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Anglers Weekly Roundup: 4-game winning streak, Cantwell’s surge

by Cooper Andrews
Monday, July 08, 2024

Anglers Weekly Roundup: 4-game winning streak, Cantwell’s surge
The Anglers’ worst baseball of the summer was immediately followed up by their best.

From June 23-29, Chatham lost five of its six games played. Its first seven contests of the season were all wins and losses alternated one game at a time, but it ran into a roadblock.

Yet across their first six games of July, the A’s went 5-1, currently holding the No. 2 seed in the East Division. Timelier and more powerful hitting along with allowing no more than four runs in five of its last six contests has helped propel Chatham. Plus, a thrilling walk-off finish to Sunday’s 13-12 win over Harwich exemplified the Anglers’ no-quit mentality and their ability to storm back from seemingly insurmountable deficits.

Through it all, Chatham’s mindset has remained the same.

“I wouldn’t say it’s anything different,” first baseman Luke Cantwell (Pittsburgh) said of the team’s recent stretch. “We show up every day with a competitive nature, and try to not take it too far when you have a bad day and not stay too high up there when you have a great day.”

Here are five notable observations from Chatham’s (10-9, East) past week of games:

Four Straight W’s After Fenway

Every Cape Cod Baseball League team experienced an off-day on July 1. Instead, each club participated in the league’s annual Fenway Park Workout. Chatham threw, took infield and batting practice in the 112-year-old stadium. Just one day after the team’s return home, the Anglers embarked on a four-game winning streak.

Chatham outscored its opponents 22-5 from July 2-5, winning two games on the road at Brewster and Orleans, then toppling the Firebirds and Cotuit at home. It was the longest winning streak in the CCBL at the time the A’s extended it to four.

The first addition to the streak came on the road versus the Whitecaps on July 2. The Anglers had to claw back trailing 1-0 late. But Austin Overn (USC) smoked an RBI triple to tie the game in the seventh inning, and Ashton Larson (LSU) delivered a go-ahead one-run double in the eighth. Chatham’s bullpen shut it down from there.

Offense started to take shape for the Anglers after beating Brewster. They downed Orleans twice over the next two days, scoring a combined 16 runs in the two games along with belting three homers. Aiva Arquette then blasted a 3-run homer to ignite the A’s fourth win in a row, a 4-2 victory over the Kettleers at Veterans Field.

However, the first contest versus the Firebirds was the most memorable of the span. Cantwell demolished a two-run homer with the Anglers already up by nine in the ninth inning, eliciting a jubilant dugout to create deafening noise. It came just after Chatham’s dugout received a warning for distracting the opposing pitcher, which caused emotions of thrill to boil over.

First-year manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger called it his favorite moment of the season, and for good reason.

“For them to show up and kind of punch through that moment kind of signified to us, ‘man we're onto something,’” Sheetinger said.

Kyle Lodise (pictured, No. 24) high-fives teammates following Chatham's 12-1 win over Orleans on July 3. The victory was part of the Anglers' four-game winning streak to start the month of July. / Photograph by Ella Tovey

Notable Losses + Additions

Plenty of Chatham players have come and gone in recent days. Since late June, some notable losses include right-handed pitcher Phil Fox (Pittsburgh), left-handed pitcher Griffin Herring (LSU), infielder Landon Stripling (Florida), right-handed pitcher Drake George (Lewis-Clark State College) and outfielder Will Gasparino (Texas).

Fox and Herring stand out as two of the most crucial players to leave the Cape. Both of them are projected picks in the 2024 MLB Draft, and chose to end their Chatham tenure to rest and prepare for the draft. The two were elite arms for the Anglers, with Herring dominating at a sub-2.00 ERA through three starts and Fox posting a 0.00 ERA in two relief outings.

Meanwhile, Gasparino’s decision to leave takes a power-hitting depth piece out of Chatham’s roster. The 6-foot-6 outfielder hit a solo homer in his first-ever CCBL plate appearance on June 16 against Yarmouth-Dennis, but he never quite got going from there.

Among the Anglers’ recent additions are left-handed pitcher Gabe Van Emon (UConn), infielder Eli Paton (Grand Canyon), left-handed pitcher Cameron Johnson (Oklahoma) and left-handed pitcher Andrew Williams (Georgetown). Right-handed pitcher Malachi Witherspoon (Oklahoma) has also returned to Chatham after a stint with USA Baseball.

Paton has already received some looks as a starting third baseman, totaling five appearances and hitting two singles with one RBI. While Johnson provides excitement as a former top prospect. In 2023, Perfect Game ranked the 6-foot-5 lefty as the No. 11 overall player in the nation.

Cantwell Gets In A Groove

Cantwell possesses an undeniable knack for getting on the basepaths. In fact, he’s coming off a spring in which he set the single-season walks record at Pitt — taking a whopping 57 free passes. As of late, however, he’s been Chatham’s power source.

The first baseman pummeled two homers across the Anglers’ two contests against Orleans from July 2-3. They were his first two extra-base hits of the season. The first was his aforementioned emphatic two-run blast to put Chatham up by 11 runs over the Firebirds. The second one came in the seventh frame the following day, where he drilled a ball onto the downslope in right field of Veterans Field’s outfield hill.

Through 18 games played, Cantwell is slugging close to .400, tied for the fourth-most homers on Chatham and has a .768 OPS — which ranks fifth among Chatham’s qualified hitters. He said following his late tater on July 4 versus Orleans that he doesn’t look too much into hot streaks and makes sure his mentality always remains the same.

“It’s just baseball,” Cantwell said. “You wake up and find the next pitch. Tomorrow you could punch out four times. Whether somebody’s hot, somebody’s not, I don't really necessarily believe in that. Sometimes (the game) gets you out, sometimes you get yourself out and sometimes you hit homers.”

Titan’s Dominant (And Unsanitary) Week

Titan Hayes’ (Austin Peay) week didn’t start out very sanitary. The closer entered Chatham’s July 2 contest versus Brewster with one out in the eighth inning. Amid his first at-bat, Hayes vomited on the mound.

“I came in with a little too much adrenaline, a little bit too much caffeine,” Hayes said on the Anglers Extra Postgame Show, later revealing he drank three C4 Energy drinks pregame.

Teammates and pitching coach Eric Beattie checked on him, leaving the circle chuckling about the shocking display, but Hayes was fine to stay in. His ensuing play proved that.

Titan Hayes releases a pitch in the ninth inning of Chatham's 2-1 win over Brewster on July 2. Hayes completed a five-out save despite feeling sick once he stepped on the mound. / Photograph by Ella Tovey

The hard-throwing righty secured a five-out save to seal the Anglers’ victory over the Whitecaps. Hayes allowed just one hit and struck out one batter, failing to walk anybody while keeping his fastball inside the zone to force weak contact.

He registered another save two days later, striking out the side in Chatham’s 4-1 win over Orleans. It’s clear that Hayes is Sheetinger and Beattie’s go-to closing arm. So far, Hayes has made five appearances, held opponents to a .111 batting average and boasts a 0.00 ERA.

Who Will Be The Next Lead-off Man?

The consistency of Sheetinger’s lineup has grown by the day. He’s seemed to have picked out a specific group of starting pitchers, has his guys who are penciled in to come out of the bullpen late and even maintains a similar batting order each day.

However, Chatham’s lead-off man in Overn has been Sheetinger’s most regular cog in his lineup. Overn stands out as one of the Anglers’ best hitters, if not their best. In 18 starts, Overn’s batting .329 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a .983 OPS. He also gives the A’s plenty of scoring chances early, consistently reaching base and even blasting lead-off homers like he did Sunday night versus Harwich.

“The fact that he’s walking in the box with a plan, he’s showing up in really good moments and doing what he’s supposed to do is huge for us,” Sheetinger said of Overn on July 2.

But Overn will be gone soon. He’s going to take his chance in the MLB Draft, too. When that day comes, Chatham will have a major lead-off man void.

Cantwell and Arquette are two possible choices to replace Overn. Cantwell leads the team with 23 strikeouts, yet his .435 OBP makes him hard to miss as a potential lead-off hitter. Arquette, though, has seen the ball well all summer long. While his numbers haven’t been necessarily eye-popping, his .311 batting average, three homers and .852 OPS pit him among Chatham’s top hitters.