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Game 36 Preview: Chatham at Orleans

by Andrew Crane, 08-01-2021

Game 36 Preview: Chatham at Orleans

Chatham defeated Orleans on Saturday for its fourth win in five games, and returns to Eldredge Park for the second time this week to conclude a home-and-home series against the Firebirds. The pair of teams are the only two in the East Division who’re mathematically eliminated, as Brewster will finish first and Harwich will finish second barring a late-season collapse that slides Yarmouth-Dennis into the final playoff spot.

After the final meeting with Orleans this year, the Anglers play their final road game — traveling to Red Wilson Field and facing the Red Sox — before concluding the year with two home games against the East’s likely pair of playoff teams.

Probable Pitchers

Cy Nielson makes his first start of the Cape Cod Baseball League campaign in likely his last appearance with the Anglers this season. He’s steadily become one of Chahtam’s top left-handers, and top pitchers in general, on its staff, allowing only one earned run over his past two outings, which were both no-decisions. Against Falmouth on Monday, he struck out seven batters across three innings and allowed one hit — which created a first-and-second, one-out jam in the eighth inning that Nielson, who was drafted in the 40th round out of high school and completed his second season at BYU, escaped.

The Anglers will face South Florida right-hander Orion Kerkering for the first time this season, and he’ll make his third start of the season for Orleans. In all outings where he’s thrown 1.2 innings or more, Kerkering hasn’t allowed fewer than two runs and opponents have combined to score 10 runs in those three appearances. Twenty-four of his 25 appearances this past college season were out of the bullpen, as were the eight he had during his shortened freshman season, and Kerkering finished 2021 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA and five saves.

Chatham Players to Watch

Nolan McLean has hit .357 through his first four games with the Anglers, and that includes his 0-for-4, four-strikeout performance in Chatham’s loss to Harwich on July 30. He followed that up with two timely RBI singles, both rocketed over infielder gloves and into the outfield, that paced the offense against Orleans. He’s still struck out in all but one game, mirroring a pace that plagued the Anglers earlier in the season, but his bat has stabilized their middle of the lineup along with some variety of Maxwell Romero Jr., Matt Hogan, Lyle Miller-Green, Josh Rivera and Garrett Martin.

David Mendham holds the third-lowest batting average on Chatham, ahead of Kenny Levari and Dominic Tamez, but has reached base in the last three games he’s started — two via walk, and one via a single in the last meeting with Orleans. His on-base percentage, which is .278, ranks in the middle of the Anglers’ roster, even though he’s only managed to record one extra-base hit this season, one that came in his Chatham debut against Falmouth on June 29.

Orleans Players to Watch

Three of the Firebirds’ seven hits on Saturday came via the bat of Trae Harmon, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI from the No. 5 spot. D1Baseball ranked him as the No. 30 sophomore hitter heading into the 2020 season, and he hit .294 in 27 games for Kentucky this season — slugging .441 and driving in 11 runs. Harmon’s played in 14 games for the Firebirds since first joining them on July 13, and he’s recorded hits in seven-straight games and eight of the last nine he’s appeared in.

Another Orleans player aiming to extend a hitting streak is Baylor outfielder Jared McKenzie, who’s reached base safely in the last six games he’s appeared in. He opened up Saturday’s game with a single against McFarlane, then later came around to score on Harmon’s ground-rule double. He hit .383 in 51 starts for the Bears in 2021, earning freshman All-American honors and holding the all-time batting average leader in Baylor history at .389.

Stat to Know — .073

Before Chatham’s game against Orleans on July 28, Jake DeLeo’s average had dipped to .202, the lowest mark of the season for an outfielder who, through the first 10 games, led the Anglers’ offense with consistent singles and a .342 average at the plate. But he’s raised that number up .073 points to .275 through six hits over the past three games, including a home run and a double, and extending a stretch where DeLeo’s reached base in seven of the past eight games he’s appeared in.

Last Time They Played

As the final stretch of Cape League games continued for the Anglers, with no tangible routes available that lead to the playoffs, Chatham continued its best stretch of the season and defeated the Firebirds for its fourth win in five games. McFarlane allowed two runs in the first inning, but then settled down and tossed five — becoming the second Angler starter to last five or more innings this year — while surrendering only one more run the rest of his outing. Chatham’s offense, which recorded nine hits, was led by Nolan McLean’s two RBI singles and Jake DeLeo’s RBI ground rule double.