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Anglers Weekly Roundup: Overn’s on fire, scintillating pitching staff

by Cooper Andrews
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Anglers Weekly Roundup: Overn’s on fire, scintillating pitching staff
A 4-5 record may not look like much. Yet, there have been sweeping changes to the Chatham Anglers thus far in 2024.

First-year manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger has fostered new values around the organization, centered around an aggressive playstyle and a player-led managerial mentality. Players have bought in. Coaches, too.

Sheetinger knows wins and losses are not a true indicator of where his team could be in early August. But for now, it’s about setting a new foundation. Because without that, the demands that come with the job can become daunting. Though, the culture Sheetinger’s imprinted on the Anglers has been steadfast from the beginning, contributing to his unbothered mindset.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Sheetinger said before the season. “I embrace it. I stare at it every day. I walk right toward it, arms around it.”

His goal is the playoffs. Even though they still have plenty of kinks to smooth out for the near future, encouraging signs of the Anglers’ first postseason trip since 2019 heavily persist early in Sheetinger’s tenure.

Through its first nine games, here’s five things to draw from Chatham’s (4-5, East) 2024 season:

Overn’s Onslaught


The Anglers have poached themselves a unique weapon. Center fielder Austin Overn (USC) may be a speedster with an elite glove, though he’s much more than that. Overn leads Chatham in nearly every statistical hitting category, and he’s its lead-off man.

In eight appearances, Overn’s totaled 12 hits, a .364 batting average, a .697 slugging percentage, eight RBIs and a 1.097 OPS — all of which are team bests. He’s also one of 13 players with two or more home runs while his slugging rate is the third-highest in the Cape.

Chatham has relied on him to carry the offense as of late. Against Falmouth on June 22, he drove in a whopping five runs and punched a three-run opposite-field homer en route to a 9-2 win. The following day at Cotuit, Overn laced the game’s first pitch for a lead-off home run. He capped the stretch heading into Chatham’s June 25 off-day with a three-hit performance on the road against Harwich, which included the team’s first triple of the year.

Per Sheetinger, Overn came up to Chatham to “find his way.” The Trojans’ outfielder didn’t have the sophomore year that he desired, as his batting average fell 44 points from year one to year two. Sheetinger said he wanted to re-harness his brand of baseball. While it took a couple of games, Overn has unloaded as of late and is back playing up to his standard.

“I’m super proud of him,” Sheetinger said of Overn. “Now he’s starting to take easier swings and show up in big moments. But really his at-bats, you put his at-bats side by side, they’re super productive at-bats.”

 

Austin Overn takes a cut during Chatham's 9-2 victory over Falmouth on June 22, in which Overn drove in a game-best five runs / Photograph by Ella Tovey

High-Leverage Lulls


Taking good at-bats is something Sheetinger has preached time and time again. It’s also something that the manager believes is among the faults for Chatham’s offensive struggles in high-leverage situations.

“Good hitters believe when they’re in the box, no matter what the situation is, they’re supposed to come through,” Sheetinger said following the Anglers’ loss to Brewster on June 21. “But you have to be smart.”

That game versus the Whitecaps encapsulated Chatham’s problem of falling short to plate runners in scoring position. The Anglers left 11 guys on base that evening, proving crucial in a narrow 7-4 defeat. Sheetinger’s message has remained the same after nearly every close defeat. He doesn’t want hero ball. Only efficient plate appearances.

Just on Monday night, Chatham juiced the bases down 4-1 in the sixth inning. Yet, Kyle Johnson (Duke) struck out swinging and Kyle Lodise (Georgia Tech) grounded into a fielder’s choice. Back on June 16 versus Yarmouth-Dennis, the Anglers had a runner on second with no outs trailing 2-1 in the eighth. The score, however, went unchanged. Lodise got caught attempting to steal third base, while a strikeout and lineout eventually ended the opportunity.

Through June 24, Chatham averages the second-fewest runs per game (3.89) in the Cape Cod Baseball League. But fixing its approach when there’s ducks on the pond could pay dividends going forward.

Pounding The Zone Pays Off


Sheetinger and pitching coach Eric Beattie have a simple philosophy they’ve passed down to their pitching staff: throw strikes. Chatham’s hurlers don’t beat around the bush. They attack the zone early, limit walks and utilize off-speed to strike out batters.

It’s paid off, and then some.

The Anglers lead the CCBL in ERA through their first nine matchups, totaling a scintillating 2.68 mark. The next closest team is Hyannis at 3.21. Chatham has consistently garnered clean starts while its relievers have rarely been knocked around the park.

Key outings that have highlighted the A’s season so far include Evan Chrest’s (Florida State) stellar debut in the season-opener, where he tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball with 6 strikeouts. Griffin Herring (LSU) completed an eye-popping start on June 16, racking up three Ks and allowing zero hits in 3.2 frames. Most recently, Kyson Witherspoon (Oklahoma) threw just 54 pitches in five innings with zero earned runs and four punch-outs.

It all reverts back to Sheetinger and Beattie’s pitching methodology.

“When you can be within yourself, and trust the stuff that you have, you don’t have to do much more than you already have,” Anglers lefty Liam Paddack said after a 2-1 win over Orleans on June 20. “If you trust yourself and throw it in the zone, you’re going to get outs.”

Touching Triple-Digits


Adding to Chatham’s robust pitching group are two Cape League anomalies — Titan Hayes (Austin Peay) and Karson Ligon (Mississippi State). The two right-handed relievers have reached the 100 MPH mark on their fastball this year, the only Anglers to do so in 2024.

For Ligon, he said on the Anglers Extra Postgame Show that Monday’s game versus Harwich was the first time he’s ever thrown triple-digits.

“When I heard (I threw 100 MPH), I almost cried,” Ligon said.



Karson Ligon rears back to pitch amid the Anglers' June 24 road matchup versus Harwich. Ligon reached 100 MPH on his fastball in the seventh inning. / Photograph by Ella Tovey

The flamethrowers have provided Chatham a glimpse into what could be a lethal pair of late-inning staples. Hayes and Ligon have only thrown a combined six frames, though neither has allowed a run while each of them has nabbed the Anglers’ only two saves of the year.

Sheetinger said before Opening Day that Ligon is an under-the-radar prospect, and Hayes will be entrenched in the mix to be Chatham’s mainstay closer. Thus far, it’s apparent that Sheetinger trusts them both in high-leverage spots and their impressive velocities have played a part as to why.

Searching For Swiped Bags


Ahead of the A’s first game at Veterans Field in 2024, Sheetinger addressed the home crowd. One thing he emphasized through his words was that Chatham would not be afraid to steal bases under him, and that fans can blame it on him if players get thrown out on the basepaths.

However, fans haven’t had much to complain about, since the Anglers haven’t attempted to swipe many bags.

Chatham’s stolen just seven bases through its first nine games — tied with Wareham for the fewest in the CCBL. It’s been caught only four times, pinpointing its lack of tries to take an extra base. The A’s have plenty of speedy players — such as Overn, Will Gasparino (Texas) and Landon Stripling (Florida) — though they haven’t put their quickness on display quite yet.

Stealing bases plays well into the attacking mentality Sheetinger’s formulated among his roster. And considering Chatham’s issues plating runners in scoring position, steals could be a solution to gaining more high-percentage opportunities, keeping opponents on their toes and generating runs in greater bunches.