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Anglers surrender 3 home runs, offense gets 2 hits in 8-2 loss to Harwich

by Andrew Crane, 07-12-2021

Anglers surrender 3 home runs, offense gets 2 hits in 8-2 loss to Harwich

From the third-base line, Johnny Castagnozzi flung his arms wide and stared at the Chatham dugout. Dominic Tamez, draped in his catcher’s equipment, did the same thing 40 feet closer to the plate. They both had the straightest line of anyone at Veterans Field, a direct look at the ball that Brock Wilken lofted toward the foul pole in left field — the one that kept drifting and drifting before it settled on the other side of the fence.

The question became whether it was fair or foul, whether its landing spot in between the garage-door panels tucked near the outfield woods had any correspondence to its path over the foul pole. The home-plate umpire paused for a second, then twirled his finger in a circle to signal a home run. After Chatham manager Tom Holliday exited the dugout to say his piece, the third-base umpire said the ball wrapped around the pole before reentering fair territory.

Wilken’s blast scored leadoff hitter Tatem Levins after a walk and established a trend of two-run homers — and a game-long deficit for the Anglers — that stretched the rest of the night. Three blasts, by Wilken, Chris Newell and Pres Cavenaugh, scored six Harwich runs, and lifted the Mariners over the Anglers, 8-2 for their third win in three meetings between the two teams this season. The Chatham bats remained silent with just two hits in the game that pushed it past the midway point of the season, and an inability to score with runners in scoring position, or multiple runners on base with less than two outs, or hit left-handed pitchers contributed to another Angler loss.

“I got a call that was probably not a strike earlier in that at-bat, so I knew he was probably gonna give one to him,” starting pitcher Tanner Witt said. “I didn't know it was gonna be a home run, but that's baseball.”

The early home run from Wilken continued his tear against the Anglers through the first half of their season series encapsulated the overall success of Harwich versus their pitching staff. When Andrew Benefield hit a grand slam in the first inning on June 26, Wilken responded with one of his own in the sixth inning. After Adam Tulloch threw three perfect innings on Saturday, Wilken’s double in the fourth sparked a four-run inning that changed the game’s trajectory.

He added another hit, the first-inning home run, off Witt and spoiled the Cape Cod Baseball League debut of the Texas sophomore. It was the first time Witt operated out of the windup all season, since all 28 of his appearances for the Longhorns came out of the bullpen, and he chose the windup he did — with a slight pause in the middle, almost mirroring a switch from the windup to the stretch — because he saw others using it and like the rhythm, he said postgame. He’d never used it before in game, instead just experimenting in a few recent bullpens as part of a summer-long plan to make strides toward breaking into the Texas starting rotation while at the same time solidifying the changeup as his third pitch.

In his other three innings of work, he scattered two other hits — one a bloop single over the outstretched arm of Josh Rivera and the other falling in left field when Caeden Trenkle tripped running in — and struck out four batters. It positioned the Anglers to erase the early blast with a fraction of the offense they managed the previous night against Bourne, and they eventually did.

But mixed in were the same signs, the struggles against lefties and missed opportunities with runners in scoring position, and that eliminated the long-term impact of the two runs Chatham did manage in the fifth and sixth. The first resulted from Jake DeLeo’s ground ball that snuck underneath the glove of Harwich first baseman Carter Putz after he took two steps to the right. The second baseman to his right tried to recover and make an off-balanced throw to first, but it sailed wide of the bag. Trenkle then drew a walk to give Chatham runners on first and second for the second straight inning.

The Anglers’ fourth inning ended when Maxwell Romero Jr. grounded into a double play. And the fifth seemed destined to end in a similar way when Matt Garcia bounced a ball back to Andrew Mosiello on the mound. But the Harwich shortstop didn’t make it to second base in time to cover, and the ball sailed into center field — allowing DeLeo to score. A diving catch in center field off a line drive from Josh Rivera prevented Trenkle from also scoring, though.

After the next inning, when Matt Hogan ripped a double down the right-field line, stole third and then scored when that catcher throw landed in left field, Chatham pulled within two. Hogan said that he noticed Mosiello broke toward home on every pitch two seconds after coming set, meaning he could break for third, where the Harwich defender was playing deep, after one-and-a-half seconds. “At that point, it becomes a race for him to get to the bag,” Hogan said, and he started his slide earlier once he saw Josh Hood fly left in an attempt to catch the ball.

“If they don't call that ball fair, that double gets us in the game,” Holliday said.

But instead, the Anglers’ bats were silenced again by another left-hander. Before Hogan scored, the Mariners put in Georgia Tech’s Dalton Smith, and he retired 11 in a row. “I'm mystified by it,” Holliday said, that left-handed pitching coach Dennis Cook could throw pregame batting practice for the first time — allowing hitters to react and hit pitchers coming from the opposite side in a relaxed setting — and it still didn’t lead to a single hit.

Harwich had already added to its lead by that point, when Cavenaugh lifted the eighth pitch of an at-bat against Keane to deep right field, a ball that cleared the fence even as Hogan swung his body over the outfield fence and tried, in any way, to catch it.

“If that fence was about two feet back,” Hogan said, “I catch that ball.’

Newell added a home run of his own in the next inning when he sent a ball bouncing onto the hill in front of Depot Street, and any last attempts by Chatham in its final at-bats were muffled by Smith. He recovered from a 3-0 count to retire Lyle Miller-Green in the ninth, before inducing two consecutive ground outs to Harwich’s shortstop that sealed Chatham’s 10th loss of the season — one that mirrored the other nine, each issue just a bit more defined than before.