HARWICH ─ If the start of the Harwich Mariners' 2016 season is a harbinger of games to come, this could be a very good summer for Mariner fans. So far, the Harwich crew has gone undefeated in their first four games, beginning with their season opener last Friday against Cotuit that ended in an 8-3 victory for Harwich.
The Mariners matched their runs with their hits on opening day, recording eight in total, and in their first two games alone, had an impressive 21 hits as they cruised to a 12-4 win over Hyannis the following night.
Opening day found the Mariners hosting not only the Cotuit Kettleers, but also more than 100 members of the Chatham-Harwich Little League program, with young players taking the field with their elder counterparts for the pre-game performance of the National Anthem.
Then it was time to play ball, with Harwich designated hitter Austin Filiere lifting his team to an early 3-0 lead with his three-run homer in the bottom of the first that also scored Kyle Davis and Nicholas Dalesandro.
Cotuit added two runs of their own in the second, but a triple from Logan Farrar at the bottom of the frame tacked three more runs onto Harwich's tally, with Farrar bringing around Dalesandro, Anthony Critelli, and Steven Foster, before Farrar came home at the end of the inning to give the Mariners a 7-3 lead after two.
Harwich's final run came at the bottom of the fourth when Trey Harris brought in Dalesandro on a single.
The next night found the Mariners at home again against Hyannis in the only game not canceled due to rain in the entire Cape League, with Harwich dominating the Harbor Hawks.
After a scoreless first, Hyannis took a brief 1-0 lead when Cody Henry scored on a sac fly from David Hopkins, but the Hawks' edge was short lived as the Mariners responded with two runs scored on a single from Davis that brought in Critelli and Max Burt.
The home team scored three more runs in the bottom of the third, the first on a single from Tyler Kirkpatrick to score Filiere, with the second on a single from Critelli that brought in Kirkpatrick. The third run came courtesy of a single to center field from Ryan Brown that scored Ryan Tufts to put Harwich ahead 5-1.
While the smattering of rain-dampened fans were already pleased with their team's performance, the Mariners' fourth-inning fireworks set them cheering. Logan Farrar opened the frame by reaching first on a walk, with Filiere and Kirkpatrick loading the bases in similar fashion after Hyannis pitcher Trysten Barlow stepped in to relieve Mac Sceroler.
After Barlow struck out Tufts, Critelli swung into a single to center to bring in Farrar. Burt followed with another single to center that plated Filiere to put Harwich ahead 7-3.
With the inning still well under way and only one out on the board, Brown swung into a fielder's choice that seemed promising for Hyannis, but resulted in two more runs scored for Harwich when an error allowed Kirkpatrick and Critelli to come home. The Mariners weren't finished yet.
After Barlow gave way to Al Pesto on the mound for Hyannis, Dalesandro capitalized on that center field spot with a single to bring around Burt, with Farrar capping off the inning by scoring Brown.
Kirkpatrick ended up going 1-for-4 with three runs and an RBI, while Filiere went 1-for-4 with two runs, and Burt 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Brown went 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Tufts went 2-for-3 with one run, and Farrar 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI, with Critelli going 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs.
Pitcher Patrick Naughton earned the win, pitching five innings in which he allowed 11 hits and four runs with six strikeouts. Reliever Brad Bass pitched three innings for Harwich, allowing one hit with six strikeouts, while closer Spencer Stockton pitched one inning with no hits and one strikeout.
On Sunday the Mariners continued their winning ways, shutting down Falmouth with a 3-0 victory before trouncing the Y-D Red Sox on Monday 9-1.
Manager Steve Englert expressed cautious optimism, particularly regarding the slew of hits his team has been racking up.
“That's not typical Cape League,” he said. “These guys are just doing a good job controlling their at-bats and getting good pitches to hit, [but] you never expect that. It's not a common thing down here starting off early on like that.”
Englert said he was glad to see the team's temporary players enjoying success.
“We're trying to get them all in here before our other guys arrive,” he said. “And these kids are holding their own. We've got kids from Div. 2 and Div. 3, and they're getting a shot down here and are proving they can play down here. It's fun to watch.”
Englert said that while he felt any one of his temp players would perform well in a full-time spot, there are only so many such spots to fill.
“I think any one of our temps can make this team, no doubt,” he said. “But when you sign your guys, 30 guys under contract, you have those guys into the post-season, we try to make them aware that once these kids arrive, [they're] going to have to find another place to play, which kind of stinks. It's the only time I hate being a head coach, when you have to release these temporary players. They're great kids and they play hard, and they deserve to be up here.”
Englert said that often, coaches will try to find those players a position with another team. He is also aware that while his team is enjoying a successful run, baseball is a mercurial game.
“They're doing a great job,” he said. “I'm really happy with the last couple of games, but I'm never going to get too excited because down here things can turn in a hurry.”