2011 Hyannis Harbor Hawks year-in-review
By John Cabral
The Hyannis Harbor Hawks made many changes as an organization over the few seasons prior to 2011. They included the Harbor Hawk mascot itself, numerous improvements to McKeon Park, and new faces in the roles of head coach and general manager. In 2009 and 2010, the crowds at McKeon Park swelled while the team received rave reviews for its improvement of the fan experience. But in 2011, the Harbor Hawks made the best organizational improvement imaginable, sending those fans home happy by winning baseball games over and over again.
For most Hyannis fans, 2011 was the most successful season they'd ever seen. The Harbor Hawks, with a record of 29-15, won their first-ever West Division regular season championship and finished with the Cape Cod Baseball League's best overall regular season record for the first time in more than three decades. Hyannis recorded its first winning season in eight years and ended the Cape League's longest-running playoff drought by making its first postseason appearance since 2004. Although the Hawks made a quick, first-round playoff exit, their Game 1 victory over the Falmouth Commodores made them just the fourth team in franchise history to win a total of 30 or more games. The only other Hyannis teams to accomplish that feat were the franchise's three CCBL Champion teams of 1978 (36 wins), 1979 (38), and 1991 (30).
The Harbor Hawks put themselves in great position right away by getting out to a red-hot, 9-2 start over the first quarter of the season which included an impressive 6-0 start in road games. The team cooled off in the first half of July, but remained atop the standings thanks to the early cushion. But with the division up for grabs on the morning of July 19th, the Harbor Hawks began an unforgettable run to the finish line. The team ripped off eight straight wins, leaving the threatening Wareham Gatemen and Bourne Braves well in the distance. On July 27th, the Harbor Hawks capped off the streak and clinched the division in style, with an 11-2 trouncing of the eventual East Division champion Orleans Firebirds at Eldredge Park.
Individually, several Harbor Hawk players enjoyed distinguished seasons, and the team sent five players to the 2011 All-Star Game at Fenway Park: starting pitcher Scott Firth, reliever Dietrich Enns, infielder Eric Stamets, outfielder Joey Rickard, and catcher Kevin Plawecki. Rickard was the team's leader in batting average (.311), hits (46), runs (23) stolen bases (14) and runs batted in (17). Enns emerged as the league's most versatile and valuable relief pitcher, working 27.2 innings and posting a microscopic 0.65 ERA. Enns allowed only two earned runs all season, and none after July 9th. Stamets was the team's steadiest performer, playing in 42 of the 44 regular season games, and was second to Rickard in hits (44), runs (21), and steals (11). In addition to the all-stars, closer Nick Wittgren had a banner year, posting a 0.95 ERA in 19 innings of work, recordint nine saves while striking out 29 and walking only seven.
In recognition of the immensely successful 2011 season, the Harbor Hawk braintrust was rewarded with plenty of hardware. Third-year Head Coach Chad Gassman earned the Mike Curran Manager of the Year award, while General Manager Bill Bussiere earned John Wylde General Manager of the Year honors in the final season of his four-year tenure. Bussiere and Gassman teamed up to complete a remarkable worst-to-first turnaround, more than doubling the win total from 2010's 14-30 showing. Gassman quickly parlayed his Cape League success into a new collegiate head coaching position at the University of Pikeville in Kentucky, where his wife Shannon was recently named the new head volleyball coach.
Finally, the 2011 Harbor Hawks also regained the Barnstable Patriot Cup by winning the season series with crosstown rival Cotuit four games to two. With the last-place Kettleers trying to make a late playoff push, the Harbor Hawks claimed the crown with a clinching, 3-1 victory at Lowell Park on July 23. Hyannis has claimed the cup twice in Gassman's three seasons at the helm.
(Front Row) General Manager Bill Bussiere, President Tino DiGiovanni, and Head Coach Chad Gassman celebrate the Hyannis Harbor Hawks' 2011 West Division title.