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Chatham’s 4-run 1st inning starts leads way 6-2 win over Bourne

by KJ Edelman, 07-26-2019

Chatham’s 4-run 1st inning starts leads way 6-2 win over Bourne

BOURNE — A couple faces were missing. Some of the top of Chatham’s lineup, like Kaden Polcovich (Oklahoma State) and Ben Ramirez (USC), didn’t play on Friday. Manager Tom Holliday said that he has four players that “can barely walk” and wanted to rest them. So amidst Chatham’s push to clinch the playoffs, the A’s would have to rely on its secondary stars. 

“Until those guys who are banged up are healthy, we’re going to play these guys on the bench,” manager Tom Holliday said, “to try and put this thing away as quick as we can.”

It took just 15 minutes for them to deliver. A four-run first inning overwhelmed Bourne (15-21-1), and it couldn’t recover in a 6-2 loss to Chatham (23-12-2). While some of Chatham’s consistent hitters showed up, like a two-run RBI from Alex Toral (Miami), players like Hueston Morrill (Oklahoma State) and Tyler Doanes (West Virginia) added to the onslaught. And after Brewster's win over Hyannis, Chatham’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now just one game.

The explosive first inning started with a dropped strike. Hueston Morrill (Oklahoma State) swung at a third strike, but it snuck into the backstop, advancing him to first. 

“I’ve always told myself if I’m in the leadoff spot and I can get on, something good is going to happen,” Morrill said.

Tyler Doanes (West Virginia) tried to bunt him over, but he beat out a throw after his two-hopper rolled toward the mound. Morrill moved to third on a wild pitch and Jamal O’Guinn (USC) came up. 

Doanes, who’s tied with the team-lead in stolen bases, ran on a 2-1 count, shifting the second baseman to his base. But as the throw from Matt Lardner came to O’Guinn, he shot a ground ball into the recently open gap in right to bring the first run home. 

“When you score four in the first, with the way we pitch, you’re going to have an uphill battle,” Holliday said. “I kind of expect us to score in the first inning of every game.”

Jorge Arenas (Stetson) struckout on a breaking ball for the first out and Paxton Wallace (Wichita State) walked, setting up the bases loaded for Alex Toral (Miami). Toral “turned the scoreboard over” on Thursday, blasting a two-run shot onto Depot Road to erase a 3-1 deficit against Yarmouth-Dennis. Despite his 24 home runs at Miami this spring, Toral’s mindset has altered after an early slump to start his season at Chatham. 

“I’m just trying to hit line drives up the middle,” Toral said on July 15.

Toral didn’t need a long ball to deliver two runs like a day prior. He knocked a line drive to right, unloading two more runs on the Braves. When the scoring looked to stop after another comebacker to the mound, Lardner airmailed a throw to second into center field, scoring Wallace — the fourth run of the game. 

“That’s huge scoring in the first,” Morrill said. “It was a lot of momentum for us going forward.”

10 batters came up to the in the top of the first, and crushed Bourne, the league’s lowest scoring offense, with a four-run hole — Chatham’s highest scoring first inning all season.

After the explosive first frame, Lardner, an All-Star, buckled down with consecutive 1-2-3 innings. Through three, the left-hander had nine strikeout, including an immaculate inning in the third inning against the five, six and seven hitters. But the All-Star was pulled in the fifth inning after giving up four earned runs. 

“The lead makes you more comfortable,” Toral said. “You’re more relaxed in the box.”

The A’s starter, Ty Madden (Texas), started the second with runners on the corners and eventually conceded Bourne’s opening run on a sacrifice fly. But he buckled down when the same opportunity arose with two outs, inducing a ground ball to short. 

Morrill stole third base in the fourth inning and catcher Brandon Rivoli tossed an errant throw, scoring Friday’s leadoff hitter for the second time and berating the Bourne dugout. Two frames later, Doanes scored a runner on his second hit of the night.

“I’ve been working with Mickey a lot to tighten up the swing,” Doanes said. “Today, the balls just fell.”

Platoon players like Doanes and Charlie Welch (St. John’s River State College) both mustered three hits. Morrill, who isn’t an everyday starter, scored twice at leadoff. Doanes and Morrill both attributing staying hot to mental toughness and the repetition of batting practice. When they need to deliver, like Friday’s game, they’re ready to take on a bigger role, Morril said.

Reliever Jack Owen (Auburn) was tasked with a runner on the corners with one out in the sixth. But like Madden, he limited the damage to just one run after a pair of swinging strikeouts. Owen ran through the Braves lineup for the final five innings, allowing just three hits and no walks with four strikeouts to close out the game. 

“Jack was just outstanding today,” Holliday said.

Any chance for Bourne to come back was squandered from the first 15 minutes of the game, against a pitching staff that’s been one of the top in the Cape League. Its first inning cushion had put the game away before the sun even set.