5 August, 2004

East Race Tightens as Cards Rally

     There will be a race for the post season in the Cape League East after all.

     Life looked rosy for the Y-D Red Sox and Brewster Whitecaps not so long ago as they held a substantial eight point bulge (42 vs. 34) over the competition as recently as Sunday morning.

Y-D first baseman William Harris reacts as Steve Tolleson of Brewster gets back to the bag safely during Tuesday’s 8-1 Y-D win.

Staff photo by Merrily Lunsford

     Harwich, Chatham and Orleans had to heat up big time or start planing their trips home. Well, the Cardinals have taken flight, winning seven games in a row, and Brewster fell into the deep freeze. The Whitecaps were happily in first (21-13) one week ago, with Y-D second (19-15) and Orleans in last (14-20). The Whitecaps dropped five straight prior to upending Hyannis 5-4 Wednesday. The Caps are 22-18, two points up on the third place Cardinals (21-20). While the Red Sox haven’t clinched the East Division title they’re playing well and with a 24-17 mark are a good bet to be keep on playing after the regular season ends on Sunday. The top two teams make the playoffs.

     “We’ve stayed pretty consistent all year long,” said Y-D head coach Scott Pickler. “It’s team chemistry without a doubt. These guys like each other. We have no superstars, no prima donnas.”

     They may have no superstars but the Red Sox have plenty of stars. Catcher Frank Curreri is batting .303 with two homers and 15 RBI. Second basemen Joe Anthonsen leads the Cape League in runs scored with 32. He’s batting .242 but has 31 hits and 25 walks so he gets on base. Matt LaPorta is second in the league with nine homers and leads the Sox with 20 RBI. All-Star shortstop Ryan Rohlinger has played terrific defense.

     “This league is made up of pitching and defense,” Pickler said. “But it helps if you hit pretty good.”

     Y-D has hit. Their small home field tends to boost the power stats but they’ve swung the lumber on the road as well.

     “We’ve played pretty good defense,” Pickler noted. “The pitching has been consistent. Again there are no superstars. But we’ve got a lot of guys who are doing a good job. And we’ve got a great out of our closers and the starters have gone far enough to keep the bullpen rested.”

     The Red Sox sported a couple of All-Star pitchers, Justin Blaine (4-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43 innings) and Justin Keadle (5-1 with a 3.44 ERA and 49 whiffs in 49 frames). Dan McCutcheon didn’t make the All-Star squad but with a 5-1 record and 1.58 ERA he could have.

     Josh Faiola (2-2, 1.23 and nine saves) has been the chief closer. Brett Harker (3.24 ERA in 18 games), Blake Holler (1-1, 3.32 in 13 games) and Cory VanAllen (2.74 Era in 10 games) have been the main set up men. 

     “I’m happy with the effort they’re giving, how hard they play,” Pickler said. 

     McCutcheon pitched a rare complete game Tuesday as Y-D bested second place Brewster 8-1, scattering seven hits and fanning five.

     Sox catcher Ben Crabtree played with Brewster last year and has done a solid job for Y-D this year.

     “Our pitchers are throwing strikes and keeping us in the game,” Crabtree said. “And we have some guys that can hit the ball and that equals success. I think every guy we throw out there can throw strikes. They don’t walk guys and with wood bats that’s important. It’s been a good summer. The team gets along well. We’ve got great chemistry and that equates to wins.”

Whitecaps skid

     Brewster hadn’t won in a week – losing twice to Y-D (8-1 and 7-2), to Orleans 6-5, Falmouth (5-3) and Chatham (6-1) – before topping Hyannis 5-4. Will Rhymes doubled in the ninth and Steve Tolleson singled him home for the winning run.

Will Rymes of Brewster reaches to tag Joe Anthonsen of Y-D - or does he? Anthonsen was called safe. 

Staff photo by Merrily Lunsford

     All of Brewster’s runs came with two out, three of them knocked in by Ryan Patterson, so maybe the worm has turned. 

     “We’re struggling now. We have to turn it around. We were in a good position but Orleans is coming on strong,” Manager Bob Macaluso said before the game. “If we can get some pitching going and get some breaks we can turn it around. But our pitching hasn’t been as strong as it was earlier in the summer.”

     Brewster had been leading the league in many pitching categories and Matt Goyen (4-2, 1.42 and a league high 68 K’s) is still at the top but Brewster as a team is eighth in ERA.

     “We’re chasing runs every night,” Macaluso noted. “But I don’t want to blame just the pitching, our defense hasn’t been great. It’s those two areas we’ve got to improve. We’ve got some guys who can swing the bat.”

     Will Rymes (a former temporary player) is batting .308, Mike Campbell is at .277, Ryan Patterson is hitting .330 with 5 homers and 22 RBI and Ryan Robertson is solid at .275.

     “We can turn it around,” Macaluso promised. “We have to play better baseball. We have five games left and if we go 3-2 we’ll probably get in. It’s been an awesome summer, till last week I’ve been very happy with the team. We’ve got good personnel. It’s just a matter of going out and finishing the job.”

Cards playing a strong hand

     Orleans looked finished a week ago but the spigot has been turned on. They’ve beaten Hyannis (2-1), Brewster (6-5), Harwich (7-2), Wareham (11-0), Bourne (5-0), Chatham (2-0) and Cotuit 9-4 this past week. The three shutouts, were chalked up by starters Chris Nicoll, Dennis Robinson and Erik Averill with relief help.

Jordan Brown of the cardinals makes a play at first.
Staff photo by Merrily Lunsford

     The Cards beat Chatham Tuesday night on a suicide squeeze by Matt Cooksey, with runners on second and third with one out. Luis Rivera had moved them up with a sacrifice bunt and when Chatham pitcher Robert Woodard tried a barehanded swoop of Cooksey’s bunt to the plate it got by the catcher and both runners scored. 

     That’s how things have been going for Orleans of late.

     “We’re playing together, and we haven’t,” manager Carmen Carcone declared. “I know the talent is there. The team that plays together usually gets good results. When you win guys are hitting, guys are making plays. Guys are pitching and that makes you feel better and when guys are starting to feel good you do better.”

     While Orleans is picking up the pace first baseman Jordan Brown (5 homers, 28 RBI, .342 average) and Tyler Greene (.310) have hit well all year and pitchers Erik Averill (5-2, 1.59 ERA), Chris Nicoll (4-1, 1.57) and Ryan Self (five saves, 1.31) have been solid all summer.

     “Our bats have been better. We’ve had three shutouts in a row. The pitching has been great. We’ve been playing good baseball,” Carcone said. “We were in a situation where we had to win every game.”

     And that’s just what they’ve done.

Schiffner logs landmark win

     Chatham A’s coach John Schiffner took another step up the all-time Cape League win ladder. Chatham’s 2-1 win over Y-D in 10 innings July 25 was Schiffner’s 258th, one more than former Y-D Red Sox manager Red Wilson (257-373-33) and he moved into third place in league history.

      “If your around long enough that’ll happen at some point. It’s a nice honor because of what the Cape League means to me,” Schiffner said. 

     Schiffner’s current record is 261-231-10. The A’s are 18-22 and have lost a lot of tight games.

     “That’s been the nature of our season,” Schiffner noted. “We have not been able to win enough one-run games. But that’s the nature of this game. In this league if you get down a few runs in the middle of the game you’re in trouble.”

     Schiffner has won two Cape League championships in his 12 years as head coach. 

     “I think the kids have played hard the entire year,” he said. “They haven’t quit. But you’re not out here to win the championship every year. You’re here to show them everything they need to get better. 2002 is a good example, it was not a good season and 19 of them signed pro contracts. We’re here to help the kids get to the next level.”

By Rich Eldred