Maybe the streakers at the All Star game were just exposing (sorry, couldn't resist) the fact that it was a year of streaks for the eventual playoff participants from the East. Orleans and Harwich have seen their share of streaks this year - both good and bad. Orleans finished the month of July 17-5-2. They were 17-3-2 at one point before dropping their last two games in the month. The Cardinals lost 4 in a row between June 20-23. Later, Orleans went on a 6 game winning streak before losing 1-0 to Hyannis on July 10. They then proceeded to go 8-0-1 before Y-D ended that streak on July 21. When you look at the 14-1-1 record over that stretch, it is easy to see why Orleans is in the playoffs. Cardinals fans have cause to worry however. Continuing with the theme of streaks, the Cardinals have hit a tough stretch at a bad time. They go into tonight's regular season finale having dropped 7 of their last 8. A win against Falmouth on Monday night is their only positive note in the last week.
It was obvious that Orleans would be in the playoffs well before they officially clinched that spot. That provided manager Kelly Nicholson with a chance to rest some players and to get his pitching staff in order. Starting on Saturday, we will see if the Cardinals can turn things around and come close to resembling the team that went 14-1-1, or if the downward spiral will continue. Orleans pitching leads the league with a 3.07 ERA. The offense has been paced by Nate Freiman (Duke), Angelo Songco (Loyola-Marymount) and Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State). Much of the rest of the lineup is struggling: Gary Brown (CS-Fullerton; batting .217), Alex Hassan (Duke; .211), Kyle Spraker (Loyola-Marymount; .206), Mike Murphy (Maryland; .203), Shaun Kort (Nevada; .189), and the catching duo of Travis Tartamella (Pepperdine; .179) and Hampton Tignor (Florida; .132).
As for the Mariners, who are making their first playoff appearance since 1997, they are also familiar with streaks. Harwich began the year by winning 3 in a row. They dropped 5 consecutive games between July 3-8. Harwich's streaky play continued in July as they won 5 straight between July 17-21 and immediately dropped their next 6 games (and seven of eight) before beating Orleans last Saturday. I'm thiking that in a 44 game season, it would be difficult to sustain losing streaks of 5 and 6 games and still make the playoffs, but Harwich found a way to do just that. Heading into today's game at Brewster, the Mariners have won 3 games in a row.
Harwich will hope to get a spark on offense from Tommy Medica (Santa Clara; .347 avg.), D.J. LeMahieu (LSU; .290) and Brandon Belt (Texas). Although Belt is batting only .235, he does have some pop in his bat as shown by his 5 homeruns and 20 RBI. Andrew Giobbi (Vanderbilt) has 4 HR and 18 RBI. The Mariners have to be hopeful that Chase Leavitt ( Arkansas; .213 avg.) and Jason Stidham (Florida State; .155) can get going at the right time.
With all of the strong individual pitching performers in the West, I was a little surprised to find that Orleans and Harwich are 1-2 in the league in team ERA. The Mariners 3.16 ERA ties them with Hyannis, behind only Orleans. The ace of the Harwich staff is Duke's Chris Manno. Manno is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He pitched 7 innings against Orleans last night which means he may not start again unless this series goes to a third game. J.J. Hoover (West Virginia) only has one win in his 7 appearances (six starts), but he has an impressive 2.45 ERA. He has struck out 38 while only issuing 8 walks in his 36+ innings. Josh Eidell (Villanova) is 1-0; 2.64. Harwich will rely on Steve Kalush (Santa Clara), Brian Dupra (Notre Dame) and Willie Kempf (Baylor) to provide them with quality innings.