CHATHAM ─ The Chatham Anglers are off to a bumpy start in their 2016 season, but manager John Schiffner is keeping it realistic, knowing that his roster is still evolving.
“It's in flux,” he said following the team's home opener against Falmouth last Friday, a game that started off strong for the A's, but ended in a 7-4 loss, the team's first opening day loss since 2008.
The trouble, it seems, might be partly from a blister on the hand of pitcher JB Bukauskas. The injury interfered with his ability to set up his pitches, possibly resulting in his allowing five of Falmouth's seven runs.
“JB played well until the blister came out,” Schiffner said. “He was very dominant early. Hopefully the thing will be OK so his next outing will be all right.”
Chatham kicked off the outing by building up a three-run lead after the first three innings, starting when Gunnar Troutwine brought home Matt Vernon at the bottom of the first for the first score of the game. Vernon reached on a walk with one out on the board, racing home when Troutwine swung into a single to third with two outs now on the board.
The Anglers' second run came in the second when Cam Hanley scored on a single from Hunter Lee after Hanley made it to second on an error by Falmouth left fielder Zachary Clark, with the team's third run coming courtesy of Troutwine in the third on a fielder's choice hit by Joe Freiday.
Meanwhile, Bukauskas was stellar on the mound, rolling through three hitless innings with only one walk before allowing the Commodores to score for the first time in the fourth. But it was the fifth that proved Chatham's undoing, as Falmouth plated four runs to take a solid lead, including a leadoff homer from Willie Burger, earned runs from Dylan Morris and Kevin Merrell, and an unearned run from Matt McLaughlin on an Anglers' error, giving the Commodores a commanding 5-3 lead.
Chatham incurred further damage in the seventh when Falmouth scored two more, and while the Anglers narrowed their opponents' edge only slightly in the bottom of the seventh when DJ Artis scored on a single from Troutwine, the Commodores held firmly to their 7-4 edge until the final out.
At bat, Vernon went 2-for-3 with one run, while Troutwine went 3-for-5 with a run and two RBIs. Hanley went 1-for-3 with a run.
Bukauskas absorbed the loss, allowing five hits and five runs with three errors and eight strikeouts across his four-plus innings, while Reed Howell lasted slightly more than two innings, allowing five hits and two runs. Reliever Matt Pidich stepped in for one inning with three strikeouts, while closer Jason Foley also pitched for one inning, allowing one hit and one walk, while earning one strikeout.
The Anglers' second game against Bourne was postponed due to inclement weather, paving the way for a 3-2 victory against Orleans on Sunday night.
Freiday put the Anglers on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second with his double that brought in Joe Tietjen, while Chatham pitcher Tanner Chock held the Firebirds scoreless until midway through the top of the fifth when a sac fly by Joe Baker brought in Drew Lugbauer to tie the game 1-1.
Both teams were scoreless until the bottom of the eighth when the Anglers brought in two more runs when a triple hit by Patrick Mathis plated Matt Vernon and Hunter Lee. Though the Firebirds added one more to their tally in the ninth, any hopes of a rally were dashed by a Chatham double play that was followed by a final strikeout by closer Michael Fitzgerald.
Chatham scored the first run in their Monday night game at Brewster, but in the end it was the Whitecaps that came away with a 14-6 win thanks to a four-run third and a 10-run seventh that all but erased Chatham's four-run fourth.
Schiffner said on opening night that he saw bright spots in spite of the struggle.
“There were some good things tonight,” he said. “You've just got to work on things you made mistakes on, and don't make the same mistakes tomorrow. That's the great thing about baseball. You can come back out and do it the next night.”
In the coming days, as more players arrive following stints in their respective college post-seasons, Schiffner is looking forward to his team solidifying further, though he's proud of his players' opening performances.
“The guys played hard, and that's all you can ask them to do,” he said. “I have no complaints. Baseball's great and we get 44 games to play.”