21 June 2006

Mariners sail from port as season begins

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 day’s thunderstorms, the bats came around. 

Harwich pounded out 17 hits as they drubbed Bourne 11-0 to improve to 2-3 after a week of Cape League play. 

Warren Schaeffer of Virginia Tech collected four hits. 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. 

The Mariners still don’t have a home run this year. 

“We’re just feeling guys out and trying to stay above water,” Harwich head coach Steve Englert said earlier in the week. “We’re just trying to put things together and look at certain guys in certain situations and fill the spots. We’re 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. 

“We’ve got good players here,” he reiterated. “Nice solid players. I always look forward to playing here. The competition is outstanding. You’re playing against the best. Anybody can beat anybody. This is my ninth year, fourth as head coach. I’m very fortunate to be invited back.” 

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

“You develop relationships over the years,” he said. “It’s like another family. It’s 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. Watson’s 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 it’s 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 tonight’s 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 don’t get too fine and that’s what I did,” Merklinger said. “It’s 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. It’s great. The people up here are nice and enthusiastic; they love baseball. You can’t ask for anything more than that.” 

Englert said Merklinger will be in the mix for the Mariners as the summer goes on. 

“And we’ve got a couple of kids from Nebraska that were freshmen All-Americans last year,” he said of Watson and Jared Cranston. 

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. He’ll be our closer this year. He was a starter at school, but I talked to his coach and he’s 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.” 

The Mariners didn’t exactly pound Cardinals starter Ty Davis, but they got key hits when needed. Davis walked four, and when he walked Amar to open the third, it came back to haunt him. Thomas bunted Amar along to second, then Amar stole third and shortstop Sergio Miranda of Virginia Commonwealth singled to left to give Harwich a 1-0 lead. 

The Mariners scored again in the fifth when Amar reached on a throwing error. He took second on a passed ball and leadoff hitter Antone DeJesus (Kentucky) singled to center scoring Amar. 

Englert tried to squeeze a few more runs out of Harwich’s four-hit attack but Orleans catcher Larry Day gunned down two men trying to steal. 

Harwich didn’t fare quite as well in its other games. Chatham beat the Mariners 5-2 on Sunday night in Chatham. Allan Dykstra hit a two-run homer off starter Johnny Dorn of Nebraska, who gave up all five runs. DeJesus had three hits and scored one of Harwich’s runs. 

Wareham belted Harwich 10-1 in the season-opener June 15. The Gatemen scored five runs off reliever Brian Oates of Trinity and scored three times against starter Nick Hill of the U.S. Military Academy. Bradley Suttles of Wareham homered. 

Y-D beat Harwich 3-1 Saturday, as the Mariners struggled mightily against Chance Corgan of the Red Sox. He held Harwich to two hits (singles by Donaldson and Chris Swauger of The Citadel) over eight innings while whiffing nine. 

Y-D scored three unearned runs against starter and loser Robert Brant of Pittsburgh. Arshwin Asjes of Temple pitched three frames of hitless relief. 

By Rich Eldred /reldred@cnc.com