By TRISTAN HOBBES
CHATHAM ---- If the Cape Cod Baseball League season were comprised of the first and last two weeks, the 2010 Chatham Anglers would have been in prime position to make the playoffs. But the middle three weeks, when a 5-16 record was highlighted by an eight-game losing streak, led to a 20-22-2 record and a fifth-place finish in the East Division.
Stocked with talent, versatile positional players and a pitching staff loaded with strike throwers, the Anglers jumped out of the gates by winning their first three games, two in extra innings. The highlight was a Ricky Oropesa (USC) walk-off three-run home run against the Orleans Firebirds in the bottom of the 13th inning. Oropesa’s game-winner was a majestic blast that one-hopped into the fire station beyond the right-field wall at Veterans Field.
That was just the beginning of the fun for the Anglers. Kevin Vance (UConn) followed with another walk-off three-run homer four days later against Falmouth, and Riley Reynolds (Vanderbilt) hit a walk-off single three days after that against the same Commodores.
In all, they won nine games in their final at-bat. None were bigger than the four that came down the stretch with the Anglers needing to win to qualify for the playoffs. An infield error allowed Chatham to walk-off against Brewster in the 10th inning on July 22 and Reynolds delivered another walk-off single in the 10th four days later against the Whitecaps to jump start a five-game winning streak. Later in the week, trailing by three runs in the ninth to Cotuit, Oropesa tied the game with an opposite-field three-run blast. Beau Amaral (UCLA) was then hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cap the four-run rally.
In the end, the walk-off heroics were not enough to overcome a stretch from July 5-20 when the Anglers went 1-12, scoring three runs or less in 10 of those 12 defeats. After an inspiring Fourth of July victory over rival Orleans, the Anglers lost four straight before defeating Hyannis. They then lost eight straight games.
Still, there were many good things in Chatham this summer. The lineup featured one of the most powerful hitters in the country in Oropesa. The big-swinging lefty tied for the league-lead in home runs with seven and drove in 19 runs. Aaron Westlake (Vanderbilt) joined the team late, but led the Anglers with a .292 average. Westlake hit five home runs in just a 106 at-bats and was named the starting first baseman for the East in the All-Star game.
The Anglers also featured one of the best outfields in the league with Jason Martin (San Jose State), Brian Humphries (Pepperdine) and Peter Verdin (Georgia). The three committed just six errors all summer.
But the backbone of the Anglers was their pitching. Their staff 2.81 ERA ranked fourth in the league, with opponents hitting just .217. All-Stars Logan Verrett (Baylor) and Derek Self (Louisville) headlined the starters, while Vance and Matt Brazis (Boston College) were superb in relief.
Verrett finished just 2-1, but had a 0.87 ERA and walked only five batters in 41.1 innings. Self was 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA, Vance was 3-1 with four saves and a 0.50 ERA and Brazis was 3-0 with three saves and a 1.32 ERA.