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Chatham's miscues, Wareham's brilliance on defense leads to Championship Series sweep

by David Schneidman, 08-13-2018

Chatham's miscues, Wareham's brilliance on defense leads to Championship Series sweep

CHATHAM — After surrendering a one-run lead in the top of the third Sunday, the Chatham Anglers came inches away from reclaiming the lead a half-inning later.

Michael Busch (North Carolina) led off the bottom of the third with a double after Wareham’s Ryan Kreidler (UCLA) lost a routine pop fly in the Chatham fog, then strolled into third on a passed ball. With two out, Tristin English (Georgia Tech) belted what looked to be a surefire two-run round-tripper, but Isaac Collins (Creighton) had other ideas.

Drifting to his left, the Wareham right fielder leaped, reaching his outstretched left arm over the right-field fence, and snagged the ball before it could land among the mass of fans waiting to smother it behind the wall. Collins pounded his chest as he ran back to the visitor's dugout.

Collins’ stellar defense retained Wareham’s (6-0) lead, one it would not give up before Sunday’s game was postponed due to fog. The Gatemen scored five more runs in part two of Game 2 on Monday en route to a 9-3 win over Chatham (4-2), clinching their first Cape League Championship since 2012.

While Collins’ heroics kept the Anglers from plating two runs, Chatham’s Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington) made a fielding error in the third inning that set up Wareham claiming the lead.

With two runners on, Kreidler hit a dribbler about five feet to the right of second base, directly at Jones. It should have been a tailor-made double play, but Jones fumbled the ball. All three runners reached safely, and Austin Shenton (Florida International) made Chatham pay. The Playoff MVP cracked a two-run single to right to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

The Anglers made seven errors during the postseason, including four in the Championship Series. All seven blunders were made by Chatham’s middle infielders — Busch (two) and Jones (five).

In part two of Game 2 on Monday, Busch failed to handle a grounder in a near identical situation to Jones’ mistake in the third inning on Sunday night. If he handled it cleanly, it would have been an easy 4-6-3 double play. He did not, and it kept the Anglers from recording one out, let alone two, as both Wareham runners reached safely.

In Game 1 on Saturday, Jones made two errors — one throwing and one fielding — that plagued the Anglers. In the bottom of the fourth, Jones corralled a Shenton grounder and flung it to first. It should have been the second out of the inning, but the throw was high and brought first baseman Kyle McCann’s (Georgia Tech) foot off the bag.

Shenton reached safely, and Chatham starting pitcher Austin Bergner (North Carolina) went on to endure his longest inning of the night — he tossed 25 pitches — and managed to escape unscathed, stranding Wareham runners on second and third.

“We made a couple defensive mistakes that cost you big ball games,” Holliday said after Game 1. “If we don't make that error, it's probably 0-0 after five and he probably goes out for a sixth inning. That's a blatant error, it was a routine play.”

An inning later, Jones’ throw to force out Dunn at third was off-target as it brought the right foot of Ben Ramirez (Southern California) off the bag. The miscue loaded the bases, setting up Shenton, who laced a three-RBI double that broke the 0-0 deadlock.

Wareham committed six errors in the playoffs, none of which came in the Championship Series.

“They quietly play the game right,” Holliday said prior to Sunday’s Game 2. “It seems like they never make a mistake when they play us.”