Harbor Hawks writers 10 takeaways after 10 games

Taking a step back one quarter into the season

The Hyannis Harbor Hawks have had quite a polarizing start to the 2024 Cape Cod Baseball League season. With a 5-4-1 record, the team currently sits in third place in the West Division, after holding down the top spot for some time.

There have been a lot of factors that have played into the team’s overall record, let’s take a look at 10 of the things we’ve noticed through the first quarter of the season.

"It's baseball. Anybody can win on any given day, especially in this league," head coach Mitch Karraker said. "You're gonna face a lot of quality pitchers and hitters, so we need to be at our best at all times. It's kind of a learning experience right now, the season is still young and everybody is figuring out who they are. I think through these first 10 games, we're getting a feel for what adjustments need to be made."

1.) The Hawks thrive at home

It’s scientifically proven that hawks have a sense of home. Some species even return to their same nests, year after year. These birds are no different than the 2024 CCBL Harbor Hawks – at least so far.

Through the season's first ten games, the Harbor Hawks have played five contests at McKeon Park, and five on the road. Home-field advantage has been real in Hyannis, as the Hawks boast the second-best CCBL home record at 4-1 while being third-worst in enemy territory at just 1-3-1.

The Harbor Hawks have scored 39 runs at McKeon, and have only surrendered 13, good for a plus-26 run differential. However, Karraker’s club has plated just 21 runs outside of Hyannis, while allowing 27. That’s a negative-six run differential – or a 32-run swing.

The club’s lineup has performed exponentially worse on the road, hitting just .229 (34-for-148), compared to a sout batting average of .302 (45-for-149) on their home grass.

From a pitching side of things, the same type of numbers register. Hyannis’ staff has allowed 15 walks and six homers from the visitors' dugout, whilst at home the staff is much better, surrendering just two long balls and striking out a whopping 40 batsman.

It truly has been a tale of two seasons based on where the Hawks suit up.

2.) Jon Jon Gazdar is as important as anyone

Hitting .405, with 13 home runs during his junior season at Austin Peay State, Jon Jon Gazdar came into his second year with the Harbor Hawks carrying high expectations. The infielder has somehow shattered them.

After ten games, Gazdar finds himself atop the CCBL leaderboard in runs batted in, the quick and powerful native of Walnut Creek, California has driven in an impressive 13 while clubbing a pair of home runs. His OPS of .978 is 11th best amongst all qualified Cape Leaguers.

In games where the Harbor Hawks have won, Gazdar is 8-for-20 (.400) with two HRs, eight RBIs, and six runs scored. It’s no secret that when he’s on, the team wins ballgames. His hitting is contagious and sets an example for his teammates.

Gazdar is a player Karraker can confidently plug into his lineup card daily, play a vast amount of positions in the infield and provide veteran leadership and knowledge to a team that is still figuring out their identity.

He is crucial to Hyannis’ success.

3.) Unfavorable Conditions

A notorious aspect of baseball that separates it from most sports is that it is meant to be played outside. After all, it’s what we love about it. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cold drink and a hot dog surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of the game underneath the sun.

Unfortunately for the Harbor Hawks, losses could have turned into wins if baseball was an indoor game. Hyannis has already dropped two games this season due to inclement conditions outside.

The Hawks’ first loss of the season came on June 21, at Lowell Park by a score of 4-2 against a historically good Cotuit squad. Although it's hard to complain about picking up a first loss six games into the season, there was something to be desired because the game was called after eight innings due to lack of daylight.

Less than a week later, Karraker and company saw another loss get added to the column. On June 26, Hyannis and Chatham ended a clash in the bottom of the fifth, as a thick cloud of fog covered Veterans Field. After a 15-minute delay, the umpires called the contest.

While one may look and argue the conditions are the same for all 10 clubs, both of these games the Harbor Hawks dropped were by three runs or less. In baseball, anything can happen, there’s no doubt Hyannis was robbed of chances to come back.


4.) On-base percentage no problem

If there is one thing the Hawks are going to do it's get on base. This team has a combined total of .377, which currently leads the league in on-base percentage.

Leading off, their on-base percentage jumps up to .385, which also leads the CCBL. For the Hawks, Duke’s Wallace Clark is second in the league at .545. The switch hitter is all over the top of the line-up, which allows him to reach base more than anyone else on the team.

Although the Hawks get on base an impressive amount, the only trouble is scratching runs across. In the last five games, the team has struggled with timely hitting. Runners reach base, but often get stranded and remain on the base paths without reaching home. Whether a fielder’s choice, double play, out on a steal attempt or strikeout, the Hawks have struggled in the last five games to move runners home.

5.) Hawks walk a lot

Hyannis walks often, averaging 4.9 walks a game. The Hawks have a total of 49 walks this season which is just one away from the Brewster Whitecaps who lead the CCBL with 50.

Kane Kepley, an outfielder from Liberty University, walks more than anyone in the league. He has walked 12 times in just 10 games. He led his collegiate team as well, walking a total of 53 times this past spring.

Clean baseball comes down to swinging at the right pitches and letting the bad ones go by. Having a disciplined approach often forces opposing pitchers to throw more pitches or gets the Hawks in hitter’s counts. Currently, Hyannis is the best at hitting when ahead in the count.

6.) West division opponents creating struggles

The West Division has been the better of the two sides of the CCBL through the first 10 games, and the Harbor Hawks have figured that out early on. After defeating Falmouth on opening day, the team has struggled mightily in its division matchups.

Since that game, the team has faced off against Bourne twice, as well as Cotuit and Wareham each one time. Over that stretch, the team is 0-3-1, looking like a different team compared to games against East opponents. Against the East, Hyannis has had success, going 4-1, with its lone loss coming in game 10 against Chatham in a game called early.

Unlike the East, the West looks like it may be a gauntlet through the dog days of July. Atop the division sits the Wareham Gatemen with a current record of 8-2, while Cotuit isn’t far behind at 7-3. The pair of clubs combine for 11 straight wins.

Bourne, known for getting hot as the summer treads on, sits at 3-6-1. Although it isn’t the beginning the Braves wanted, nor the rest of the league expected, it’s hard to count out the defending back-to-back CCBL Champions just 10 games into the year.

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7.) The pitching staff needs to get back to its early-season mentality

Through the team’s undefeated start, the entire clubhouse was playing at a high level. The pitching staff, however, played a huge factor in the team's early success. Each new starter and bullpen arm seemed to click right away, wasting no time before showing the scouts on Cape what they were capable of.

This led to Hyannis only allowing five runs through the first four games, featuring shutouts against Falmouth and Chatham. The Harbor Hawks now boast the second-lowest ERA in the CCBL at 3.62, which has consistently gone up over the past six games.

With the pitching staff being a large proponent of the team’s early success, it will be a key factor moving forward if the arms can get back on track and help the offense come away with an increase in the win column

8.) Speed kills

One of Karraker’s biggest philosophies is how much speed can change the game for a team on any given night. The Harbor Hawks have had a great deal of success being aggressive on the basepaths.

Hyannis sits with the most runs scored in the CCBL through 10 games, while also having the most RBIs across all teams. This comes as a product of getting runners in scoring position and taking extra bases whenever they’re available.

With 14 stolen bases, the Harbor Hawks aren’t leading the league by any means, but in watching the team, Karraker’s aggressive mentality pops with the amount of times he’s waving his arms around in the third base coach’s box.

9.) New outfield help is necessary

Coming into the 2024 season, Hyannis only had three outfielders on the roster. 10 games in, this still holds true, with Kepley, Nick Groves and Parker Brosius the only players with experience playing in the grass of McKeon Park.

Through the first few games, this wasn’t an issue, with each guy playing at a high level defensively. Each guy is a center-fielder at heart, wanting to track down any ball hit out to them.

Unfortunately, Brosius recently got taken out of the lineup due to injury, leaving a hole in the trio. The man to fill in during the absence has been Casey Hintz, who was brought to Hyannis with the main goal of pitching. Hintz is a pitcher with some experience playing infield at the collegiate level, being forced to learn a new position against the best competition in the country.

So far, Hintz has held up defensively, but the team is on the lookout for any collegiate outfielders who wish to make the trip to Hyannis and spend their summer in the blue and orange.

10.) No one likes strikeouts

A big part of the success to this point for the Harbor Hawks has been their discipline in the batter’s box. With the aforementioned high walk rate that the team boasts, it has also led to a lack of striking out across the roster.

Through the first 10 games, Hyannis has struck out just 70 times, eight less than any other team in the CCBL. Pair that with a margin of 39 Ks from first to worst in the league, and it’s easy to see that the Hawks want to keep swinging and missing at a minimum.

This leads to pitchers having to attack the zone, and more runners on the bases, which as we’ve learned throughout the season with a league lead in RBIs, can generate overall success offensively.