SOUTH YARMOUTH – The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox are hardly associated with losing; quite the opposite in fact.
As manager Scott Pickler enters his 16th season as manager for Y-D, his tenure has been defined by competitiveness and consistency. He has an impeccable ability to put together a contending team nearly every summer.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together, … finding out who fits where in the order and which pitchers can fill different roles … getting the chemistry right, working out the puzzle, said Pickler, the the puzzle master. And the numbers don't lie. Pickler enjoys a dominant Cape League record, with three league championships (2004, ’06, ’07), five Eastern Division titles (’04, ’06, ’07, ’10, ’12) and five regular-season championships (’04, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10).
Since the dawn of the 21st century, the Y-D Red Sox have missed the playoffs just four times. But since the dynasty of the mid-2000s ended in 2007, the Red Sox have had a hard time bringing home the hardware. Despite enjoying the best regular-season record in 2009 and 2010, they were bounced both years by the Cotuit Kettleers, the latter in the championship series. In 2011, Y-D was quickly dispatched by the eventual champion Harwich Mariners.
Last year, the Red Sox squandered a great chance at a title. After breezing by the Chatham Anglers and the surprising Orleans Firebirds in the earlier rounds of the playoffs, Y-D blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning of the deciding Game 3 of the Cape League championship series against the Wareham Gatemen and lost after giving up two home runs in the 10th.
“It was one of the toughest losses I’ve ever been a part of,” 2012 All-Star Robert Pehl (Washington) said, “but I’m back this year with a chance to make another run at it.”
Pickler tried to be optimistic as well, adding, “it was pretty nice just to get there two of the last three years.”
Clearly, Pickler and the returning Red Sox have put the tough loss behind them and are focused on this season. “I like the guys that I brought back,” Pickler said.
Pehl is one of those returning players. He posted outstanding numbers last year, leading the team in home runs, doubles and RBIs. Pehl also was tops in the East in RBIs and led all players in the postseason in home runs and slugging percentage.
"It’s awesome to be back here,” Pehl said. “I’m trying to get better every single day.”
Also back are catcher Wayne Taylor (Stanford) and Jose Lopez (Seton Hall), who soon could be reunited with 2012 All-Stars Alex Blandino (Stanford) and Sam Travis (Indiana), as well as Justin Shafer (Florida).
Lopez was particularly excited at getting a second chance with the South Yarmouth ballclub. “I was only here for about three weeks last year, but I felt like I was part of the team, and I was excited to get the chance to come back up again."
Pickler wasn't eager to share any inside information on any of his new players prior to their home opener, a 2-0 shutout victory over the Bourne Braves on Wednesday night, nor was he willing to forecast his team’s performance this summer. But you can be sure that the Y-D Red Sox will have star power galore and a contending team yet again.
“I won’t be able to tell you (our title chances) for a couple (of) months … but I think I got the right guys.”
The right guys for a strong season? Probably. But the right guys to bring a title back to Red Wilson Field? That’s the big question.