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Chatham ties Falmouth, 7-7, in 2021 season-opener

by Andrew Crane, 06-20-2021

Chatham ties Falmouth, 7-7, in 2021 season-opener

FALMOUTH — It took 687 days to get to this point, to the bottom of the ninth inning at Guv Fuller Field, when Daniel Federman (Miami) struck out his third batter of the inning — this one Falmouth’s Brennan Milone — and then neither team knew what to do. Federman pumped his fist, and then bumped Kevin Parada’s (Georgia Tech), his catcher, en route to the swarm of blue jerseys gathered outside Chatham’s dugout, mirroring the formation of Falmouth on the other side.

When Federman entered the game for Chatham two innings earlier, he took a pitching staff that teetered the rest of the evening and instantly stabilized it. He struck out six batters, but the one run he allowed nearly lost Chatham the game. Falmouth defensive replacement Jake Meyer shattered his bat yet still lofted a single into center field, giving the Commodores a temporary lead in the eighth that Parada’s RBI infield single erased in the top of the ninth. Federman returned to the mound and retired each of the three Falmouth batters he faced.

That’s why the Anglers and the Commodores gathered like they did after the ninth inning, when Jake DeLeo (Georgia Tech) and John Michael Faile (North Greenville) would’ve grabbed their helmets and prepared to begin the 10th. But an addition to the rule book this season eliminated extra innings, so eventually Chatham and Falmouth players careened toward their respective postgame huddles further onto the field. “Obviously, it sucks tying,” right fielder Lyle Miller-Green (Chipola College) said.

But in order for Chatham’s opening game to happen, and eventually end in a 7-7 draw against the Commodores (0-0-1), there first had to be a season. That wasn’t always guaranteed. It took drafts of COVID-19 protocols to build a framework, and then rounds of revisions to protect it, and mixed in were months spent hoping that a Cape Cod Baseball League schedule could be played after losing last summer to a global pandemic. The cancelation, coupled with ending collegiate seasons, forced players into months-long offseasons of basement gyms, backyard cages, and creativity — lots of it — to craft quarantine workout routines.

What that all created was a jumble of players that descended on Chatham (0-0-1) with various NCAA eligibility points and draft eligibility years, with some only in college, and now in the Cape, because the shortened 2020 MLB Draft delayed their chance to turn pro. Holliday said on Saturday that he didn’t know “if we can score a run,” but that their pitching arms could hopefully bide time while the Anglers’ bats found a rhythm. Instead, Chatham peppered the Commodores with 11 hits, led by Miller-Green’s home run and a pair of hits from DeLeo and Josh Rivera (Florida). Starter Victor Mederos (Miami) threw seven wild pitches. And Falmouth’s bullpen nearly held Chatham scoreless the final four innings until the Anglers scored a run when it needed one most and Federman’s strikeouts helped preserve the deadlock.

"(Federman) just threw all his pitches for strikes and got them over,” Parada said, “and attacked the hitters and forced them to make contact — that normally causes weak contact.”

The one piece of strong contact came from Meyer, and what followed was a swinging arm from the Commodores’ third-base coach as Brayden Taylor rounded the bag and a Falmouth lead with 12 outs to go after trailing most of the game. At times, those Chatham arms did keep them in the game, just like Holliday predicted. Garrett Crowley (Fordham) struck out three batters in a row, and was one pitch away from a fourth. Federman strung his strikeouts together.

But after Mederos cruised through the first inning, he allowed three runs in the second that gave Falmouth an early 4-1 lead. It was a different role for the sophomore from Miami who bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen for the Hurricanes. With Chatham, he knew he’d start ahead of time. He could plan to attack the Falmouth hitters — with his changeup, his slider, his fastball — even if it wasn't executed like he wanted, Mederos said postgame.

He walked the first batter in each inning and watched as his fastball velocity dipped between the two and pitches, especially the fastball, spiked into the dirt — squeaking past Parada and forcing him to bounce from side to side. That’s how the Commodores got their second run, when Mederos’ fourth wild pitch bounced away from the plate and toward the grass. Parada sprang to recover, but Jace Bohrofen slid through home plate before Chatham’s catcher made the throw.

“I just felt like I needed to attack the hitters a little bit more and get that fastball down,” Mederos said. “Walks really do kill you.”

But Chatham erased that deficit, and turned it into a lead, in its next at-bat. Miller-Green lofted a ball that carried, and carried, and eventually settled on the other side of the right-field fence. He "was really just trying to put a ball in play," but then faced a fastball low and outside where he could extend his arms. Rivera, the next batter, then placed a single into center field and turned it into a double when the outfielder took a delayed route to the ball.

From there, though, the Anglers’ offense became dormant while Falmouth slowly manufactured runs. The Commodores turned from Adam Stone — the 6-foot-6 sophomore from Harvard who has yet to pitch a collegiate game after the Ivy League canceling its 2020 and 2021 seasons — to Alex Price, whose slower, left-handed delivery kept Chatham hitters off-balance. He struck out all three batters he faced in the fourth, a seven-pitch inning, and six overall, scattering four hits across his three innings.

That allowed Falmouth to erase Chatham’s lead, build a small one of its own, and set the Anglers into a must-score position in the ninth. Seth Stephenson (Temple College) was hit by a pitch to start, then Grice lofted a shallow bloop single into left field, and a passed ball during Parada’s at-bat advanced both. “Do a job,” Miller-Green told Parada from the on-deck circle, balancing a bat while Parada surveyed Andrew Yancik, the Commodores pitcher, and the defensive alignment behind him.

Parada dug into the box, adjusted his cleat positioning, and chopped a slow-roller toward shortstop. Postgame, he said he wanted to just keep it in the middle of field. That way, Stephenson could score. Ground balls could mean exchanging an out for a run, and, in this case, that was fine. Falmouth’s Walter Ahuna charged the ball, but never released the throw as Parada raced down the line. Stephenson crossed the plate, and Chatham positioned itself with another possible scoring opportunity to take the team.

But even though they never did convert, and the league’s tie rule prevented them from another chance to possibly take the lead, Chatham found the one final bounce — the 11th single of 13 total hits — it needed.