23 June 2006

Mariners sail from port

Coaches always tell the players, "Your bats will come around." 

Well, the Harwich Mariners were batting a lusty .162 as a team as of Monday afternoon, with 19 hits in 117 at-bats, no homers, no triples and only three doubles. They had scored six runs in the first three games. 

Tony Watson tossed six innings of shutout baseball in his Mariners debut Monday night, as Harwich beat Bourne 11-0 at home. (Staff photo by Merrily Lunsford)

Monday night, presaging the next dayís thunderstorms, the bats came around. 

Harwich pounded out 17 hits as they drubbed Bourne 11-0. Unfortunately, after taking Tuesday off, they were on the other end of a 10-3 thumping by Wareham. The Mariners are 2-4 after one week of play. 

Warren Schaeffer of Virginia Tech collected four hits against Bourne. Catcher Devin Thomas of Brown drove in four runs on three hits. Adam Amar (Memphis), Brandon Menchaca (Delaware), Josh Donaldson (Auburn) and Johnny Giavotella (New Orleans) all had two hits. 

Amar and Menchaca each hit doubles, and Menchaca also tripled. However, Mariners still donít have a home run this year. 

"Weíre just feeling guys out and trying to stay above water," Harwich head coach Steve Englert said earlier in the week. "Weíre just trying to put things together and look at certain guys in certain situations and fill the spots. Weíre still missing nine guys, but we have pretty good guys here." 

Harwich has four players in the College World Series and five trying out for Team USA. Englert, who coaches at Boston College, was looking forward to their arrival. 

"Weíve got good players here," he reiterated. "Nice solid players. I always look forward to playing here. The competition is outstanding. Youíre playing against the best. Anybody can beat anybody. This is my ninth year, fourth as head coach. Iím very fortunate to be invited back." 

Last year, Englert guided Harwich to a 21-23 record. 

"You develop relationships over the years," he said. "Itís like another family. Itís a great effort they put in to make the team go." 

Tony Watson of Nebraska pitched six innings of two-hit baseball and struck out seven in his Cape League debut. Josh Ellis of Wake Forest tossed two innings of shutout relief, and Dan McDonald of Seton Hall closed it out. 

Harwich has had some strong pitching performances. Watsonís was the best, but Dan Merklinger of Seton Hall was pretty impressive Friday night when he shut out Orleans 2-0 in Harwich. 

"I was hitting my spots tonight, working it in and out" Merklinger said after the game. "It helped that I had good defense behind me. That made it a lot easier for me. Devin (Thomas) caught me tonight. I think itís more difficult for a catcher to adjust than a pitcher. I had three pitches tonight, and he caught them all great. He deserves credit for tonightís win." 

Merklinger, a 6-foot, 1-inch, hard-throwing lefty, whiffed nine in six innings, while giving up four singles without a walk. 

"Coach (Justin) Gordan and Coach Englert told me to go after the hitters and to get ahead and stay ahead and donít get too fine and thatís what I did," Merklinger said. "Itís early in the season, and the players are still adjusting to wood." 

Merklinger, a native of West Orange, N.J., is looking forward to the rest of the summer. 

"My goal is to get better and to learn from everyone up here," he said. "There are All-Americans left and right. All I want to do is to learn from them. Itís great. The people up here are nice and enthusiastic; they love baseball. You canít ask for anything more than that." 

At one point, Merklinger struck out six of eight Orleans hitters. On the night, Harwich collected 15 strikeouts, as Ellis fanned four in two frames of shutout work and McDonald added two Ks. 

"It was nice to get out first win," Englert said after beating Orleans. "We threw strikes, played defense and got timely hits. Dan McDonald did a nice job. Heíll be our closer this year. He was a starter at school, but I talked to his coach and heís going to be our closer. Josh Ellis and Joel Brookens (North Carolina State) are also going to be coming out of the bullpen as well." 

By Rich Eldred/ reldred@cnc.com