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Carson Whisenhunt hadn't stepped onto the mound since an outing last summer with USA's Collegiate National Team. Expectedly, following one deep breath before his windup, his first pitch went high. But Whisenhunt quickly established a rhythm, breezing through the initial three batters to end the top of the first inning.
Still, the time away from gameplay caught up with Whisenhunt, who allowed three runs in the second inning. The first came following a successful double steal, allowing Kade Kern to bring catcher Caleb Lomavita home off a fly ball.
With one runner on base, Peyton Williams watched Whisenhunt's first pitch go high. Williams swung at the second, sending the ball deep into right field as Matt Hogan tried to track it toward the back wall. Hogan sprinted roughly 20 yards from his original position, though the ball fell over the fence instead of into his outstretched glove, giving the Kettleers a 3-0 lead.
'I was just trying to get my feet under me for the first time," Whisenhunt said. "I settled in a little bit but then had a little bit of a rough patch."
The Anglers pitching quartet of Whisenhunt, Jacob Watters, Chris Villaman and Carlos Rey only allowed four hits, but the Kettleers took advantage of the five walks Watters gave up, six stolen bases and the two-run homer off Whisenhunt. Chatham matched with four hits of its own, including Caden Grice's team-high two, but runners only advanced to third base twice in the 5-0 loss on opening night.
'They over-pitched tonight,' manager Tom Holliday said about the Anglers' bullpen. He added that the team's anxiousness heading into the home opener led them to 'try too hard' with pitchers focusing on showcasing their speed rather than their efficiency.
Villaman was one of the Anglers' only bright spots from the night, coming in after Watters and Whisenhunt. Holliday said that his ability to simply get outs with his 'left-handed mystique' was crucial in keeping Cotuit scoreless for the seventh and eighth innings before Carlos Rey continued his success at the mound.
While Whisenhunt stayed solid throughout the third inning, Chatham's batters struggled to advance any runners to second base. In two straight innings, the Anglers' grounded into double plays that began with Cotuit second baseman Graham Pauley.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Morris continued to provide issues for Chatham, striking out Guy Garibay Jr. on just three pitches. With two strikes on him, Grice continued to find success with another single on his second at-bat. Morris' exhaustion started to show after Caufield got on base and Cameron Benson walked.
Chuck Ingram stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded, facing Morris again after the righty struck him out in the bottom of the second. Similar to his first at-bat, Ingram fouled on the third pitch to set up a 1-2 count.
Ingram made contact with the ball on the ensuing pitch and Grice immediately darted home from third. But as Grice's left cleat hit home plate, Peyton Williams gloved a throw from Pauley, who stopped a grounder from Ingram.
Following two unsuccessful trips to the plate from Nelson Rivera and Ingle in the bottom of the fifth inning, manager Tom Holliday sent Nate Nankil in to pinch hit for Hogan. With a full count, Nankil sent Isaiah Coupet's next pitch dribbling into right field for a single.
Noah Ledford also came into the game and Nankil advanced on a wild pitch, sliding just in time before the ball made its way to second base. Then, Nankil made his way to third a few pitches later, able to slide headfirst despite stumbling midway through his sprint.
Ledford finally made contact with the ball as Nankil took off toward home plate. But again, the Anglers were unable to score as shortstop Ryan Ritter caught Ledford's fly ball to end the inning.
During the Anglers' scoreless streak, Jacob Watters came in for Whisenhunt in the top of the fourth inning. Unlike Whisenhunt, he was unable to stay perfect in his opening inning after Kade Kern walked following two high fastballs.
After getting to second, Kern dashed to third base following a high fastball which Rivera was unable to glove. While Rivera still struggled to locate the ball, Kern shifted his course toward home plate. Watters waited as Rivera's throw finally came, but he was unable to secure the ball with his outstretched glove.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Anglers made fielding changes, moving Grice to center field, Nankil to right field and Ledford to first base. Dominic Tamez replaced Nelson Rivera at catcher, but like Rivera, he struggled to keep up with some of Watters' misplaced pitches.
With Kern again on third base, Watters' curveball bounced away from Tamez. Kern touched home plate to give Cotuit a 5-0 lead before pitching coach Dennis Cook came in to put Villaman in for the rest of the outing.
'Most times when you give up a walk it leads to a hit,' Whisenhunt said. 'We made some rough errors pitching wise but we just have to work together and find our feel.'