HARWICH – The Harwich Mariners made it clear they want to be in the playoffs at the end of this week and are willing to work hard to get there, winning not one but two games against the Chatham Anglers, who at press time were holding tenuously to the top spot in the East, with Harwich determined to outlast Brewster for the last playoff spot in the division.
On a breezy Sunday evening, the Mariners brought the heat both at bat and on the hill, with pitchers Jared Wetherbee and Connor Sechler combining forces for 11 strikeouts, four Chatham hits and only one run in a 5-1 rout of the Anglers.
Wetherbee struck out four in his three innings of work, allowing just two hits and no runs from the opposing team before Sechler earned the win across six innings, fanning seven and allowing only two hits and one run.
Meanwhile, the Harwich hitters went to work early and kept plugging away until the final out.
Chatham's Hueston “Huey” Morrill had the first hit of the game, leading off with a double before being left stranded when the Anglers' next three batters went down in succession.
Chatham starter Luke Bartnicki shut down the Harwich side in 1-2-3 fashion at the bottom of the first, but the Mariners roared back in the second, beginning with a double from Chris Lanzilli. A passed ball allowed Lanzilli to reach third just in time for Patrick Winkel's walk, with Hal Hughes swinging into a fielder's choice that brought in Lanzilli for the first run of the game.
The Mariners struck again in the bottom of the third when Max Marusak scored on a double to left from Dylan Neuse before Lanzilli brought in Neuse two batters later, putting the home team up 3-0.
Both teams’ pitchers kept the game scoreless until the seventh, when the Mariners again made their way onto the scoreboard. Marusak led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, advancing to second on another walk from Neuse, with Chris Galland putting them both in scoring position with a sacrifice.
An error by Chatham pitcher Mason Hazelwood let Daniel Cabrera reach first and also brought in Marusak, with Neuse scoring on a sac fly from Lanzilli, giving Harwich a 5-0 edge heading into the final innings.
Chatham's lone run came at the top of the eighth when Colin Hall came home on a double hit by Paxton Wallace, but that would prove the only score of the game for the Anglers, much to the chagrin of head coach Tom Holliday.
“We got beat,” he said. “They played really good, we played really average. Aside from about four or five innings on the mound and Huey Morrill, it's pretty hard to get too excited about that ballgame right there.”
Holliday expressed great frustration with his team's performance following the loss.
“I'm a little bit tired and sick, or sick and tired, of putting up with excuses like 'I'm tired' and all that,” he said. “In the game of baseball you control the pace you play it at and right now we're playing with a sympathetic air about us, like we're so tired and the other teams aren't tired. They're tired, too. This is one of those games that just told me that a lot of guys are cashing it in and tomorrow we might be short five or six players.”
Indeed, five Anglers have headed for home due to injury since the All-Star Game, with only one new player joining the fray.
When it came to the team's chances in the upcoming playoffs, Holliday didn't mince words.
“This was not a good game. Not a good game at all,” he said. “The body language of this ball club in that dugout was pathetic. I don't care if somebody told them they clinched the playoffs. They got in, but the way they're playing right now they won't win a game the rest of the year, and I would not put that past them.”
Meanwhile in the Harwich dugout, head coach Steve Englert gave kudos to the team he called “the 'Ners.”
“It was a great win,” he said. “A huge win. It was a good bounce back win for us, and the two guys that were on the bump for us tonight were outstanding.”
Englert acknowledged his team's need to earn a spot in the playoffs, and said the Mariners have been taking things one game at a time, though he was pleased with the July 28 performance.
“It was a huge win for us,” he said. “Hopefully we can shore up our bullpen and start making a run.”
The following night saw the two teams back at it, this time in Chatham, where the Mariners handed the home team an 11-0 defeat that included 11 hits, while pitchers Will Heflin and Nick Stewart combined for 13 strikeouts.
Niko Kavadas brought in Harwich's first run at the top of the second when he and Lanzilli scored on a single from Michael Rothenberg, putting the Mariners up 2-0. Then, in the top of the third, Galland and Cabrera came in on a single from Lanzilli for a 4-0 edge.
After two scoreless innings, Cory Acton swung into a triple to score Lanzilli and Christian Fedko, with Acton coming home courtesy of Rothenberg. Hal Hughes capped off the scoring at the end of the frame when he came in on a triple from Galland.
A three-run homer at the top of the ninth from Acton put the game away for good for the Mariners, who at press time were battling Orleans, needing a Harwich win and a Brewster loss to clinch the playoffs, which begin Aug. 2. Visit capecodchronicle.com for playoff updates.
UPDATE: With a 6-0 victory against the Brewster Whitecaps on July 30, the Harwich Mariners earned a spot in the 2019 Cape League playoffs. The Round 1 schedule is as follows: Chatham hosts Harwich on Aug. 2 at 7 p.m., with the two teams meeting Saturday night at 5:30 at Whitehouse Field in Harwich. Should there be a need for a Game 3, it will be played Sunday night, likely at Chatham. The Orleans Firebirds will host the Y-D Red Sox at 7 p.m. on Aug. 2, and will then travel to Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game. Should a Game 3 be necessary it will be played Sunday, likely at Eldredge Park. Round 2 will either begin Sunday or Monday, depending on wins and losses.