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Game 2 Preview: Orleans at Chatham

by Allie Kaylor , 06-21-2021

Game 2 Preview: Orleans at Chatham

The Chatham Anglers (0-0-1) are back at Veterans Field for the first time since 2019, taking on the Orleans Firebirds (1-0) in front of the home crowd on Monday at 7 p.m.

Chatham’s season-opener with Falmouth ended in a tie after a new rule in 2021 eliminates extra innings. The Anglers had 13 hits — 11 of which were singles — while scoring seven runs. Daniel Federman allowed just one run and struck out the side in the ninth to end the game.

The Firebirds had a much different start to the season, defeating Harwich 8-1 at home. Eight different players got a hit, and two home runs created half of the runs scored.

Probable Pitchers

Austin Vernon will start the home opener for the Anglers. The senior sported a 2.55 ERA over 70 2/3 innings at North Carolina Central, including the first no-hitter in program history. Vernon also played for Chatham in 2019, when he struck out 31 batters over 20 2/3 innings.

Vernon’s performance in his first three seasons with the Eagles was good enough to put him on MLB draft boards in 2020. However, the draft was shortened to five rounds, and Vernon elected to play his senior season at NCCU rather than sign with a team as an undrafted free agent. This year, multiple scouts have labeled him as a potential pick in the first 10 rounds.

Max Rajcic is starting opposite Vernon at Veterans Field on Monday. The right hander has a three pitch arsenal, including a low to mid 90s fastball. Like Vernon, the freshman appeared on draft boards last summer, but ultimately didn’t hear his name called after the shortened season.

Rajcic excelled as UCLA’s closer in his first collegiate season. He only pitched more than two innings once, but maintained a 1.65 ERA and collected 36 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings. Against California on May 22, Rajcic struck out all five batters he faced, including three of them looking.

Chatham Players to Watch

Josh Rivera hit one of two extra base hits Sunday for the Anglers, hitting a double in the gap. Rivera also nearly beat out an infield single and made several impressive plays in the field at shortstop. The freshman struggled offensively at Florida, but bounced back later in the season, including a four-hit performance against Mississippi State.

Crosby Jones didn’t start the season-opener, but the third baseman pinch hit and came in on defense later in the game. Manager Tom Holliday has hinted that he may use both Jones and Johnny Castagnozzi — who started Sunday’s game — and the lefty may see more action against the right-handed Rajcic. The freshman hit .296 with 21 RBIs at the Citadel this year.

Orleans Players to Watch

Jace Jung just finished a standout freshman campaign at Texas Tech that ended with a second-team All-American nod. The infielder batted .337 overall this season and — for a three-game stretch in mid-April — batted over .400. Over 56 games, he hit 21 home runs, drove in 67 runners and walked 49 times.

Chase DeLauter hit a three-run blast in the ninth in the Firebirds 8-1 win over Harwich on Sunday. The redshirt freshman batted .386 at James Madison this season, with 18 extra base hits over 26 games. The lefty struck out just 14 times while walking 25. Over the course of the season, there was just one game — the second game of the season — where he never reached base. In 12 games, he reached base at least three times.

Stat to Know — 2

Jung and Tyler Locklear are the two second-team All-Americans featured on Orleans’ roster. The second and third basemen combined for 53 extra base hits and 133 RBI, respectively. Locklear’s 16 home runs for VCU led the Atlantic 10, and his .345 average was sixth in the conference. He got on base over half the time, with a .515 OBP, the nation’s 12th best clip. Jung led the Big 12 in home runs, RBIs and OPS.

Last Time They Played

The Anglers lost 10-0 in the 2019 regular season finale in what Tom Holliday called a “backyard” game. It had no playoff implications for either team, and the league denied requests to cancel the makeup game. Instead, Holliday let eight different position players pitch while four pitchers made appearances in the box. Several players said postgame it was one of the most fun and exciting games they had ever been part of.