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Chatham, Mass. — In both teams’ first game of the summer, the Chatham Anglers and the Falmouth Commodores square off at Veterans Field at 7 p.m.
At the Plate: With the NCAA Tournament taking place at the same time as the start of Chatham’s season, the Anglers are without some of their biggest offensive weapons for Opening Day. Sluggers such as Clemson’s Chase Pinder and Texas Tech’s Tanner Gardner have yet to arrive in Chatham, leaving the Anglers looking for hits elsewhere.
“[Patrick] Mathis can swing it…[Matt] Vernon can swing it a little bit, Kyle Adams’ swing is as good as it was last year. We’re waiting to see what Charles LeBlanc has, he just got here,” said Schiffner. “I like what we have. But who knows' This time of year it’s always a crap shoot.”
Mathis hit six home runs for Texas this season – a team high – while appearing in 50 of the Longhorn’s 57 games. Vernon also led Appalachian State in homers, pacing the Mountaineers with eight in addition to leading his team with a .317 batting average. LeBlanc, the shortstop for Pittsburgh, drove the Panthers offense with his .405 average, a mark that not only led the team, but also topped the ACC.
On the Rubber: Taking the mound for the Anglers on Opening Day will be North Carolina’s J.B Bukauskas. The six-foot right-hander is coming off of a stellar year for the Tar Heels leading the team and conference in strikeouts with 111. Bukauskas also led the team with seven wins, while his 3.10 earned run average was second among starters on a UNC team that finished behind only Louisville in team ERA for the conference.
Bukauskas was even better when pitching against ACC opponents, posting a team-low 2.45 ERA, winning six games, and striking out 91. The ACC sent 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the most of any conference.
“He’s got a plus arm [and] he’s got a live fastball, so we’re going to pitch a lot with that,” pitching coach Rob Bono said. “There’s a lot of guys up here that are using wood bats for the first time in their careers, so we’re going to pitch off his fastball. He’s got good breaking stuff to go with it, so expect a lot of punch outs.”
Brady Puckett of Lipscomb University will take the ball for the Falmouth Commodores. The sophomore spearheaded the Bisons’ starting rotation, going 9-2 in 15 starts. He led the team in ERA with 2.93 and in strikeouts with 101. Against Stetson University, the only program to make the tournament for the Atlantic Sun Conference, Puckett allowed just four hits and struck out five in five and two-thirds innings. Last season, the right-hander was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team.
Down the Road: The Anglers travel to Bourne to face the Bourne Braves tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at Doran Park. Chatham will then return home to Veterans Field on Sunday to take on the Orleans Firebirds at 7 p.m.