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Chatham pitching continues dominance, shuts out Harwich, 5-0

by KJ Edelman, 06-14-2019

Chatham pitching continues dominance, shuts out Harwich, 5-0

CHATHAM — After each inning change, the Anglers dugout spilled onto the field, gravitating toward the pitcher exiting the mound. There wasn’t silence like Tuesday after Jack Conlon (Rice) allowed an early four-run deficit. Or a Tom Holliday finger motion like at Ty Madden (Kentucky), pleading for him to switch his pitches up on opening night.

On Friday, the Chatham pitchers — all four of them — received praise, because after every inning, there was a zero on the socreboard. 

Successful pick-offs from RJ Dabovich (Arizona State) paired with the timely strikeouts of Luke Bartnicki (Georgia Tech) and sturdy closers Dane Acker (San Jacinto) and Dawson Merryman (Midland) kept Harwich’s offense stagnant in a 5-0 win. Holliday admitted the pitching rotation was far from perfect — seven hits and five walks on the day — but the staff has now pitched 24 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

“I think we’re probably one of the best (pitching) staffs in the Cape League,” Bartnicki said.

Approaching year two as the A’s manager, Holliday’s wanted to split up pitching duties into thirds: daylight, twilight and night. He’ll allow mistakes to a daylight pitcher — “the hardest is the start.” Twilight pitcher have the best conditions, he said, so there’s less room for error. And if you’re the third pitcher in, there’s a good chance your night might be cut short for a closer.

“I’d always rather a pitcher leave the mound with a good state of mind then keep him out there,” Holliday said. “What’s wrong with three innings of success?”

During Wednesday’s home-opener, Holliday’s system worked. Three pitchers allowed no runs through eight innings, but so had Falmouth’s staff. In the ninth, Zarion Sharpe (UNC Wilmington) dropped a putout at first, that soon turned into the winning run and the only run of the game. The great performance went to waste.

But against the Mariners, the A’s hitters didn’t spoil their rotation’s superiority.

Anthony Vilar (Miami) walked in his first at-bat as an Angler, and three batters later, Colin Hall (Georgia Tech) singled in the first run of the game. Despite six walks in 15 plate appearances, a hitless Charlie Welch (Pepperdine) knocked his first base hit to left. The following batter, Paxton Wallace (Wichita State), took his second pitch over the right-center field wall.

“He muscled that out of the ballpark,” Holliday said.

Dabovich’s struggled with his command — he allowed four of Chatham’s seven hits— but when runners were on, the right-hander came through.

Strikeouts, both on curveballs, ended the top of his first two frames. Bobbing his head and side-eyeing to his left, Dabovich, in tandem with first baseman Jamal O’Guinn (USC), forced two Mariners to the dugout via pickoffs in the third.

“Bottom line is I put up three zeroes on the scoreboard,” Dabovich said. “(I) just needed to get ahead and attack more.”

Bartnicki’s said his arm was dragging, so he tried to up his velocity. In pressure situations, like runners on the corners in the sixth inning, he went to his 97 mph two-seam fastball and sinker for strikeouts (he fanned four batters on the night) to end with zeroes.

“I was like ‘This is my last inning,’” Bartnicki said. “I just threw the baseball as hard as I could.”

Acker kept the restraint on the Harwich bats for two more innings after. Now with a 4-0 lead following Vilar’s second run of the night, he used his change-up to help the A’s get through eight scoreless.

Up five, Holliday turned Merryman for the ninth. He said the switch was purely for logistics due to an impending doubleheader against Wareham on Sunday. The right-hander’s side-arm delivery, a motion that Bartnicki calls “throwing frisbees,” allowed two baserunners with no outs. 

But Holliday kept him in the game, like he’s done with most of his pitchers who struggle early in their outing. Merryman responded with two consecutive strikeouts and a one-hopper to first that secured Chatham’s first shutout of the season.

"We definitely feed off each other," Dabovich said of the competition between pitchers. “...You want to do better than the first guy who threw and the next guy. It makes us that much better.”