Matthew Etzel tapped his bat in the dirt and dangled it over his left shoulder, crouching as he eyed the incoming pitch. Etzel revved up his right leg as the delivery neared and belted a high-lofting ball toward right field.
Harwich’s Devin Obee backtracked and leapt at the outfield fence, in hopes of stealing Etzel’s home run, but found no such luck.
Etzel’s effort nestled into a patch of dirt, mere steps away from Obee’s outstretched glove, initiating triumphant cheers from the traveling Chatham fans which pierced through an ominous blanket of dejection. Prior to Etzel’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning, the Anglers trailed 6–0 after just the opening frame.
As Etzel trotted home, the illuminated, pine green scoreboard at Whitehouse Field flickered in adjustment to display a 6–5 scoreline.
Under overcast skies, Chatham never backed down. It had weathered three straight fog-outs, forcing a five-day hiatus. Then, it nearly surmounted a seemingly irrecoverable six-run deficit to draw within one. But the A’s fell just short.
“We were behind and if you’re going to fall behind you want to do it early,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “We chased the scoreboard, and we got back in it. Kind of a game you expect when you haven’t played but no reason for us not to have pulled that thing out.”
In search of obtaining their first win streak of the season the Anglers (6–14–1 East) fell to Harwich (13–12–0 East) 7–6 on Sunday night.
“Any more rain-outs would’ve been dangerous,” Holliday said. “We were three-and-a-half days removed from playing, and we showed it offensively. Tonight we left the runner at third base three times with one or less outs and it cost us a ball game.”
Harwich starter Colin Rothermel made quick work of Chatham’s side, in order, to begin the contest. He induced two fly-outs and struck out Carter Trice.
Chatham’s Jack Sokol did not enjoy a similar fate. Massaging the ball with his hands, stopping momentarily to swipe at his right eye, he stared at Mason Guerra. Guerra was the third batter Sokol faced in the bottom of the first inning after the starter surrendered hits to the first two.
Sokol leaned forward, left food inched beyond the right, and snuck a peek over at first. Guerra faced a 1–1 count but connected well with Sokol’s third pitch, producing a bloop single to give the Mariners an early 1–0 advantage.
A mound visit beckoned threateningly as Sokol continued to struggle on the mound. It reached a boiling point when Harwich manufactured a sudden 6–0 lead off of an Obee grand slam. Tommy Molsky stepped in as a replacement to finish the opening frame and escaped unscathed.
“Our starter was obviously terrible and after that everybody was really good,” Holliday said.
Nolan Schubart earned a walk to start the second inning and Rothermel clipped Lyle Miller-Green’s left elbow to put an Angler on first and second base. Then, Chris Maldonado generated an arduous, seven-pitch battle with Rothermel to juice the bases with a walk.
Aidan Meola skipped twice and delivered a practice swing before stepping into the right-handed batter’s box. But four balls later, he started toward first base, allowing Schubart to trot home. Etzel shortened Harwich’s lead to 6–2 after lining a hit that scampered into shallow right field.
The Mariners were silenced during the third inning but Guerra mustered a sacrifice groundout to rebuild a two-run cushion in the bottom of the fourth. In response, Chatham continued to claw back, undeterred, executing three swift outs in the top of the fifth frame. The Anglers’ efficient fielding enabled Molsky to exit the bump after just four pitches.
“I wouldn’t say I was throwing the hardest today but my stuff was moving pretty well,” Molsky said. “I’m really working on trying to get more movement on each one of my pitches, so just trying to stay with that and force outs and ground balls.”
In the top of the sixth inning, Meola unleashed on a fastball, which tiptoed down the left-hand foul line, to score Kaeden Kent from second base, making things 7–6. But, with zero outs and three generous opportunities to chart the tying run late in the matchup, the Anglers left runners stranded.
“That horse has already been kicked,” Holliday said, addressing Chatham’s inability to capitalize offensively in pivotal situations. “You can’t win games with letting that happen.”
Perched at third, Meola watched helplessly as Etzel, Deric Fabian and Trice failed to put anything into play.
“Everybody knows we’ve got to do better there, whoever it is,” Meola said. “It’s not something we’ve got to keep harping on because everybody knows it.”
For the remainder of the game, Chatham was unable to threaten the Mariners’ relievers. Bats on either side fell stagnant for the final three frames, unable to influence the eventual 7–6 outcome in Harwich’s favor.
“You have to want to be a star,” Holliday said. “You have to want to go to the plate with a runner on third and one out instead of thinking ‘oh no, if I don’t put it in play we’re going to get beat.’ That cannot happen.”