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Game 7 Preview: Chatham at Harwich

by Andrew Crane, 06-27-2021

Game 7 Preview: Chatham at Harwich

While a win over Hyannis on Saturday kept Chatham undefeated at Veterans Field, the Anglers look to add their first road win when they travel to Harwich at 5:30. The Mariners won their last game over Falmouth, 11-9, and have won two of their last three since dropping back-to-back games to open the season.

Chatham’s win bumped it back into a tie for first place in the East Division with Yarmouth-Dennis and a tie for second place in the Cape Cod Baseball League standings — three points behind first-place Bourne, who sits undefeated through five games.

Probable Pitchers

As the MLB Draft nears, Austin Vernon (NC Central) looks to build on his three-inning, no-hit, four-strikeout performance in Chatham’s home-opener. The only Orleans baserunner he allowed came when he issued a one-out walk in the third inning, but he recorded his final strikeout to end the threat after the runner advanced to second on a throwing error.

Vernon had already played himself into draft conversations through his 2019 summer in Chatham, but his most recent season at NC Central thrust him even higher up boards. He finished with a 2.55 ERA and threw a no-hitter against Delaware State on May 7 while throwing six or more innings in seven of his final eight starts.

Nick Sinacola will open the game for Harwich, making his second Cape Cod Baseball League start this season. The junior at Maine threw four innings against Orleans in Harwich’s season opener and allowed two runs on three hits and a pair of walks. He struck out four batters, and picked up the loss in the Mariners’ 8-1 defeat.

At Maine, Sinacola started 12 games this past season and finished with a 9-3 record — compiling a 2.02 ERA and striking out 139 batters while walking just 23. He pitched six or more innings in all but two of those appearances and surrendered more than seven hits just once. Chatham, meanwhile, averages fewer than seven hits per game this season (6.7).

Chatham players to watch

Andrew Benefield, who the Anglers activated yesterday, is positioned to take over the starting job at third base until Johnny Castagnozzi potentially returns from his hand injury. He recently completed his redshirt freshman season at Dallas Baptist, transferring to the Patriots after spending his first two seasons at Louisville, and hit .280 with a .482 slugging percentage — achieved through 12 doubles and nine home runs, almost half of his 54 hits.

While with the Cardinals, where he started just six games during the shortened 2020 season, Benefield also appeared once on the mound, throwing just 0.1 innings, allowing three hits and surrendering three runs. That gives him an 81.00 ERA for his collegiate career, as he hasn’t thrown another pitch at Louisville or Dallas Baptist since.

Cy Nielson impressed both during a practice-week scrimmage and during his first Cape League appearance against Orleans — entering the game once Vernon finished his three innings. He allowed just one run on two hits and two walks over three innings, while adding in three strikeouts. He allowed a double to the Firebirds’ Jared McKenzie, who scored after a wild pitch advanced him to third and a groundout sent him home.

Harwich players to watch

Brock Wilken has appeared in all five games for Harwich and leads the team, among players who’ve played more than one game, with a .389 batting average. The infielder from Wake Forest, who recently finished his freshman season, finished with a .279 average after hitting over .300 through mid-April and started all 47 games for the Demon Deacons.

Aaron McKeithan has one of the more well-rounded stat lines for the Mariners. He’s recorded two hits in his six at-bats, drawn four walks, scored two runs, hit a sacrifice fly, driven in two runs and hit one of Harwich’s three homers this season. At Charlotte, he started 59 games as catcher and ended the season with a .278 average.

Stat to know — 17

Harwich pitchers have issued just 17 walks this season, the fourth-lowest number in the league, while Chatham has drawn 27 walks through its opening six games — tied for the most in the CCBL. The Anglers earned 10 free bases last night against Hyannis, helping them record two runs that added insurance along with Lyle Miller-Green’s earlier two-run home run.

Last time they played

These teams last met in the 2019 Cape League playoffs, and the Mariners swept the Anglers — including a 4-2 win in Game 2 on Aug. 3 — to advance further and end Chatham’s season. Kobly Kubichek started after dealing with back stiffness the previous week, but unraveled in the second inning and allowed all four runs. It was a deficit that the Anglers, and their bats that’d been silent throughout the series, couldn’t recover from.

“They were out of gas and reaching back and trying to find energy,” Tom Holliday said after the game. “We hung around, we got great pitching. The bottom line is, they gave me everything they had and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”