07/08/2022 5:00 AM
Article By: Daniel Fox
One of the most special periods of the Cape League season takes place during the July 4th holiday. Usually buoyed by season-high crowds energized by holiday spirit, each team plays a home-and-home series against their closest Cape League rival.
No rivalry on the Cape stretches back further than the Falmouth Commodores and the Cotuit Kettleers. The teams have been rivals since Cotuit joined the Cape league in 1947, and the two dominated the early years of the Cape Cod League. 11 of the first 13 championships were won by either Cotuit or Falmouth, yet the two teams would only play in the championship round once during that span: A 2-1 series victory by Cotuit in the 1975 finals.
That finals would be a harbinger of the fortunes for each club for the next half century. Cotuit has won nine championships since that matchup, while Falmouth has not won it all since 1980. This year has been more of the same, with Cotuit leading the Western Division with a 14-5-4 record entering Friday and Falmouth in fifth place with an 9-12-2 record.
Yet if this past weekend was any indication, the tides may be beginning to change. Falmouth took the first matchup at home on the back of home runs by Colby Halter and Jacob Walsh, and an outstanding performance from their pitching staff that allowed just one walk and struck out 13. The Kettleers bats got going on Monday in Cotuit, thanks in large part to a 4-for-4 day by Tyler Johnson, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Two home runs by Falmouth’s Andrew Pinckney helped hang a 10 spot on the board and give the Commodores a holiday sweep of their rivals.
The other Western Division matchup, the Bourne Braves and Wareham Gatemen may lack the history of Cotuit/Falmouth, considering Bourne is only in their 35th season of existence, but they made up for it with competitiveness. The squads played a pair of remarkably competitive games over the holiday, and when the dust settled, the two teams had tied for the second and third time this season.
Wareham looked to have the early edge in the first contest, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first on the back of RBI hits from Hogan Windish and Ryan Campos. That lead was short-lived, however, as an Evan Sleight two-run home run tied the game for Bourne in the very next inning, and that proved to be the final score of the ballgame. Both bullpens completely shut down the opposing lineups, and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
Game two was another low scoring-affair, as after a first-inning home run by Windish gave Wareham a 1-0 lead, Gatemen starter Matt Jachec and Braves starter Bryce Cunningham traded zeros through the sixth. The Braves would finally break through in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by Sleight, and the score would remain knotted at one headed into the top of the ninth.
It was there where it appeared the Gateman would finally break through. A Kellum Clark bunt misplayed by Braves catcher Alan Espinal loaded the bases with nobody out, but the Gateman would get just one on an RBI groundout by Alan Roden. That opened the door for the Braves in the bottom half, and an RBI single by Carson Roccaforte evened the game at two. Wareham reliever Alex Galvan would stop the bleeding right there, however, and when Dakota Harris grounded out to second base, the two teams had tied at 2 for the second consecutive day.
Pitching was also the story in the East, as the Orleans Firebirds and the Chatham Anglers combined to score only nine runs over the two games. This may come as a surprise when you look at the two teams historical rosters, as both teams have boasted terrific offensive talent. Orleans alumni squad features Frank Thomas, one of the best hitters of his generation, as well as All-Stars Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton and Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Not to be outdone, Chatham also has had an impressive list of offensive talent, including Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and MVP winners Thurman Munson and Kris Bryant.
This season, however, the two squads have struggled offensively, ranking ninth and tenth in the league in runs scored. That trend continued in the opening game, as Orleans’ Donye Evans and Chatham’s Carson Wisehunt, a projected early-round pick in July’s MLB draft, overwhelmed opposing batters all night long. Orleans was able to score the only run they needed off Wisenhunt on a second-inning infield single by Cam Jones, and closer AJ Blubaugh finished off a 1-0 Firebirds win.
Orleans carried the momentum into Monday's game in Chatham, taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. A two-run home run by Chatham’s Nolan Ledford, however, would awaken a sleeping offense, and the Anglers would pile on five more runs. Chatham starter Joe Miller, meanwhile, allowed just one run in five strong innings, and the Anglers would cruise to a 7-1 victory.
It was the bats who headlined the other Eastern division matchup. The winner of two of the last four Cape League championships, the Brewster Whitecaps have begun to establish themselves as a Cape League powerhouse, and they showed why on Sunday against Harwich. They put 16 runs on the board on 16 hits, led by a 3-run home run by Carson Demartini and three-hit games by Logan Bravo and Grayson Tatrow.
The Whitecaps were held to three hits in game two, thanks in large part to an outstanding pitching performance by Billy Seidl, who didn’t allow a hit through five one-run innings. Unfortunately for the Mariners, their lineup could only muster one run on eight hits, and when they stranded the bases with one out in the ninth, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Despite all the great performances around the league on rivalry weekend, the clear magnum opus took place in Yarmouth-Dennis on Monday. Despite playing in opposite divisions, the Hyannis Harbor Hawks and the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox are close enough in proximity to play over July 4th. They are also the only teams who played this holiday who have faced off in multiple championships. The clubs faced each in the 1989 and 2015 finals, both won by YD.
While this Sunday’s matchup may have been a regular season affair, it certainly had a postseason feel to it. The game started as a pitcher’s duel between YD’s Connor Markle and Hyannis’ McCullough before a Nolan Schanuel home run gave Hyannis a 2-1 lead. YD tied the game in the eighth on a Cole Carrigg RBI single. A two-run single from Hyannis’ Cole McConnell ended up putting Hyannis back in the lead, and they would go on to win the game 5-2.
With a 5-3 lead entering the ninth, it appeared the Red Sox were well on their way to a series split. But a YD error allowed the leadoff runner to get on, and Schanuel’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth brought in Janas to knot the score at 5. Haas closed the door in the bottom of the ninth, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.