A Look Back At The Stellar Summer Of 2017

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: School Sports , Sports

 Although the Harwich Mariners missed the playoffs, they still enjoyed winning their final games, turning the victories into celebrations of a fun season. Kat Szmit Photo

The recent chill in the morning air and the low growl of school buses crawling along local streets can only mean one thing: summer is nearing an end. But before we officially bid it adieu, let's take one more look at all the fun that was had.

Summer began, as it traditionally does, with the return of the Cape Cod Baseball League. In early June players began arriving across the region in time for opening day on June 14 when the Harwich Mariners hosted the Y-D Red Sox in their first home game of the 2017 season. Though the Mariners fell 4-2 in the outing, they avenged the loss a few days later, defeating the Sox 5-2 on their home field in South Yarmouth.

It was a challenging season for the Mariners, who struggled to climb out of last place in the East. As the regular season drew to a close, Harwich was edged out of the playoffs but celebrated victories in its final games with gusto before bidding a bittersweet farewell to the 2017 team's players.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature made it a challenge for Chatham to get its first game in, with rain forcing league-wide cancellations on what was supposed to be opening day for the Anglers, making the team wait until June 18 to celebrate its home opener. It ultimately proved a positive for the As as they went on to triumph against the Wareham Gatemen 8-3 and 6-1 in a Sunday doubleheader.

The Anglers rode the proverbial roller coaster that is summer baseball in a season peppered with wins and losses, but were able to eke out a spot in the playoffs. But after falling to the Firebirds, Chatham, too, said last goodbyes to team members, and also their beloved head coach, John Schiffner, who in July announced that 2017 would be his last year as manager of the team.

Though retirement rumors swirled, Schiffner shared with The Chronicle in August that he had accepted a position as assistant head baseball coach at the University of Maine in Orono where he will be working with former player and assistant coach Nick Derba. Schiffner said as part of his deal with the program, he will be able to work from his home in Harwich during the summer, which will allow him to drop by an Anglers game or two.

After getting off to a bumpy start, the Orleans Firebirds became a team to watch as the season progressed, finding their groove to eventually hold the top spot in both the overall league standings and the East Division for most of the summer season. Unfortunately for Orleans, the Brewster Whitecaps peaked at the perfect time, routing the Firebirds in the playoffs en route to winning the 2017 championship and the esteemed Arnold Mycock trophy.

Away from the baseball diamonds, Monomoy football made headlines when it was learned that once again the program was in need of a new head coach after Paul “Spanky” Demanche announced that he had accepted a job as the new athletic director for Plymouth North High School.

Demanche said the job was a “tremendous opportunity” for him and also encouraged the Monomoy Regional School District to take a hard look at its coaching salary structure, something he said was a factor in his decision.

June 24 saw the streets of Harwich Port ready for runners in the annual Harwich 5K, this year won by Sam Thomas of Brewster, who blew away all of the competition with an impressive finish of 16:18, two minutes ahead of the next finisher in the race. Emilee Palmer of Utah was the first women's finisher at 19:08.

The following day found runners gathering in Chatham for the 38th annual Chatham Harbor Run, which saw a good number of folks traverse the scenic but challenging course through town. Ian Nurse was the first runner to cross the finish line, with Liz Crowley coming in first for the women. Lb Koss was the first place finisher in the 5K walk part of the event, which ends with a festive post-race celebration at the Chatham Squire.

Pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, has long been a favorite of folks in the area, and on June 21 the first Women's Intermediate Pickleball Tourney was held at Brooks Park in Harwich. Organized by local players with the help of Frank Crowley of the Harwich Recreation Department, the successful event featured a mix of Cape competitors and pickleball players from other locales. Winners included Kymberly Wilkinson, Sharon Malmquist, Jan Belleville, Debbi Gaber, Diane Treiber, Anne Briggs and Anne Habel.

While members of the Chatham Anglers and the Harwich Mariners continued competing, away from the field they also enjoyed taking part in the annual summer youth clinics. The clinics, traditionally for kids between the ages of 5 and 13, serve not only as a great way to impart baseball skills in upcoming players, but also allow Cape Leaguers and local kids to make some truly cherished memories.

While baseball might be a favorite sport of many, for Monomoy's Mollie Charest softball is where it's at. The young hurler not only achieved her goal of pitching 60 mph this summer, but also spent a chunk of the season traveling up to Worcester to play for former Olympic gold medalist coach Ralph Raymond on the Eagles. Behind Charest's drive is the goal of competing in the 2020 Olympics, one of many softball goals she has set for herself, along with seeing Monomoy continue its success on the high school level.

Knowing that not every kid gets a chance to experience the sport of deep-sea fishing is what motivates Harwich resident John Doherty to volunteer in the annual Little Three, an offshoot of the Big Three Fishing Tournament that supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cape and Islands. For this summer's event, Doherty ventured out twice with Bigs and Littles in tow for some fun, and successful, fishing in local waters.

July 22 marked the official All Star Game for the Cape League, with specially selected players from each team venturing to Spillane Field in Wareham for the annual event. The day included autograph sessions, the annual home run hitting contest, and of course the big game. This year's home run champion was Stephen Scott of the Orleans Firebirds who hit a whopping six bombs in the contest's first round and another three in the second to claim the competition. In the overall game, the East Division All-Stars battled back from a 3-0 deficit to overtake the West and win 5-3.

Prior to the game League Commissioner Paul Galop set up a special surprise for Chatham's Schiffner, leading him to the mound to throw out one of the first pitches of the game in honor of his stepping down at the end of the season after more than 25 years with the league.

Back at the Monomoy Athletic Complex there was a new face on the football field. Brandon Perry was named the new head coach of the program, having previously coached at Sturgis, Bishop Stang, and Upper Cape Tech. Perry said he's looking forward to helping build a strong Monomoy program.

Also joining the new coaches club was Tom Holliday who was named to the position of Chatham Anglers manager. Holliday, former head coach at Oklahoma State University, is passionate about baseball and is looking forward to continuing the tradition of giving players a fun Chatham experience also aimed at prepping them for Major League play.

Carrying on a tradition of excellence is new Monomoy field hockey head coach Ron Bonollo's goal, as well. Bonollo previously coached teams to championship victories in Bellingham, and has also coached various sports at the high school level and at the University of Tampa, Dean College, and Framingham State.

As the last days of the summer season ebbed, a slew of sailors enjoyed taking part in the 25th annual Arey's Pond Boat Yard Cat Gathering, an event that features a bit of friendly competition but is mainly about celebrating the unique craftsmanship of the iconic sailboats, some of which were made at the yard. The 2017 event saw boats take to the waters of Little Pleasant Bay where fans along the shoreline and even a few seals took in the action.

Finally, with days left on the calendar before their first games of the fall season, Monomoy boys soccer once again played host to the crew from the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne for a spirited scrimmage. Every two years the RGS team visits the United States, playing a series of scrimmage games in New York and New England, and has included Monomoy among them three times now. The local scrimmage allows both teams to see the differences between styles of play in the US and the UK, and get in shape for the start of the new season. A post-game cookout also let the teams connect on a social level.

Here's hoping you enjoyed your summer adventures. See you on the sidelines!