12 July 2006

Manic Mariners go hot and cold

The roller-coaster ride that is the Harwich Mariners season took another downward dip this week, as the team came off a four-game win streak only to drop its next three games, two of them in extra innings. 

Harwich starting pitcher Dan Merklinger of Seton Hall pitched
well against Chatham on Friday night. (Merrily Lunsford photo)

The Mariners record stands at 9-12 as of Tuesday, good for fourth place in the Eastern Division. 

"We’ve had a few tough breaks lately. We’ve had some games that we should have won get away from us in the late innings," said Mariners manager Steve Englert after watching his team lose its third straight game, a 6-2 loss against Y-D on the road Monday night. "Sometimes, teams go through things like this. I think our biggest problem is that we’re swinging at some bad pitches." 

After a four-game slide which put them in last place, the Mariners got a much-needed boast in the offensive department with back-to-back wins against Falmouth, 9-3 July 4 and 11-6 July 6. Harwich pounded out 24 hits during those two wins. 

They followed those impressive wins with a 4-2 victory over the struggling Chatham A’s in extra innings on Friday night, thanks to a two-run bomb by Josh Donaldson of Auburn in the top of the 11th. 

Starter Dan Merklinger (Seton Hall) had a good night, scattering three hits over five-plus innings while giving up only two earned runs. Merklinger has a 1.66 ERA in his four starts. 

Reliever Dan McDonald of Seton Hall picked up his second win of the season, pitching two innings of relief. 

Playing their third road game in a row Saturday night, the Mariners ran into a trio of good Orleans pitchers as they connected for only five hits in a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals in extra innings. 

After Donaldson drove in the lone Harwich run in the first with an RBI single, the Mariners left eight men on base and spoiled a great effort by starter P.J. Zocchi of Clemson, who allowed only one run on four hits in seven innings. 

Harwich eventually lost the game in the 11th on a bases-loaded single by Orleans’ Matt Wieters off reliever Josh Ellis (Wake Forest). 

With the bats waking up from their slumber, the Mariners appeared on the verge of key win over Brewster on Saturday. Up 7-3 in the ninth, Harwich relievers Joel Brookens (North Carolina State) and McDonald couldn’t get the job done, combining to give up four runs on three hits in the inning. 

After the Whitecaps pushed across a lone run in the top of the 12th, the Mariners appeared to have a chance to again tie the score, but failed to drive in Chad Flack of North Carolina, who was left in scoring position after getting to second with only one out. 

"Playing that many extra-inning games in a row can take a toll on the guys in the bullpen. They seemed to be a little tired," Englert said. "But that’s something you have to expect in this league." 

Greeted by a breeze blowing out, the Mariners lost 6-2 to Y-D on Monday. The Red Sox got off to a strong start as Michael Bianucci and Michael Taylor hit back-to-back home runs off starter Tony Watson (Nebraska) in the bottom of the second inning. 

Watson, one of the Mariners’ most reliable starters, lasted only three innings giving up three long balls and striking out six. 

"I’m not sure how much of a factor the wind played, but if we had been playing in our home park, I’m not sure those balls would have gone out. We got down early, and we just couldn’t seem to get back into it," said Englert. 

The Mariners finally got on the board on Andrew D’Alessio’s first home run of the year, a two-run rocket to deep center in the seventh inning for the Clemson junior. That would be as close as the Mariners would get, as Y-D closer Josh Fields struck out the side to pick up his league-leading fifth save of the season. 

Englert added that this has been somewhat of a week of transition for the Harwich players and coaches as they adjusted to the College World Series and Team USA arrivals. 

"It’s tough, because you build a relationship with the guys who are here and when they leave and others arrive, it takes some time to reestablish that chemistry," he said. "But this is a good team, and I think they’re capable of reeling off five or six games in a row. 

Englert added that the players cannot get down on themselves. 

"We’ve lost a few games, but we’re not that far out of it at all," he said. "Every game that we play is so important." 

Harwich remains in the middle of the pack in pitching, fifth in the league with a 2.88 ERA, and fourth in hitting with a team average of .237. 

The Mariners will try to rebound from their recent slide with games at Hyannis today, July 12, at home against last-place Bourne tomorrow and at Wareham Friday. They were scheduled to host Hyannis Tuesday. 

By Matt Rice/ mrice@cnc.com