The Anglers open with the first matchup of their 44-game schedule on Friday. Chatham takes on the defending CCBL champion Cotuit Kettleers at Lowell Park, with first pitch slated for 5pm.
Chatham opened the 2010 campaign with a 7-2-1 record but dropped 12 of 13 down the stretch and narrowly missed the playoffs. Many keys to the Anglers' success in 2011 will be absent on Friday night as they are still vying for a trip to Omaha and the College World Series.
After consecutive runner-up finishes, the Cotuit Kettleers struggled through an up-and-down regular season in 2010, much like Chatham. However, the Kettleers found a way to get wins in the playoffs and hoisted the CCBL trophy when the dust settled.
At the close of the 2010 regular season, Chatham (20-22-2) had a better record than the Kettleers (19-23-1). However, the 2010 playoff format expanded to eight teams which made it possible for Cotuit to get a postseason nod in the Western Division. The Anglers were left on the outside looking in as the cellar dwellers of the Eastern Division.
Both teams in action Friday night will work with less-than-complete rosters. A smattering of temporary players will dot each roster. Not until the end of the College World Series in June will teams have a solid idea of what players they can expect.
Lefty Tim Cooney takes the bump for Chatham. The Wake Forest sophomore accumulated seven wins in 14 starts with the Demon Deacons. Across 98 innings this season the southpaw fanned 91 batters and walked just 18.
Both Chatham and Cotuit went heavy on quality arms this season. However, it's the bats that have yet to show up for the Kettleers that have them worried. Michael Yastrzemski (Vanderbilt), who led Cotuit's offense last summer with 17 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases, will lace up the cleats tonight to take on Oregon State in Super Regional play. Kevin Ziomek was expected to bolster Cotuit's staff but instead joins his Commodores teammate Yastrzemski in the Nashville Supers tonight.
The Anglers expected five players from UNC and Florida to join the program this summer, but must wait for the collegiate postseason to play out first. Righty Hudson Randall will likely start for the Gators Friday afternoon against Mississippi State in Gainesville, while Chris Munnelly must put his return to Chatham on hold as the Tar Heels host Stanford.
In past seasons, scoring has started out low during the early portion of the schedule. The low scores are attributed to an adjustment period hitters must go through as they transition to wood bats. Look for that transition to occur more quickly this season, thanks to sweeping NCAA bat regulations which made the bats colleges used in 2011 feel less like metal and more like lumber.
College teams throughout the country switched bats to satisfy the NCAA's new standard parameters for Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution. The BBCOR regulates the speed at which a ball may leave the bat, and the acceptable BBCOR standard in the NCAA can be closely translated to the BBCOR of a wood bat. In 2011, NCAA batting averages dropped across the board with new bats that simulated the feel of lumber.
Chatham manager John Schiffner returns for his 19th season leading the program. Entering play Friday, Schiff comes in as the all-time winningest coach in CCBL history. His staff of assistants has been revamped, with only Jay Grenier (Barry) returning.
The Anglers looked like the team to beat early in the 2010 schedule. Chatham looks to return to last year's early season form and collect a W in their opener.