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Game 12 Preview: Orleans at Chatham

by Allie Kaylor , 07-04-2021

Game 12 Preview: Orleans at Chatham

After the first game of a home-and-home series was canceled due to rain, the Chatham Anglers will face the Orleans Firebirds Sunday at Eldredge Park to cap off the Fourth of July weekend. It was Orleans’ second cancellation of the year, while it was the Anglers’ first, as their June 22 game against Yarmouth-Dennis was the only Cape Cod Baseball League game not rained out. Both teams retained the same pitching rotation, with Saturday’s probables now starting Sunday.

The Anglers broke a four-game winless streak on Friday with a 4-1 win over the first-place Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. It came just one day after a hitters meeting at Veterans Field, where position players watched film of batting practice and discussed approach at the plate and how to move forward after two straight one-run games.

The Firebirds are in the exact opposite situation — they’ve scored at least 10 runs in the last three games, the most recent being a 19-6 win over Brewster.

Probable pitchers

Austin Vernon (NC Central) will be making his third — and potentially last — start of the season for the Anglers. The senior is on MLB draft lists, with several scouts and experts saying he has top-10 round potential. The draft begins July 10, and his next start would come up on July 9.

This is Vernon’s second start against the Firebirds, with his first coming in the home-opener. He was near perfect that day, striking out four and allowing no hits and just one walk over three innings of work. Chatham manager Tom Holliday said after that game he had no intention of leaving Vernon in for a fourth inning, but since then, there have been instances where he’s strayed away from his 3-3-3 strategy for pitchers, so it’s possible he comes out for a few batters in the fourth if he’s pitching well and a string of right-handers are set to lead off the inning.

Vernon’s second game of the season, however, didn’t go as planned. He retired the first five Harwich batters he faced and got out of the second inning only allowing a walk. But in the third, three baserunners reached before Brock Wilken hit a grand slam — mirroring one the Anglers hit in the first inning — to kick off an 11-6 loss for the Anglers. It was the most runs he’d ever allowed in an Anglers uniform, including 2019, and the most runs he’d allowed in an inning since 2018 at NC Central.

Donovan Benoit is set to start against Vernon in his second start and third appearance of the season for Orleans. In his start against Y-D, he allowed five runs on five hits in five innings in the 8-7 loss. The Red Sox slugged over .500 against him with four of the runs coming on two different home runs.

Chatham Players to Watch

Maxwell Romero Jr. (Vanderbilt) was activated Saturday and was scheduled to start at catcher before the rainout. He was a backup to CJ Rodriguez and saw appearances in 21 games, including Game 2 of the College World Series final, where he came in and hit a late-inning home run. Romero Jr. batted exactly .300 this season with an OPS over 1.000. With Kevin Parada on a stint with Team USA and catcher John Michael Faile released, Romero Jr. will likely see extended starting time in the coming weeks.

Michael Brown changed his approach at the plate this summer after striking out in over half of his at bats this season at Washington. The first baseman leads the Anglers with a .444 batting average and a .545 OBP. He was used sparingly to begin the season, but has seen more playing time recently with Caden Grice also gone to Team USA.

Orleans Players to Watch

No one has added to the Firebirds’ recent success more than Tyler Locklear. The third baseman has three home runs and seven RBI in his last two games with four and 14 on the season respectively. His slugging percentage has increased from .346 on June 30 to .647 on July 2, with his OPS increasing from .596 to nearly 1.000 in the same range.

Chase Delauter also has four home runs this season and leads the Firebirds in OPS among players with at least 10 plate appearances. While he had an OBP over .500 at James Madison this year, it’s his power that’s given him the most success so far. The centerfielder has a .742 slugging with half of his hits going for extra bases.

Stat to know — 63

Orleans leads the league in runs scored, with 41 of those 63 coming in its last three games. On the other hand, Chatham leads the East Division with 52 runs allowed and the pitching staff leads the League with 50 earned runs.

Last time they played

Vernon started the Anglers’ home-opener against Orleans’ Max Rajcic, both of whom made it out of the first three innings unscathed. But things got interesting later when Lyle Miller-Green hit a bases-clearing double to give the Anglers a 4-1 lead, and solo home runs by Grice and Johnny Castagnozzi helped seal a 6-3 win for Chatham .