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Chatham plates 4 runs in 7th inning to sweep series against Hyannis

by Anthony Dabbundo, 07-14-2019

Chatham plates 4 runs in 7th inning to sweep series against Hyannis

Hyannis manager Chad Gassman opted to intentionally walk Ben Ramirez (USC), loading the bases with one out. The hitter behind Ramirez was one of the NCAA’s best hitters this spring. 

Ramirez couldn’t remember the last time he’d been walked on purpose. And while Alex Toral (Miami) admitted his Chatham numbers aren’t what he was hoping so far, he had a chance to propel the A’s to a much-needed win. 

Last time an opposing manager chose to give out a free pass, Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) jogged to first and Jamal O’Guinn (USC) followed it with a grand slam in the next at-bat. Neither were in the Anglers’ lineup on Sunday. Instead, Toral hit a two-run single through the hole on the right side to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. 

Kaden Polcovich (Oklahoma State) and Colin Hall (Georgia Tech) raced around to score and give Chatham a two-run lead. For an offense that was stagnant in the first six innings, another late rally and stellar pitching performance secured a victory ahead of the Anglers most important week of the season so far. Toral’s single pushed two of the A’s four in the seventh inning, giving Chatham (17-11-2) a 4-1 win over Hyannis (6-21-1). 

“I didn’t expect it,” Toral said of being walked. “Even though I’m struggling a little bit at the plate. It motivates you, it’s a sign of disrespect.”

Not only did Gassman opt to pitch to Toral over Ramirez, but he brought the corner infielders in and shifted the second baseman toward second. That left a huge hole on the right side for Toral’s single. 

“I always check to see where they are playing,” Toral said. “I thought it was an interesting idea.”

Manager Tom Holliday has stressed all season that in a tightly-grouped East Division, with only eight points separating first and last place, divisional games will decide where Chatham ends up in the playoff seeding. Ahead of six consecutive divisional games, though, the Anglers needed to take care of a home-and-home in a “big game” with six-win Hyannis, Holliday said.

The Anglers scraped by with a 6-3 win on Saturday despite Holliday not being impressed with their offense or pitching. After six innings on Sunday, he was equally displeased. Chatham’s pitching had done its job, but the bats were nonexistent. 

Hyannis’ pitching strategy to work backward kept the Anglers off balance. First ball curveball, second ball fastball. A’s hitters failed to change their approaches the second time through the order.

“We didn’t hit one first pitch breaking ball hard, all night,” Holliday said. “Just because they are pitching backward, doesn’t mean you can’t hit a breaking ball first pitch.”

The lack of early hitting has been an issue for the A’s all year, and it has caused deficits in 21 of Chatham’s 30 games.

When Hyannis’ Bryce Teodosio chopped a routine ground ball down the third base line, Anglers third baseman Anthony Vilar (Miami) had no play at the plate. With the A’s playing their defense back, Vilar conceded the opening run, an RBI groundout with one out in the fourth inning. 

“We’re behind a lot. I don’t like that either,” Holliday said. “I like to score first. The percentages of winning baseball games, it’s 74% when you score first.”

But as they’ve done 13 times now, the Anglers rallied. First, its pitching staff shut down the Harbor Hawks. Luke Bartnicki (Georgia Tech) threw four innings and allowed just four baserunners while striking out four.

RJ Dabovich (Arizona State) provided one of the most commanding outings of any A’s reliever in 2019. In four innings of work, just one Harbor Hawk reached base, and Dabovich reached as high as 95 mph and struck out nine.

“That was the best he’s thrown,” Holliday said. “His stuff was really good. Bartnicki battled through it too, he got his outs. It’s a win, but I’m still trying to figure this team out.”

The consistent Hyannis zeroes on the scoreboard kept the game within reach. And as the Anglers did against Yarmouth-Dennis in a 1-1 tie on Friday, one inning was all Chatham needed to get a result. 

Hueston Morrill (Oklahoma State) took a one-out, five-pitch walk, and Polcovich singled over the second baseman’s head. The A’s had two runners on again, but unlike the fourth inning when they squandered it with three straight outs, they made their swings count.

“I think it comes together for our team in the latter innings,” Ramirez said. “I don’t really have an explanation for that.”

Hall hit an infield single dribbler down the third base line to score Morrill, and that brought up Ramirez. But Gassman didn’t want to face Ramirez. He wanted to see Toral instead.

Toral made Gassman regret it. The A’s offense added one more insurance run on a Cade Cabbiness (Oklahoma State) sacrifice fly, and the four runs were more than enough.

With divisional play looming, Chatham found another come-from-behind victory and set them up for its most important week of the season. For now, that’s enough. Later, Holliday says it might not be.

“We’re in first and they’re in last,” Holliday said. “But for seven innings, you wouldn’t know the difference between us.”