Already possessing a 7-5 lead, the Cotuit Kettleers (5-5) sealed an 11-5 victory over the Chatham Anglers (6-3) with four unanswered runs in the top of the ninth inning. Trailing the entire night, the Anglers amassed eight hits, struck out 11 times and committed four errors against a well-coached Kettleer team that scored three or more runs in three separate innings.
"Tonight was not a good effort on our part all the way around," said manager John Schiffner. "We made four errors, we walked too many guys, we got behind in counts and we didn't hit the ball well. These things happen. In baseball you have good days and bad days."
Right-hander Eric Stevens (1-1, 5.79 ERA) (Boston College) suffered the loss for the Anglers. Stevens allowed six runs on seven hits in three and a third innings pitched. The tall sinkerballer did not have the command of his previous start on Sunday night and walked three hitters while striking out just two.
"Eric's a good pitcher," said catcher John Martinez (Michigan State). "He didn't hit his spots well in the first inning and threw a lot of pitches. That caused him to have an early exit tonight."
Following Stevens' exit from the game, the Chatham bullpen failed to pound the strike zone in the later innings and accumulated six walks, giving the Anglers' arms a total of nine on the night.
"We pitched a little too loose and it came back to bite us," said Martinez.
Ryan Connolly (2-0, 3.86 ERA) (Coastal Carolina) earned the win for the Kettleers. Connolly conceded two runs on three hits and struck out two batters in two and a two thirds innings of relief. While Connolly was credited with the victory, southpaw Kevin Ziomek (0-0, 1.93 ERA) (Vanderbilt) was the best pitcher to take the mound for Cotuit. Ziomek allowed two runs on three hits and tallied eight strikeouts in four innings, getting a no-decision. Chatham had difficulty picking up Ziomek's deceptive delivery and the Massachusetts native had both his fastball and breaking ball working effectively. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Kettleers brought in their closer, right-hander Dan Slania (Notre Dame) after the Anglers cut the deifict to 7-5. Slania put the clamps on the Anglers' hitters and earned his second save of the season, throwing two and a third scoreless innings with one strikeout.
Cotuit got on the board in the first inning with an RBI groundout by first baseman Derek Smith (Pittsburgh Bradford) and two RBI singles by catcher Cael Brockmeyer (Bakersfield) and designated hitter Mike Ford (Princeton). The Kettleers also had a productive fourth inning with a pair of RBI singles by centerfielder Tony Kemp (Vanderbilt) and right fielder Raph Rhymes (LSU). In the top of the ninth inning, Cotuit broke the game open when Rhymes torched a double with the bases loaded, giving him five RBIs on the night.
Coming off a two game stretch where 18 runs were scored on 19 hits, Chatham could not consistently string sets of quality at-bats together. In addition to striking out 11 times, the Anglers only had three walks, a small total for a team that led the Cape League in walks heading into the game. The Anglers' main highlights at the plate came with an RBI double by third baseman Alex Calbick (Maine) in the fifth inning and a two-run double hit to right field by outfielder Chad Pinder (Virginia Tech), who now has 11 RBI on the season. Furthermore, designated hitter Adam Engel (Louisville) notched three hits on the night, raising his season average to .300. Engel continues to shine atop the Chatham lineup, inducing errors with his blinding speed on the base paths.
Defensively, Sunday night was a night to forget at Veterans Field. The Anglers committed four errors in the game, granting a Kettleer team well versed in small-ball. Chatham had an extremely difficult time managing Cotuit's centerfielder Kemp on the basepaths. Kemp finished the game with three stolen bases and four runs scored. Manager Mike Roberts gave Kemp the green light to steal just about every time he reached base and Vanderbilt's speedster took full advantage, forcing Martinez to rush his throws to second and third base.
Also, a Chatham error in the ninth inning broke open the game for Cotuit. With two outs in the inning, shortstop Mike Fransoso (Maine) could not corral a hard ground ball and did not flip the ball to seoncd base in time to get the force out and allowing a runner from third to score. Rhymes, the next batter, drilled a double to right center field that cleared the previously loaded bases and put the game out of reach.
"If we held Cotuit's lead to 7-5, we would have had a shot," said Schiffner. "We gave them four runs and gave them the game right back. That was the turning point."
Yet, even with Sunday's loss, one major positive that Chatham can take away from the game is its depth. With two-way player Aaron Brown (Pepperdine) in the game at pitcher, Schiffner decided to put Brown in the lineup by switching him to designated hitter and replacing right fielder Louie Lechich (San Diego) with Engel, the game's previous designated hitter. This double-switch was historic for Schiffner, who has never made a move like this before in a Cape League game.
"We've never used a pitcher as a hitter in that situation before," said Schiffner. "We've never had the depth to put a pitcher in that spot. We only could have used Brown one time in the order, but we still had two pinch hitters remaining on the bench."
With three players on the team who can play pitch and hit in Brown, Lechich and Kurt Schluter (Stetson), Schiffner has some major flexibility regarding pinch-hitting situations in close games, especially against a schedule in the second half of the season that features mostly Eastern Division teams.
On Monday, June 25 the Anglers will be back on the road to take on the Bourne Braves (2-7) at 6 p.m. For live coverage of Monday's game, tune into the Anglers Extra Pregame show with broadcasters Brandon Liebhaber and Chris Fitzgerald at 5:40 p.m. at TRZ Teamline.