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Adam Tulloch’s 9 strikeouts in 3.2 innings serve as bright spot in Chatham’s 8-1 loss to Y-D

by Allie Kaylor, 08-03-2021

Adam Tulloch’s 9 strikeouts in 3.2 innings serve as bright spot in Chatham’s 8-1 loss to Y-D

For the first time this season, Adam Tulloch had nothing to play for. He spent the first part of the season knowing scouts were watching. With a mid-season draft this year, many players forwent the Cape Cod Baseball League because they had nothing to gain. Others came because they had nothing to lose. Tulloch was in that second category — he wasn’t on many pre-draft lists and was never a guarantee to be drafted.

Then when the Dodgers drafted him in the 17th round, he had three more starts before he had to sign by Aug. 1. He gave up seven runs and 13 hits in just over 10 innings combined while setting season lows in strikeouts in both of those.

He elected not to sign and announced his transfer to Arizona State from West Virginia just days before that deadline. Now, on Aug. 2, Tulloch didn’t need to impress anyone but himself. What resulted was one of his best starts of the season — two runs, three hits and nine strikeouts over 3.2 innings. It was a bright spot in Chatham’s 8-1 loss to Yarmouth-Dennis. In a game where the offense struggled, and pitching often struggled too, Tulloch continued to retire batters and beat his own record for the most strikeouts in a game by an Anglers pitcher this season.

“He loves to pitch as much as any kid I've seen in four or five years,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “That’s gonna pay off for him later in life, because he’s gonna pitch up.”

Tulloch was originally supposed to enter after the fourth inning, after Victor Mederos started. But Mederos had pitched himself into a jam. He retired Chase Luttrell to start the inning but followed that with a double, a single that scored the runner and then a walk. Pitching coach Dennis Cook had no choice but to take out his pitcher. He walked toward the mound and motioned toward the bullpen to bring in the new pitcher.

In came Tulloch to lessen the damage and keep the Anglers in the game. An RBI double by the Red Sox in the second inning negated a home run by Lyle Miller-Green in the top of the inning, his seventh of the season and first in three weeks. Miller-Green once led the league in both home runs and RBI, but his lead slid after a cold stretch in the middle of the season. But this time, the first pitch of the at-bat was in a perfect spot, and he found one of the best swings he’d had all season.

A Brooks Lee home run in the third gave the Red Sox the lead, and after six total hits off Mederos, it was Tulloch’s turn to take the mound. He quickly got ahead, striking out Patrick Caulfield on three pitches. After a ball to start the next at bat, Maxwell Romero Jr. stood up and threw to Nolan McLean at first to try to pick off Cade Hunter, who he caught between first and second. But Hunter was able to make it back to the bag, and Tulloch got back to work. Another swinging strikeout followed, and he successfully got out of the one-out, two-on jam he inherited.

“That’s what you push for, strikeouts,” Tulloch said. “That’s what I was going for.”

To start the fifth inning, Tulloch nearly had his third straight strikeout. Tanner Smith watched two strikes fly by before laying off on a slider outside the zone. He checked his swing on the fourth pitch, and the ball hit something before landing in Romero’s glove. Thinking it hit his arm, Smith walked to first base. But when home plate umpire Ryan DiMare pumped his fist to signal a strikeout, Smith turned around in confusion with his mouth open. Y-D manager Scott Pickler emerged from the dugout as Smith unwrapped his arm guard to show exactly where it hit him. He took first base, a call that Holliday expressed his displeasure at.

But even after Smith stole second base — another call Holliday disagreed with — Tulloch had no issues. Lee followed his home run with Tulloch’s second three-pitch strikeout. A grounder to first advanced Smith to third, but then it took just three pitches, a called strike and two swinging, to retire Lutrell. Through less than two innings, Tulloch already had four strikeouts, three coming on three-pitches.

Luttrell started a pattern for Tulloch, one where he retired batters with ease. He threw 12 pitches in that sixth inning. Only three were swung at, and only three others were outside the strike zone. He didn’t allow any contact as he struck out three batters looking.

Caulfield then became the fifth batter of the night to go down in three pitches when he watched the first one fly by and swung and missed at the next two to start the seventh. Wyatt Hoffman followed suit, though he put up more of a fight after he fouled a pitch and held off two balls. Hoffman was Tulloch’s ninth strikeout of the night, his sixth in a row, too.

“When he gets on a roll, he’s really, really good,” Holliday said. “He’s fun to watch … I love the way he brings his game to the mound.”

As he had near the end of his most recent appearances, Tulloch started to crumble after that. With two outs, Tanner Smith fouled off three pitches before he found the one he wanted, sending it deep for the Red Sox’s second home run of the game. Lee and Smith both entered the game with a seven-game hitting streak on the line, and both extended that streak with a home run.

Tulloch allowed two more hits and a walk — his first plate appearance with a three-ball count and third with two balls — that led to another run, and a flyout to center ended the inning with two runners on. It wasn’t the prettiest ending, but to finish out the summer, the confidence he had pushed him through, he said.

“Tully’s a perfectionist,” Holliday said. “The only thing left for him to get over is an infield dribble, or a bloop single, you can’t let that break you down."