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Chatham’s season-high in hits, runs survive late comeback from Orleans in 13-10 win

by Allie Kaylor, 07-28-2021

Chatham’s season-high in hits, runs survive late comeback from Orleans in 13-10 win

As the ball tailed off Jake DeLeo’s bat toward left field, it wasn’t certain that it would land for a hit. Once Chatham’s most reliable hitter, he’d been slumping for nearly the entire month of July. He had hits in three of his first four games to start the month, then suddenly stopped. First it was strikeouts. Striking out at least once, often twice, nearly every game. He eventually started making contact — hard contact — that took balls to the warning track, but their trajectory always took them directly to the gloves of fielders.

And the ball in the second innning continued on that trajectory, right to where Orleans’ Luke Keaschall was standing in deep left field. But the ball landed in a patch of grass over the fence in left field for DeLeo’s first Cape Cod Baseball League home run, after games of teammates and coaches saying he was due for a hit.

“I was pulling for him forever,” Matt Hogan said. “He works so hard, and for him to get out there and finally get that home run that he needed, it was like ‘Oh, thank god.’ He’s been craving that one. It was so well deserved.”

The blast gave Chatham a 3-0 lead, its second three-run homer to open scoring in as many games, but DeLeo wasn’t the only batter finding his stride. The Anglers had a season-high 16 hits, 13 runs, four home runs and their first three-game win streak of the season after surviving a ninth-inning comeback in a 13-10 win over Orleans.

“Whenever a team gets hot, gets going a little bit, you can tell spirits starting to rise,” Nolan McLean said. “It’s late, everyone’s getting a little worn out, but you can see the spirits rising again.”

The Anglers entered the game playing must-win baseball. Eleven points out of a playoff spot, they had just seven games to make it up. That was the case the game before that, and the game before that, too. Then Chatham won twice in a row, and Harwich, the second-place team, lost twice in a row. Orleans, the fourth place team 10 points outside of the playoffs, had also won two in a row.

The Firebirds answered DeLeo’s home run with one of their own in the bottom of the inning, trying to keep hold of that slight edge over Chatham in the standings. DeLauter started the game on the mound and pitched a perfect first before allowing three runs on three baserunners in the second. He then moved to the designated hitter slot, and led off the inning with a home run.

Chatham’s first game at Eldredge Park started as a back-and-forth affair, with the teams trading runs back and forth until Orleans broke the game open in the fifth, eventually winning 8-3. With a 3-2 score after two innings, and then a three-up, three-down, third on both sides, the game was heading in a similar direction as it was on July 4.

But on Wednesday, it was the Anglers that found the offensive explosion in the middle innings. They made it 4-2 in the fourth after a trio of singles and two fielder’s choices. Then in the fifth inning, Danny Serretti led off the inning with a bunt down the third-base line that rolled in the grass and stopped just past the mound, giving Tyler Locklear at third a difficult play he couldn’t complete.

A double by Josh Rivera followed two at-bats later and bounced off the wall in right-center, putting Serretti at third and bringing up McLean, who’d reached on a walk and single in his previous two plate appearances. As casually as his batting practice swings, he lifted a ball to right-center that let out a loud crack off the bat before landing for a home run, his first in his two starts with Chatham. Caeden Trenkle followed with a triple, the lone hit missing from a near-cycle Tuesday night in Wareham. Two more singles and a strikeout came after, but the Anglers sent all nine batters to the plate in order before the inning concluded, and they led 9-2 at the midway point through the game.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning, Serretti led off the sixth again, this time with a groundout to bring Hogan to the plate with the bases empty. Hogan, who’d nearly left the park in Orleans in his first Anglers at-bat, found the couple extra feet he needed for Chatham’s third home run of the game to give them an eight-run lead. His Vanderbilt teammate, Maxwell Romero Jr., followed suit later in the inning, bringing home himself and two other runners to make the Anglers’ run total 13, a new season-high.

“Some of those balls leaving the park sounded like major leaguers hitting them,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “Anybody that watched this game, whether they played it or not, they got to see some guys that might end up hitting in the big leagues.”

Down by 11, the Firebirds still found some fight in them. DeLauter walked to start the bottom of the inning, then scored after a double and single brought him home for the Firebirds’ first run since the second inning. Then the “little mistakes” that Holliday often mentions started to add up. A walk, wild pitch and a single started off the inning. If all things went as planned, a flyout, lineout and pop up to the pitcher should’ve ended the inning.

But Locklear launched a ball almost straight into the air, pitcher Dawson Gause and first baseman Lyle Miller-Green converged at the mound. From the dugout, Holliday yelled “get out of the way” to avoid a dropped pop up. Miller-Green retreated, but late enough that the ball hit his glove, bounced out, and the runner was safe at second in what was scored a double to put on two runners that eventually scored.

Then in the ninth, Chatham came three outs away from a six-run win. Zach Maxwell gave up a single to DeLauter. Then another. And another. Then three straight RBI walks cut the Chatham lead in half — “he had too big of a lead,” Holliday said postgame. With two outs in the inning, Keaschall came to the plate representing the winning run. And if the Firebirds wanted anyone at the plate in that situation, it would be him. In 14 games with the Firebirds, he had hits in 12 of those games and was riding an 11-game hitting streak while batting .424, but he had gone 0-for-5 so far in the game. It only took Maxwell two pitches to retire him with a grounder to short to end the game.

Even with a late scare by the Firebirds, including a three-run ninth, the Anglers still escaped with a win. They found the win they needed. The one that pushed them ahead of Orleans in the standings. The one that kept them just within reach of that playoff spot. The one that kept the momentum from the last week going into the final week of the regular season.

“What’s the difference between 13-10 and 2-1? A win’s a win,” Holliday said. “The big difference for us right now is we’re hitting, and it makes us anxious to come back to the ballpark. When a lot of teams are losing players left and right, our kids can’t wait to play. That’s a beautiful thing.”