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5-run 5th inning by Kettleers sinks Anglers 7-6

by Andrew Crane, 07-16-2021

5-run 5th inning by Kettleers sinks Anglers 7-6

It started as the line drive that promised the Anglers a chance, that maybe it’d have enough elevation and carry far enough, but then ended with the realization that they needed one more. Caeden Trenkle had lofted a deep fly ball to right field, nearly deep enough to clear the fence for a game-tying two-run home run in the ninth against Cotuit, until it bounced off the fence instead. From third base, Dominic Tamez jogged in and scored. And from second base, Trenkle stared toward the plate as Maxwell Romero Jr. and Matt Hogan prepped for their at-bats, Chatham’s next two chances to create that one more hit.

If Chatham could send up any pair of batters back-to-back, in any scenario but especially against a struggling right-handed pitcher — exactly the position Cotuit’s Harrison Cohen found himself in — Romero Jr. and Hogan would definitely be high on that list. In a Chatham lineup filled with surging hitters, they were arguably the two surging the most. They’d joined the Chatham roster late in the season, after a year together at Vanderbilt, and gradually both found their path to the center of their lineup. Romero Jr. had the natural power. Hogan had the average. Together, along with their defense, they’d helped

“I knew I hit it well to where it had a chance,” Trenkle said postgame, “but I didn’t quite get all of it, so I wasn’t sure it was gonna go.”

An early Anglers lead that Cotuit erased became a race against the setting sun and brought the two teams to this point. Romero Jr. struck out after jumping ahead 3-0 in the count, and Hogan, after also leading 2-0 in his count, swung through two strikes and knocked a ball into the glove of Cotuit’s second baseman. He threw the ball to first anyway, a hypothetical play that Hogan made close by sprinting down the line, but the first-base umpire checked with the umpire at second before pumping his fist to signal the 27th out.

It’d been a game that favored Chatham for the opening four-plus innings, even as Adam Tulloch — one of its top pitchers and recent draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers — struggled. Dominic Tamez snapped an 0-for-20 streak with a two-run double. They’d added to that lead with a timely single by Romero Jr. But just like when Cotuit and the Anglers played just nine days earlier at Lowell Park, the Kettlers pieced together five runs in the fifth, this time on six hits against reliever Garrett Crowley, to snap Chatham’s two-game winning streak with a 7-6 victory.

“I don't think that this team felt like they were out of this game at any time,” manager Tom Holliday said. “They played more like they let it slip away instead of playing chase, coming from behind all the time that we were.”

Back when these two teams last met on July 7, that’s who the Anglers were. They were always playing from behind. Bogged down by double-digit strikeouts. Searching for answers to walks by pitchers, a lack of hits by batters, repeated errors in the field — something different every game. But over the past week, Chatham found a way to turn hits into runs and alter the trajectory of their season that once sunk as low as the basement of the East Division. It scored a season-high eight runs on Thursday against Yarmouth-Dennis, won its first set of back-to-back games, hit its first set of back-to-back runs, and found ways to manufacture successful plate appearances against a left-handed pitcher.

All of those reflected strides, some larger than others, lifting the Anglers up a spot in the standings with the potential for more. They’ve finally reached the point of their season where “a team becomes a team,” Holliday said postgame. His players feel the energy, the urgency to win, the need to channel everything that surfaces during nine positive innings, bottle it up and spread it across as many games as possible.

“It's there,” Holliday said. “They've got it. Right now, they got it.”

For the third consecutive game, Chatham grabbed a lead in the first inning by bringing a run across the plate against Will Jacobsen, a former Harvard third baseman turned pitcher with Cotuit. Matt Garcia laced the fifth pitch of the game past the diving first baseman and tucked it into fair play as it rolled into the corner, advancing to third on the next at bat and scoring when Romero sent a sacrifice fly to left field.

A two-strike single from Johnny Castagnozzi with one out helped the Anglers add to the lead the next inning. Another single, this one from Josh Rivera and dropping just inside the right-field line, gave them first-and-third with one out. That brought up Dominic Tamez, the catcher who fell behind Romero in terms of innings behind the plate, who opened the Cape League season without a hit in his first 20 at bats, but also the one who worked a competitive at-bat in the Y-D game, fouling off pitch after pitch with runners in scoring position, that flashed potential for something more.

Lately, he’s worked with the Chatham coaching staff on his method of gripping the bat, on taking his “power lift grip” and making it more like how he’d grip a golf club, Holliday said. It’s a “drastic” change to implement during the season, but on the fourth pitch Jacobsen threw him, Tamez drove the ball to the fence in right-center field to bring Britt home and allow Rivera to slide home safely — jumping up and shouting “Woo” while his helmet bounced away. Tamez strolled into second with a standup double, and Chatham’s lead became 3-0.

In past games, that would’ve been enough for Tulloch and Crowley. They were the two dominant pitchers, both lefties, on Chatham’s staff, stabilizing a group that struggled with walks at times. Their previous appearances both ended with seven combined runs surrendered in their final innings, something Chatham manager Tom Holliday attributed to extending their outings extra batters and extra innings.

With one out in the fifth inning, Cotuit manager Mike Roberts started by giving Eric Brown the hold sign, telling his second baseman to stay on third base, maybe rounding it a bit, and wait for the next Cotuit batter to hit him in. A hit by Drew Compton pierced the hole 5-6 hole in Chatham’s infield, bouncing toward Logan Britt in left — who took a step in and prepared for a throw to the plate.

But the ball bounced past Britt’s glove, rolling deeper into the outfield grass, and Roberts pointed and told Brown to go. He waved Jace Grady around third, too. All three runners scored from Crowley’s bases-loaded jam, taking a slim Anglers lead and flipping it in Cotuit’s favor.

“We gave up enough runs to get us beat,” Holliday said. “If we score six, we should win. If we score five, I think we're gonna win. Four, maybe. Three, we better pitch really good.”

With Chatham up for its final at-bats and trailing by two runs, Tamez led off the ninths with another double to the same spot — deep in right-center field, rolling toward the fence. A mound visit followed from Roberts, strolling out slowly to the mound with daylight fading, but no pitching change followed. He wanted his closer, Cohen, to face Trenkle.

That’s when the Chatham outfielder almost tied the game with one swing, hitting a deep blast, his deepest of the season, off the right-field fence. And two batters later, that’s when Hogan’s line out ended it.