englert and Gruenberg and secured a long-term spot on the team after striking out 10 of the 16 batters he faced in his second outing.
What happened next was the stuff of legends.
Dombroski served as a frontline starter for Harwich the rest of the way and finished the regular season with a 3-0 record with a 0.85 ERA. He struck out 45 batters and walked just two in 32.1 innings.
Those remarkable stats were more than enough for Dombroski to cement his place in Harwich Mariners — and Cape League — history. He was named the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher ahead of Game 2 of the East Division championship series on Saturday at Whitehouse Field.
“I haven’t seen an arm dominate like that since the Lincecum years,” Englert said, referencing Tim Lincecum, who went 2-2 with a 0.69 ERA and 68-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio while pitching for Harwich in 2005.
“Two walks the entire [regular season]? That’s tremendous,” Englert continued. “That’s Hall of Fame stuff right there. He’s made himself a lot of money this summer.”
While Lincecum went on to win two Cy Young awards and three World Series titles while pitching for the San Francisco Giants, the hard-throwing righty didn’t leave the Cape with the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher award.
Dombroski said receiving the honor is only going to push him to get better.
“That puts fuel to the fire, in my opinion,” he said. “That just makes me want to get it even more.”
The humble New Jersey native was quick to credit his teammates for the way they played behind him.
“My coaches and my teammates all really made it easy for me to get that award,” he said.
“Playing behind Trey is electric,” said Harwich third baseman Brock Wilken, who was named the league MVP moments after Dombroski collected his award. “He’s the man on the mound. Every time he goes out, we can play with so much more confidence because we know Trey is on the mound.”
Gruenberg said he was most impressed by Dombroski’s desire to get better.
“He’s a great competitor and has a bunch of energy and he’s just always looking to learn something,” the pitching coach said.
Dombroski’s lone loss of the summer came in his final start. He gave up two runs (both earned) and six hits while walking one and striking out six batters over six innings during Game 1 on Friday. The first run he allowed came on a broken-bat blooper, the second on a double.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but my hat goes off to Brewster,” Dombroski said after the loss. “They are a really good ball club over there.”
Only a couple short months after he arrived on Cape Cod hoping he’d be able to extend his stay from temporary to long-term, Dombroski leaves Harwich as the league’s top pitcher. As he prepares for his junior year at Monmouth, the lefty said he’ll always look back at this summer as the one that helped him take another step in his development.
“This was just a confidence booster,” he said. “I went up against some really good competition — all of these guys are really amazing — so it’s been a really good summer. I definitely feel like I got better.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal