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New London's Vincent begins new baseball journey Pecos League

Josh Vincent gazed out the window of the team bus as it rolled down the highway on Tuesday during a seven-hour ride to the next destination on the road trip.

"A bunch of cactuses and desert-like," Vincent said. "Good views on the bus, though."

Vincent, a former New London High School and UConn-Avery Point baseball standout, is definitely not in southeastern Connecticut anymore.

The first stop on his post-collegiate baseball adventure is the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs, which features 14 independent league teams spread across six states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and California.

After helping Eastern Connecticut State University reach the NCAA Division III tournament, Vincent signed a professional contract to pitch for the Alpine (Texas) Cowboys, the league's defending champs. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander tops out at 93-miles per hour with his fastball and also has a slider, curve and changeup in his repertoire.

He was only in Alpine for one home game before the Cowboys saddled up for an eight-game road trip that started in Tucson, Ariz., and continued on to Roswell, N.M., on Tuesday, an off-day on the schedule.

"It's pretty fun," said Vincent during a cellphone conversation on the way to Roswell. "You get to see new areas and see stuff that you've never seen before. ... You get to meet a bunch of new people and it's just a great experience. You get to travel the world while playing baseball."

The change of scenery isn't the only thing that Vincent is experiencing. He's dealing with a drastic change in temperature compared to back home. The temperature regularly climbs to over 100 degrees.

Sometimes, it's even hotter.

"It was a 109 before the game the other day," said Vincent who combats the heat by drinking about a gallon of water per day, more when he's pitching.

It's a far cry from the bone-chilling New England game days that Vincent pitched in earlier this spring.

Fortunately for Vincent, it wasn't as hot as the surface of the sun when he made his debut for the Cowboys on June 11 in Tucson against the Saguaros.

Vincent turned in the kind of strong performance that he regularly had for Eastern last season during which was voted Little East Conference Pitcher of the Year and posted a 6-2 record with a sparkling 1.72 earned run average in a 32-win season for the Warriors. He also was an All-New England selection and D3baseball.com third team All-American.

He went six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs while walking two and striking out six. He earned a no-decision, departing with the score deadlocked at 2-piece. Alpine ended up losing 4-3.

"It was a pretty solid outing," said Vincent, who played two seasons at both UConn-Avery Point and Division II Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., before transferring to Eastern so his family and friends could watch him pitch in his final season. "I just approached it like any other game."

Vincent has been impressed with the talent level so far. A few teammates have played for major league organizations.

"The talent is very high," he said. "All the hitters are very knowledgeable."

It hasn't taken long for Vincent to start settling into his new team. The Alpine roster has players from all around the country and even one from Japan.

"They're all very welcoming," Vincent said.

One of his teammates is Jared Strait, who played college baseball at Wells College, the host site for the NCAA tournament Auburn (N.Y.) Regional. While there with Eastern, Vincent heard about an opening on the Alpine roster from Wells coach Ryan Stevens.

He jumped at the chance to keep playing baseball.

"I'm finished with college," Vincent said. "It just seemed like a good opportunity."

He's looking forward to getting to know his teammates and his new home base in Alpine, a town of about 6,000, located in West Texas.

He's living at a local hotel where some of his teammates also are staying.

"It's a nice area," Vincent said. "It's very homey. Everyone knows each other. It's a small town. I haven't seen much of it. But it's a gorgeous stadium with a nice backdrop of the mountains."

So, what are his goals while playing for Alpine this summer?

"I'm hoping just to perform at a high level every single game," Vincent said. "Hopefully, we can win another championship. We're defending champs right now. That's my first goal. And then to move on."

Vincent's next start is scheduled for Thursday at the Roswell Invaders.

g.keefe@theday.com

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