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"A Special Season": The Story of the 2013 Chatham Anglers

by Chris Jones
Monday, August 26, 2013

The Chatham Anglers came into the 2013 season not having finished with a winning record since 2007, not winning an East Division regular season title since 2005, and not winning a playoff series since 2001, but all that would change in the 2013 season.

"At the beginning of the year, you never know how the season will go, but this team performed well, bonded well together, and had a special season," Manager John Schiffner said.

Schiffner and the Anglers took the Cape Cod Baseball League by storm in 2013, and it all began with a historic start to the season.

The Perfect Start

Chatham made history to start the season, as they produced the best record to start the season since the 2007 Y-D Red Sox, a team that featured major league stars like Buster Posey and Gordon Beckham, started 6-0.

The Anglers traveled off Cape to start the season, as they took on the defending champion Wareham Gatemen. Left-hander Andrew McGee (Monmouth) had a dominant debut on the mound for Chatham, holding Wareham to only three hits while striking out nine over five innings.

photo by Chatham Anglers
Andrew McGee (Monmouth) went 1-0 in his first two starts, only
allowing five hits and no runs, helping Chatham get to a
6-0 start to the season.
The game was scoreless going into the eighth inning, but Late Inning Magic would strike for the first time, as Chatham would break the scoreless tie with an RBI double from Jimmy Pickens (Michigan State), and would go on to score four runs in the inning en route to a 4-0 victory.

Late inning magic was still the story in the next two games, as an RBI single from Sheehan Planas-Arteaga (Barry) gave Chatham a 5-4 walk-off victory over the eventual champion Cotuit Kettleers in the home opener, then followed it up with another 5-4 walk-off win over Brewster the very next night, with Dante Flores (USC) delivering the game winning hit.

The Anglers would have five total walk-off victories in the season.

After an 8-5 win at Y-D, and a 4-2 victory over the Falmouth Commodores, the Anglers found themselves with a 5-0 perfect record. Despite an impressive start, Schiffner's message was staying even-keel.

"It's an impressive start, but the team knows there's still a lot of work to do this season," Schiffner said after starting 5-0.

Chatham then traveled to Hyannis to take on the Harbor Hawks, who were the only other undefeated team in the Cape League with a 3-0 record. It was no contest, as the Anglers throttled Hyannis 10-0.

McGee, who turned into the early-season ace for Chatham, picked up his first win of the season in another dominant outing, as he only allowed two hits while striking out three over six masterful innings.

With the win, the Anglers matched the best start for any Cape League team with a 6-0 record to start the season, and although it was followed with a 1-0 loss at Bourne, the perfect start set the tone for the season to come.

Late Arrivals help Anglers Cruise through July

Chatham finished June with a 9-5-1 record, then stormed through the league, going 17-7 during the month of July.

The Anglers had a stranglehold on first place in the East Division, and it was helped through a mid-season talent injection from late arrivals.

North Carolina phenoms Landon Lassiter and Michael Russell were activated on June 29, and provided some instant pop to the Chatham lineup. Lassiter hit .358 for the Tar Heels as a freshman, and provided a walk-off RBI single against Brewster on July 7. Russell, who hit .298 for North Carolina in the spring, provided the Anglers a much-needed sure-handed shortstop.

Chatham got it's closer when Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser arrived. He led the team with four saves while striking out 23.

Arguably the biggest late arrival for the Anglers was two-way player J.D Davis (Cal State Fullerton). In 35 games for Chatham, Davis batted .309 with five home runs and 26 RBI, while also collecting two saves in 4.2 innings pitched.

Davis would help the Anglers cruise through the month of July, and the Anglers turned to August with a commanding division lead.

Davis, Anglers Steal the Show at All-Star Game

The Cape League All-Star Game features some of the best of the best college prospects in the nation, and four Anglers were chosen for the 2013 edition at "Red" Wilson Field.

After a breakout second season, Dante Flores was selected as the starting second-baseman for the East Division, while Connor Joe (San Diego) was selected as the starting catcher.

photo by Chatham Anglers
J.D Davis (Cal State Fullerton) had two hits, a three-run home run,
en route to winning the East Division All-Star MVP.

Matt Gage (Siena) was selected as one of the nine pitchers for the East team, and after taking the league by storm after a late arrival, J.D Davis was chosen as a reserve.

The festivities started with the Home Run Derby, with Davis as one of the participants, and would make it to the finals.

In the All-Star game, Davis stole the show. Despite not entering the game until the sixth inning, Davis made an immediate impact, blasting a three-run homerun to center field, giving the East team an 8-2 lead.

Davis would add a double in the eighth inning, then would score the East team's ninth run in route to a 9-3 victory.

After the game, League Commissioner Paul Galop announced that Davis was the East Division MVP for the All-Star Game. He accepted his award and was then mobbed by eager children wanting his autograph.

"It was really surreal," Davis said. "When I was a kid, I always wanted player's autographs, and it was really a great feeling to be the guy all the kids wanted an autograph from."

Gage pitched a perfect sixth inning, Joe worked two walks and scored a run, and Flores made some nice defensive plays at second base.

After the game, John Schiffner was proud of the way his team performed, and the way they represented the team.

"I am a proud papa. It was great to see my guys out there performing well," Schiffner said.

Late Inning Magic Strikes again as Anglers lock up Division Title

In a season filled with big wins, late inning magic, and special moments for the 2013 Anglers, one moment stood out above the rest.

"It was a great year, but what really sticks out was the game that we came back and won to clinch the division," Schiffner said.

photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers
John Schiffner hoists the East Division trophy after the
Anglers clinched the regular season title with a
miraculous comeback.
The Anglers came into the game against the Red Sox stumbling, losing three of their last five games. Despite the struggles, Chatham only needed one win and a loss from the Harwich Mariners to clinch their first East Division Regular Season Title since 2005, a team that included the likes of Evan Longoria, Todd Frazier, Chris Coghlan, and Andrew Miller, who are now producing on the major league level.

The Anglers came out flat against the Red Sox, digging themselves a 5-1 hole behind defensive miscues, three errors, and leaving 12 men on base through the first eight innings.

Down to their final out, and with nobody on base, it seemed like Chatham would go down without a fight.

"I was ready to tear into the guys, because they were completely flat," Schiffner said. "I had a speech all ready to go, but I never got to use it."

J.D Davis narrowly beat out an infield single to keep the game going, then Jimmy Pickens blasted a moonshot home run to Depot road to make it a 5-3 game. After Michael Russell got to second on a single and an error, Mitch Gunsolus (Gonzaga) doubled to make it a one run deficit. Brandon Sedell (Nova Southeastern) then.

With the bases loaded in the 10th inning, Pickens shocked everyone at Veterans Field by laying down a squeeze bunt that scored Blake Butera (Boston College) and completed the miraculous comeback.

"Bunt was not the call, but I saw that the defense was back, there was only one out, so I took a chance, and it worked out pretty well."

The win, along with a Harwich loss, gave Chatham the coveted East Division regular season title.

"It seemed like there was no other way to win the division," Schiffner said. "These guys are amazing. They never think they are out of a game, and they always play until the final out."

Highlights: Miracle Comeback vs. YD

Anglers Rack up Regular Season Awards

After dominating the Cape League in the regular season, Chatham raked in the league awards before their first playoff game against Y-D at Veterans Field.

photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers
The Anglers racked up six regular season awards,
including the President's Trophy for the best record, and
the East Division Regular Season Title trophy.
The Anglers took home the President's Trophy after finishing with a league-best 26-17-1 regular season record.

After controlling the East Division for the vast majority of the season, Chatham was also awarded the East Division regular season championship trophy for the first time since 2001, a title that was clinched by Chatham with that miracle comeback against Y-D.

Chatham also took home four individual awards. Lukas Schiraldi (Texas) was given the B.F.C Whitehouse Award for the Cape Leagues most outstanding pitcher after only allowing five earned with 33 strikeouts over 44.2 innings pitched.

John Schiffer won the Mike Curran Manager of the Year Award after leading the Anglers to a division title and a league-best record. This is his second time winning the award in his 21 years of managing.

"It feels great being selected by your peers, but the credit goes to my team," Schiffner said.

Tommy Lawrence (Maine) won the John Claffey award for the top Cape League player from the New England region after positing a perfect 3-0 record with 23 strikeouts over 28.1 innings, and Connor Joe took home the Daniel J. Silva Sportsmanship Award, which was decided by the Cape League umpires.

Schiraldi, Timely Hitting Lead Chatham to Sweep of Y-D

After coming into the playoffs losing the last five games of the regular season, Schiffner gave the ball to his ace, Lukas Schiraldi, for game one against the Y-D Red Sox. Schiraldi dominated the Red Sox lineup.

photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers
Lukas Schiraldi (Texas) dominated Y-D in
a 6-0 game one victory, only allowing two hits
with six strikeouts over seven dominant innings.
In front of a packed house of 3,684 at Veterans Field, Schiraldi thrived, only allowing two hits, no walks, while striking out six over seven masterful innings.

"It was a great atmosphere, but I just focused on getting outs, and letting my defense behind me. That hit by Dante (Flores) helped a lot too," Schiraldi said.

A second-inning grand slam off the bat of Flores was all the scoring the Anglers would need, as they cruised to an emphatic 6-0 victory over Y-D, giving them the series lead.

Looking for the series sweep, Chatham traveled to "Red" Wilson Field where a win would give them their first playoff series win since 2001.

The Anglers had Tommy Lawrence on the mound, who worked 5.1 solid innings, only allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out six.

Chatham gave up a 2-0 lead, and trailed 3-2 heading into the 7th inning. With the prospect of a decisive game three looming, the Anglers offense once again took over. J.D Davis tied the game on an RBI fielder's choice, then after Chatham scored two runs to take the lead in the eighth inning, Davis put the game, and the series, away with a booming grand slam that gave the Anglers a commanding 9-3 lead.

"I hadn't squared up the ball well all game, but I finally got ahold of one, and got enough of it to get it over the fence. It was a great feeling," Davis said.

Davis finished the series with only two hits, but collected five RBI that helped the Anglers complete the series sweep.

Flores had three hits, three runs scored, and four RBi.

Blake Butera had an impressive division series with four hits, including the RBI single that put Chatham ahead for good in game two.

Season Ends at the hands of Orleans in Division Championship

After two off days, one expected and one due to inclement weather, the Anglers turned to the East Division Championship series, their first appearance in the series since 2005.

Standing between them and the Cape League Championship Series was the rival Orleans Firebirds.

In game one at Veterans Field, the Anglers came out flat and dug themselves an early 4-0 hole. Chatham would claw back to make it a one-run game, but Orleans would pull away with three runs in the eighth inning en route to a 7-3 win in the all-important game one.

photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers
John Schiffner talks to his team after the 6-5 defeat to Orleans that
elimated the Anglers from the playoffs. "This was a special group,"
Schiffner said.
The next day, the Anglers found themselves one game away from elimination as they traveled to Eldredge Park for game two.

Chatham took a lead in the first inning on a solo home run from J.D Davis, but Orleans fought back for three runs off of Anglers starter Aaron Garza (Houston).

Instead of calling it a season, the Anglers fought back with four runs in the sixth inning behind an RBI single from Davis, an RBI groundout from Jimmy Pickens, and a mammoth two-run home run from Connor Joe. Chatham had retaken the lead and now was up 5-3.

The Firebirds would not go away, tying the game with two runs in the next frame, then taking the lead for good on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

A Ryan Plourde (Fairfield) strikeout against all-star closer Matt Troupe (Arizona) sealed the Orleans victory, and ended the season for the Anglers.

"It is crazy that this season is actually over. It went by so fast, and now it is all over. I had the time of my life playing for the Anglers, and I will never forget this summer. It has been amazing," Joe said.

For Schiffner, who has managed Chatham for 21 years, there was something special about the 2013 team.

"This team was definitely special. They were a talented group, but what I was impressed with how they bonded and the friendships that these guys made," Schiffner said. "This is one of the best group of guys I have been around as a manager."

Season notes

- 40 Anglers appeared in the MLB during the 2013 season, including Mets ace Matt Harvey ('08-09), who started the MLB All-Star game for the National League.

photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers
Dante Flores (USC) had a breakout summer,
hitting .306 with 23 RBI after only hitting .154 for
Chatham in 2012.
-Chatham finished #5 in the Perfect Game Summer Collegiate Baseball Team Rankings, a composite standings from all the summer leagues in the nation.

-Lukas Schiraldi (Texas) finished the regular season with a league-best 1.20 earned run average among qualifying pitchers. He was 5-0 and only allowed one earned run, striking out 25 in his last five starts.

- The Anglers led the league in walks with 242. The next closest team was Orleans with 167 base-on-balls.

- Thee Anglers were in the top five in the category of walks. Mitchell Gunsolus (Gonzaga) led the league with 27, Sheehan Planas-Arteaga (Barry) was second with 26, and Landon Lassiter (UNC) was fourth with 23.

- Gunsolus was second in the league with a .432 on-base percentage

- Jimmy Pickens (Michigan State) was second in the league with seven home runs, and second in the league with a .551 slugging percentage.

- Dante Flores (USC), who only hit .154 in his first year with the Anglers, finished the regular season tenth in the league in batting with a .317 average, 19 RBI, 14 walks, and 13 doubles.

- Connor Joe (San Diego) finished the regular season with a .308 batting average, three home runs, and 22 RBI.

- Reliever Mitch Merten (UC Irvine) only allowed one earned run while striking out 25 in 20.1 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

- Dante Flores, Jimmy Pickens, Connor Joe, Tommy Lawrence, Lukas Schiraldi, and J.D Davis were named to the 2013 CCBL All-League Team.

Chris Jones is the Beat Writer and Social Media Manager for the Chatham Anglers. Follow him on twitter at @Chrisjones_UO, and follow the Chatham Anglers at @ChathamAnglers.