15 July 2006
Cardinals and Kettleers Lead the Way in the East and West
CAPE COD, Mass. – The season is halfway over and it has been a soggy one. The feel of that new glove is long gone; cleats have been broken in, players have learned how to prepare a field for a game and they have learned that the three main roads on Cape Cod are Routes 6, 6A and 28. This season, no matter how wet, is still the best for players who are winning games.
Sitting atop the Eastern and Western Divisions at the halfway point of the season are the Orleans Cardinals (14-9 in the East) and the Cotuit Kettleers (14-6-1 in the West).
The success of both teams comes as no surprise, as each team ended the 2005 season on a strong note, with Orleans winning the championship.
After last year’s championship, Cardinals general manager Sue Horton “[did] not know what to expect of the team. It is always changing and even until this point of this season it is still changing with lineups. It is fun to watch each personality come together and be able to work as a collective unit.”
The Cardinals have come together and been able to keep their winning ways with pitching and defense. They currently have three players in the Top 10 in pitching – Brett Cecil (Maryland), Ty Davis (Vanderbilt) and Clayton Shunick (Georgia State). Meanwhile, they hope to turn around their hitting woes in the second half of the season as they know it cannot be all up to Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech), who leads the league in hitting to power the Cards through.
Players are always adjusting to the Cape League, as the use of wooden bats is especially hard on the hitters. “Hitters are still learning how to hit the ball inside and pitchers are learning how to pitch inside,” said Cotuit GM Bruce Murphy.
Murphy felt last year’s playoff experience was not disappointing, even though they did not win the championship. “The goal year in and year out is to just make the playoffs because you never know what can happen. With every year we hope to advance further and further until we win the championship.” This year bodes well for the Kettleers, as they have many returning players and are 3-0 against the defending champion Orleans Cardinals.
In 2006 so far, the Kettleers are a well-rounded team in both hitting and pitching. They lead the league with a team average of .275 and have scored the most runs with 102. Their pitching has been phenomenal with a league-low 1.87 ERA helped out by six shutouts.
The Kettleers plan to steal more bases in the second half of the season, as head coach Mike Roberts – the father of Brian Roberts of Baltimore – has a knack for implementing steals. The Kettleers have several players who can run, such as Matt Angle (Ohio State), Eric Farris (Loyola Marymount), Tony Thomas Jr. (Florida State) and Tony Delmonico (Tennessee).
“It has been a group effort. Everyone on the team is contributing and you get that when the team is winning,” said Murphy. When asked if he felt there was a MVP on the team in the first half, no one was able to stand out in his mind. “On pitching we have Cory Gearrin (Young Harris) who runs full charge out of the bullpen and to the mound every time. When you see him with such enthusiasm you cannot help but believe you will win.”
Murphy also talked about the offense and defense. “On the offensive side we have Justin Smoak (South Carolina), a switch hitter who leads the league in hitting, and Eric Farris (Loyola Marymount), who has had many clutch hits. In the field there is Jeffrey Rea (Mississippi State) who adds versatility by not only playing second base but also the outfield. Behind the plate is 2005 MVP Sean Gaston (Notre Dame), who adds his leadership and knowledge about the game. He works one-on-one with the coaches and they allow him (Gaston) to call the game, which is very rare at the collegiate level.”
As with any team, in order for the Kettleers to continue their winning ways they will need to stay healthy and be consistent, a difficult task when players are not used to playing day in and day out. With all the wet weather across the Cape, Murphy believes, it will come down to the team that is able to hold it together and also have some luck. “I have never seen a summer with so much rain. It is affecting us all; the fans, the players, the volunteers, concession stands and the revenue.”
There are 22 Cape League games left (for most teams) before the playoffs start, and look for Orleans and Cotuit not to let up anytime soon as they are prepared for the tough stretch ahead. Both of these seasoned teams should be in it to the very end and into the playoffs. Cotuit and Orleans only play each other one more time this season, on August 4 in Orleans. It comes in the last three days of the season, so it may be a pivotal game to see who ends up with the best record.
By Chad Burkart, CCBL Intern email@example.com
John Garner, Jr.
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