09/09/2008 2:34 PM
Orleans Cardinals 2008 Season Review
Loss of Key Players Cost
Orleans at the End Despite
Cape League's Best Record
ORLEANS, Mass. -- Throughout the month of June, the Orleans Cardinals had the rest of the Cape Cod Baseball League searching for a way beat them.
But after the calendar flipped to July, the Cardinals' world was turned on its head and their fans were left scratching their heads, wondering what went wrong.
Manager Kelly Nicholson defined the season as a “roller coaster.” He saw his team go from the league's hottest to its coldest in a matter of days.
Following the departure of Cole Figueroa (Florida), who signed a professional contract with the San Diego Padres, and Eric Erickson (Miami), who left because of an arm injury, the Cardinals could manage just four victories in their last 16 games, going 4-10-1.
The big lead they had built up allowed the Cardinals to survive the late-season plunge and they held on to win the East Division title. But it was clear that second-place finisher Harwich held the edge in momentum heading into the divisional championship series, and that view proved true as the Mariners swept Orleans in two memorable games, including a stunning 1-0, 18-inning victory at Whitehouse Field that ended the Cardinals' season.
“When you lose a guy like that (Figueroa) and an arm like Erickson's, it hurts," reflected Nicholson, who was named the Mike Curran Award winner as the Cape League's Manager of the Year.
"The rest of the guys we had were good enough to get the job done," he continued. "Either of those playoff games could have gone either way ... it was just that Harwich played better.”
Despite the huge disappointment at the end, Nicholson still saw the season as a success. “Any time you can win 25 wins you’ve had a really good year,” he said. “It was a credit to the guys, the best group in my eight years here.”
Nicholson’s pitching staff led the league in ERA at 3.10. It marked the fourth time Orleans topped that category since Nicholson first joined the Cardinals as pitching coach in 2001.
At the top of the rotation was Matt Thomson (San Diego), who got the starting nod for the East in the Under Armour Cape League All-Star Game at Chatham. Thomson finished with a 4-0 record and a 1.66 ERA in 48.2 innings.
Angelo Songco (Loyola Marymount) provided the power for the team, blasting eight home runs to tie for second in the league. Songco was also the winner of the Baseball Factory Home Run Hitting Contest at the All-Star Game.
Nicholson, whose Curran Award was his second in four years, became just the third multiple Manager of the Year winner in Cape League history.
“You feel honored to win that award just one time," he said. "It’s a reflection of a solid coaching staff and outstanding players."
Orleans not only finished with the league's best regular-season record, 25-17-2, but it led the 10-team circuit in attendance, drawing 48,591 fans in 22 home dates at Eldredge Park. The Cardinals' one home playoff game -- a 4-3 loss to Harwich on Aug. 9 -- attracted another 4,678 spectators for a total attendance of 53,269 in 2008.
Phil Garceau, CCBL Intern ([email protected])
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Stefanie Marini, Laura Rasmussen