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Anglers break winless streak with 4-1 victory over 1st-place Red Sox

by Andrew Crane, 07-02-2021

Anglers break winless streak with 4-1 victory over 1st-place Red Sox

Logan Britt knew right away that the ball was gone, the first-pitch breaking ball that zoned in toward the plate and then barreled out toward left-center field once it met his bat. He lifted his head rounding first just to make sure, though. Rounding second, Lyle Miller-Green turned and looked too. Britt had come close earlier this season — the solid contact, the deep fly balls, the mid-season tweaks that promised to lay the foundation for more — but still wandered through an 0-for-13 stretch, landing his first hit on an infield single in the fourth inning.

Then in the sixth, facing Andrew Marrero and tied 1-1 against Yarmouth-Dennis, Britt used his observations that the Red Sox pitcher started the previous two hitters with sliders and struggled with fastball location. “Everyone on the team knew he was due,” Miller-Green said. He finally hit one far enough, keyed by the stride and extension adjustments pioneered by Anglers assistant Mickey Tettleton pioneered, and gave Chatham its first lead of the game, one that it added to later that same inning.

“I knew if I just kept swinging it the way I had been, it was gonna eventually land,” Britt said. And it happened tonight.”

It was the offensive burst that’d been brewing for the Anglers, inching closer with each stretch of runners on base before surfacing on Friday night. They still relied on the long ball, but this was one of the games where that formula worked. They took advantage of four Yarmouth-Dennis errors, continued to pressure a defense missing key shortstop Brooks Lee while he tours with Team USA, and found a way to make that pressure stretch for nine innings. After embarking on a 1-4-1 stretch in between their first and second off days of the season, the Anglers snapped their four-game winless streak with a 4-1 victory over Yarmouth-Dennis.

“We're just still waiting to hit our stride,” Britt said. “I still don't even think we've cracked into what we could be.”

But for the longest time on Friday, as the rain misted down and Veterans Field soaked it up, uncertainty surfaced as to whether they’d even play the game. Bag after back of quick dry was dumped on the mound and raked in to create a solution safe enough to play on. Manager Tom Holliday, president Steve West and general manager Mike Geylin gathered on infield grass at 6:30 p.m. to survey the field quality, and the Anglers jogged onto the field 30 minutes later without traditional pregame batting practice or infield-outfield routines.

What emerged over the next two-plus hours, though, was the exact combination of strong pitching and timely hitting the Anglers had flashed at times but never quite pieced together during their losing stretch. Daniel Federman started on the mound and, just like his previous two appearances, continued to mow through hitters. He scattered a single in the first inning, one that just snuck past a diving Seth Stephenson into right field, but settled down, used his changeup as a strikeout pitch and catch-up pitch in counts, and found a curveball in the later innings after he and Chatham catcher Dominic Tamez initially scrapped it when it didn’t work on the leadoff batter.

Federman pulled Tamez aside between the first and second innings and told him to continue calling the pitch, he recalled. At some point later in the game, they’d need that pitch — a breaking ball with vertical movement — and Federman wanted it to be ready. So he used that approach, and the trust built with Tamez by throwing a bullpen together earlier in the week, to navigate counts with a mix of in-and-out, up-and-down approaches and extend his streak without a walk to 9.2 innings. He also cycled in a “straight change,” which Federman said looks like a fastball since it’s just a four-seam grip moved over in his hand.

“Most people don't understand that pitching's not just throwing 95 miles an hour,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “There's a pitcher-pitcher that people look for, and he's that guy.”

The presence of a dominant changeup, and the addition of a curveball, created an arsenal that allowed Federman to throw first-pitch strikes on eight of the 12 batters he faced, and the only trouble he ran into came in the second inning when Wyatt Hoffman ripped a double into the left-field corner that bounced fair. Hoffman thought about rounding for third, then advanced two batters later when a ground ball deep past the third-base bag gave him enough room. He scored after Briley Knight — whose three-run double on June 22 lifted the Red Sox to a 3-2 win over Chatham — blooped a ball into the outfield that broke his bat and fell just past the outstretched glove of Josh Rivera.

“It's cold out, these guys got wood bats in their hands, it's tough to drive balls,” Federman said. “(If) they hit the first pitch, they hit the first pitch. But getting ahead for me has been the most important thing.”

One swing from Miller-Green to lead off the bottom of the inning, though, tied the game for the Anglers. He, like Britt, found himself in an early-season slump, but broke down his previous at-bats with the Chatham staff during their hitting meetings on Thursday and left with the need to get more swings off, to not take so many pitches he should be swinging at. His third home run of the season cleared the left-centerfield fence and raised an average that’d fallen to .188 after 14 strikeouts in 32 at-bats.

Those two home runs — which were boosted when Stephenson reached on a single, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a broken-bat ground ball chopped by catcher Dominic Tamez — pieced together to be enough offense for the Anglers when paired with six innings of shut-out relief from Garrett Crowley and Victor Mederos. They, along with Federman, had combined for a one-hitter in their last win against Hyannis, and Friday, limited the Red Sox’s offense to five hits while striking out 13.

The last strikeout came to start the ninth, Mederos’ first batter after escaping a first-and-second jam with one out the previous inning. He didn’t allow a baserunner after that, inducing a flyout to left and a dribbler in front of the plate in the following at-bats, and Chatham players flocked to the mound to celebrate. There were still the lapses in offense, the poor plate appearances and base-running errors, the missed bunts and occasional miscue in the field and errors that Holliday said postgame needed to get fixed, but when everything that went right paired together, it’s exactly what the Anglers had requested: a win, achieved through any means possible, to righten their season.

“Our team has a lot of juice,” Miller-Green said, “and we're gonna start to find more ways to score runs as well rather than just the long ball.”