Phillips Inched Out for Batting Title, Orleans Sweeps Doubleheader
by Mike Morris Thursday, August 04, 2011
The annual home-and-home season-ending series between rivals Chatham and Orleans became a home-and-home day-night doubleheader on Wednesday, thanks to a rainout on Tuesday night.
In the matinee, Chatham's starting pitcher Tim Cooney (Wake Forest) submitted a strong performance, but the Anglers lost 6-2 in the last home game of the 2011 season at Veterans Field. And despite a furious late-game comeback by the Anglers in the nightcap, Orleans was again victorious, this time by a score of a 9-8.
The actual significance of the games was not particularly captivating. All Orleans needed was one win, or a Harwich loss, to clinch first place in the Eastern Division and home field advantage in the postseason.
A far more intriguing storyline, though, was the CCBL batting title. Coming into Wednesday's action, the league batting average leader was Chatham's Dane Phillips (OK State), with a .355 average. In a close second place was Orleans' Matt Duffy (Long Beach State), hitting at a .354 clip.
Every time through the order was high drama, with one hitter trying to keep pace with the other. By the time the second game ended on Wednesday night, the outcome of the batting race was one that came as a shock to players, coaches, and fans of both teams.
The 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon start time in Chatham did not bode well for a large crowd, but the Angler faithful did not intend to miss this summer's last chance to see the hometown team take the diamond at Veterans Field.
In front of a sizable crowd, the Anglers offense never got off the ground. In fact, the only Chatham player in the starting lineup to record a hit through nine innings was Darrell Matthews (Cal), who had two hits and was responsible for both Angler runs.
In the home half of the eighth inning, J.T. Watkins (West Point) reached first base on a throwing error, and was driven home by a Matthews triple that was smoked to the 357 ft sign in right-center field. The next batter, Dane Phillips, lined a ball deep enough to left so that Matthews could tag up and score from third.
Those two runs were all that Chatham could muster. However, through seven innings, the Firebirds were held to just one run. Cooney struck out six over six innings, allowing only a run in the fifth inning. He recorded four 1-2-3 innings.
The real trouble for the Anglers came in the top of the eighth inning, after reliever Cody Penny (UNC) worked a scoreless seventh. Trae Davis (Baylor) was the new Chatham pitcher, and he struggled mightily. After walking the first two batters of the inning, Davis served up a home run to Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook). When the next Firebird batter drilled a standup double, manager John Schiffner had no choice but to take out Davis.
Chris Munnelly, the Anglers' fourth pitcher of the game, surrendered a sac fly RBI to Matt Duffy before he got out of the inning. Add to those three eighth inning runs a solo home run by Tarran Senay (NC State) in the ninth, and the scoring was final: Orleans 6, Chatham 2.
The bright spot for Angler fans was the fact that their own Dane Phillips ended Game 43 with the league's highest batting average. After going 0 for 2 with a walk and an RBI sac fly, Phillips was batting .350. His rival, Duffy, had gone 0 for 3 with one sacrifice, putting him at .346 with just one game remaining.
From the start of the season finale, it would be over three hours until the last out was recorded. For the majority of that time, it seemed a safe bet that 1.) Orleans would win the game, and 2.) Phillips would take home the batting title.
The first run of the game was scored by Chatham. Joe Sever (Pepperdine), the winner of the Anglers' Coach's Award, ripped an RBI single to score the hot-hitting Darrell Matthews in the top of the first inning. Also notable in that frame was an infield hit for Dane Phillips.
In the bottom of the second, Tissenbaum struck again, hitting his second home run of the day just over the foul pole in right field to tie the game at 1-1. That would be the first of three round-trippers that Anglers' starting pitcher Dace Kime (Louisville) would allow, and the first of seven runs. He would only last 3.2 innings.
A walk and base hit relinquished by Kime in the bottom of the fourth inning set the stage for a back-breaking three-run home run off the bat of Andrew Aplin (Arizona State). It made the score 7-2 in favor of the Firebirds.
In the fifth, Chatham gave away another run to the Eastern Division champs courtesy of a bases loaded walk by new pitcher Eric Jaffe (UCLA). Through five at Eldredge Park, Orleans led 8-2. But, Angler Nation still had an acute rooting interest in the game as Dane Phillips (1-3) was batting .349, while Matt Duffy (also 1-3) sat at .346.
After Duffy's next at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, an RBI sac fly to push the score to 9-2, he and Phillips (strikeout in the top sixth) were each owners of a .346 batting average with only three innings to play in the season.
The top of the seventh inning marked a sea change in the complexion of the game. Chatham, down by seven runs with nothing to play for but pride, scrapped together a double by Sever, infield hit by Kris Bryant (San Diego), and singles by John Gianis (NC State), J.T. Watkins, and Stephen Perez (Miami) to create a 9-5, two out, bases loaded situation.
Due up: Dane Phillips.
With the game and the batting title on the line, Phillips did not disappoint. He took an offering from lefty submarine-throwing reliever Kenny Long (Ill. State) and deposited it into right field for a two-run base hit.
The gap in the game was closing: 9-7 Orleans led after seven innings. The gap in the batting race was widening: Phillips .352, Duffy .346.
Richie Shaffer (Clemson) pulled a home run down the left field line in the top of the eighth inning, cutting the Chatham deficit to one run, 9-8. That, however, was as close as the Anglers would get.
Duffy walked in his last at-bat, cementing his mark at .346. Phillips would get up with a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth. He went down looking at strike three.
When his final batting average was calculated, Phillips finished at .349, good for second place in the CCBL.
That's right, second place.
Out of nowhere, Y-D's Stephen Piscotty (Stanford) submitted a 4 for 5 day at the plate against Harwich, boosting his average by 22 points and simultaneously qualifying him for the batting title by just over the minimum percentage of at-bats. Piscotty, whose first three digits were identical to Phillips at .349, beat Phillips out by exactly .0002 points.
The Chatham Anglers ended the season with a 15-28-1 record, missing out on postseason play. One thing cannot be disputed, however, and that is that during the 2011 campaign, there was seldom a dull moment.
There were College World Series players who arrived after the start of the season (or never at all), and those who went home early. There were those who got injured, and those who signed professional contracts. There were those who participated in rain delay antics, and those who danced The Bernie. There was one who chased the batting title, and there were many who cheered him on.
In the end, both participants and spectators alike can take joy and pride in the fact that they were involved in another season of baseball on Cape Cod. And it just doesnt get much better than that.