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Anthony Nunez’s grand slam provides ‘sigh of relief’ for Chatham in blowout win

by Anish Vasudevan, 07-27-2022

Anthony Nunez’s grand slam provides ‘sigh of relief’ for Chatham in blowout win

Seconds after “Let’s go Anglers” chants started for the first time Tuesday night, moments after Chatham loaded the bases following two hit-by-pitches and minutes after manager Tom Holliday told Anthony Nunez to “get hot” before the sixth inning, Nunez belted the ball into right field.

Marcus Brown retreated back to third base momentarily as he watched the ball, but his shuffle quickly turned into a high-step in the opposite direction. Roc Riggio jumped out of his post on the right edge of the dugout, clapping after the ball landed on the grassy hill just left of the right field pole. Meanwhile, Nunez jogged around the bases, shaking hands with third base coach Randy Whisler before smiling at the dugout.

“Everybody had a sigh of relief when Nunez hit that home run,” Holliday said. “That home run was a monster for us.”

The Anglers allowed four runs in the eighth inning during Monday’s 5-2 loss to Orleans, the 11th lead they’d forfeited this season, but Chatham’s Achilles’ heel didn’t reappear on Tuesday with Nunez’s grand slam providing the exclamation point in a 10-2 win over Cotuit at Veterans Field. It was the Anglers’ first win over the Kettleers this season.

“The grand slam and the two guys on the mound, that was the story tonight,” Holliday said. “Everything that you do to score a big number happened for us.”

Chatham faced Joseph Whitman, who made his first start for Cotuit after playing in the Northwoods League earlier this summer. Jake DeLeo immediately found success against the lefty, lining a single to left field in the bottom of the first. Whitman walked Lyle Miller-Green before Riggio ripped a ball directly at second baseman Colby Wilkerson, who mishandled the grounder for one of three Cotuit errors on the night.

“When you can capitalize on their mistakes, you win a lot of ballgames,” Riggio said.

DeLeo scored and Miller-Green advanced to second, but Miller-Green exited the game for pinch runner Alex Ulloa. Miller-Green collided with DeLeo in deep center field after making the catch for the second out in the top of the first.

Chuck Ingram then launched a fly ball into deep left field, and Ulloa sprinted home safely as Carter Trice’s throw to the plate was cut off.

Trailing 2-0, Tyler Johnson sparked Cotuit’s offense, sending a ball off the outfield fence on one bounce for a double in the top of the second. Johnson bolted back to second base after Riggio snagged a line drive off the bat of Sam Ruta, but Brown completed the double play. On the next at-bat, Roman Kimball walked off the mound before DeLeo made the catch behind him to retire the side.

“I have a lot of confidence in my defense,” Kimball said. “I don’t have to strike everybody out, I can get some contact … fly balls are always an easy out, strikeouts are always an easy out.”

Riggio extended his hit streak to 11 games with a line drive single to left field in the third inning, saying his double play created “momentum” for the offense. Relief pitcher Will Jacobsen spun around to try to pick off Riggio, but the ball bounced into left field. One batter later, Riggio came home after Brown grounded a single up the middle.

Kimball faced eight batters in the fourth inning, loading the bases after clipping Johnson’s right leg. Enrique Bradfield scored Cotuit’s first run, sprinting home following a single from Ruta.

Brown dove to his right after Calvin Harris sent a similar ball in between second and third, but he couldn’t reach it. He was slow to get up, staying on the dirt as Trice went home to cut Chatham’s lead to one.

With the bases still loaded, Cotuit manager Mike Roberts pinch hit Eddie Park. Park took the first three pitches for balls and began to walk to first base after watching a low pitch, but home plate umpire Mike Hinojosa called the pitch a strike.

After Park swung and missed at the next pitch, he watched another ball land inside, turning toward first before Hinojosa called strike three. He spun around in shock, watching Hinojosa signal the final out with his left fist.

With the Anglers pitching staff “shrinking daily,” Holliday kept Kimball on the mound while Carlos Rey warmed up in the bullpen. Kimball cleaned the ball behind the mound following his warmup pitches in the fifth inning before walking Tommy Troy to open the frame. But after pacing around the mound, Kimball got back on the bump.

Kimball settled his glove perpendicular to his waist, taking a deep breath before each pitch. He froze Bradfield with the fifth pitch he threw him for a punch out. Five pitches later, CJ Kayfus swung and missed on a ball high and outside for another strikeout.

Kimball ended his outing with a third consecutive strikeout, fanning Trice on a pitch high and outside. Kimball swung his right leg all the way around, peering back at Trice before pumping his fist.

“I just had to pitch with a guy on base, I’ve been doing it a lot recently,” Kimball said. “To be able to get out of that jam is pretty big. I capped off my night on a high note.”

Chatham failed to bring in a run with the bases loaded in the seventh before putting runners on each base again in the ensuing inning. Marcus Brown took two practice swings before planting his feet in the left-handed batter’s box, adding another four half swings before finally putting his bat behind his shoulder.

Brown blasted the ball into right field, inches away from another grand slam as Park snagged it at the warning track. Ulloa scored from third, bringing Cooper Ingle up to the plate. Ingle mimicked Brown’s hit to the opposite side, sending Riggio bolting home on a second straight sacrifice fly.

“We got a few sac flies, a few ground balls that brought guys in,” Riggio said. “That’s vital to the game.”