America's League

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Chatham's Middle is Their Heart

06/17/2010 3:55 PM

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CHATHAM ---- It may be early in the Cape Cod League season, but facing the heart of the Chatham Anglers lineup is getting old quickly for opposing teams.
Just ask the Orleans Firebirds.

     The Anglers’ 3-4-5 hitters ---- Mark Ginther (Oklahoma St.), Rick Oropesa (USC) and Dan Paolini (Siena) ---- combined to go 7-for-15 with four RBI and two runs scored in a 5-2 victory over the Firebirds on Wednesday. Paolini delivered the game-tying single in the bottom of the ninth and Oropesa ended it with a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th.

     The trio has provided most of the offense in the early going for 3-0 Chatham. Ginther leads the team with a .462 average, including three doubles, a triple and four RBI. Paolini is hitting .357 with a double, triple and three RBI, and Oropesa is at .286 with one home run and four RBI. Combined, the three have collected 11 of the team’s 12 RBI and have driven in 11 of the 14 runs.

     “They are good players, they are good hitters,” field manager John Schiffner said of Oropesa and Paolini. “Ginther has done a great job for us. He has got some big hits for us the last three games.”

     All three had outstanding spring seasons and appear primed to make Chatham an early-season favorite. Paolini’s 26 home runs at Siena ranked him second in Division I and Oropesa’s 20 were not far behind. Ginther had a team-leading 12 homers at Oklahoma State.

     “It feels great,” Oropesa said of hitting between Ginther and Paolini. “It feels good to rely on the guys behind you and in front of you to have good at-bats and protect me.”

     With the season just three games old, some may begin to assign a Bash Brothers-type quality to these boppers. And why not. They have combined for eight of the Anglers’ 11 extra base hits. That total is more than eight other Cape League teams. But both Oropesa and Paolini are quick to brush away any such talk.

     “Not yet, but hopefully during the season,” Paolini said. “Coming from a school like Siena, I am just trying to prove myself.”

     Oropesa echoed the words of his slugging teammate.

     “I am not really thinking about home runs,” he said. “I am just thinking about improving myself. Take it day by day, pitch by pitch and just try and get better.”

     There is no mistaking the admiration the two have built in the first few days of the season, especially after Oropesa’s walk-off home run one hopped into the firehouse beyond the right-field fence at Veterans Field.

     “Ricky has a whole ton of pop in his bat,” Paolini said. “If you come watch BP, he puts them out there and it’s jaw-dropping. I got a little more pop in a game situation, but I don’t have the pure strength Ricky has.”

     More importantly for Schiffner is that all three are all-around hitters. Schiffner enters his 18th season as field manager and has coached current big league sluggers Jason Bay and Evan Longoria.

     “It’s not all power,” he said. “Last (Tuesday), we just scored our second run, a go-ahead run and Ricky hit a shot into the left-center field gap to drive in another run. Huge base hit. It takes the pressure off. And then Danny goes opposite field (the next day) to tie the game.”

     The good thing for Chatham is none of the three have been invited to Team USA. That means Anglers’ fans could see a summer league version of Murderer’s Row.