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After eight innings of superb pitching, Chatham needed three more outs to notch a victory over Harwich. The last inning didn't need to be perfect. It didn't even need to hold the Mariners scoreless. It just couldn't be a disaster.
The Anglers led 4-1 entering the ninth, and after tossing three scoreless innings in relief, Carlos Rey went back out to the mound to close out the game. Rey had allowed one hit over three innings, but he had populated the bases with walks and a hit-by-pitch. The same issues arose in the ninth when Rey walked the first batter he faced and hit the third batter, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out.
'It's obvious they couldn't hit (Rey),' Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. 'The only way he was gonna get in trouble was if he gave them (base runners), and that's exactly what he did.'
Holliday turned to Brian Holiday, his de facto closer. As the first batter Holiday faced, Nick Goodwin loaded the bases with a single to left field. A wild pitch and a passed ball during the next at-bat brought two runs home and moved the tying run to third base. Chris Newell completed the comeback, lacing a single to center field to knot the game at 4-4.
What had the makings of a convincing win for the Anglers ended in a 4-4 tie on Wednesday at Veterans Field. Despite a four-run first inning and an excellent start from Nicholas Regalado, Chatham couldn't secure back-to-back victories.
'We let one get away,' Holliday said. 'That was a big game for us. It was ours. Four (to) one in the ninth ' you gotta win that game.'
In the bottom of the first, Marcus Brown led the charge out of Chatham's dugout to greet Guy Garibay Jr. as he completed his trot around the bases. Garibay belted a home run to right field, placing it halfway up the hill beyond the outfield fence. His reward was a small, white rubber duck.
The duck made its first appearance Monday, overlooking the field from atop the third base dugout and acting as a celebratory prop.
'Whenever someone scored a run or something everyone kissed the duck, and then we put it back,' Brown said.
Brown said the duck came from his dad, who bought it to 'change the mojo up.' The strategy worked to perfection Monday as Chatham secured its largest margin of victory this season.
The duck stayed in place for Wednesday's game against Harwich, and after Garibay touched home plate following his leadoff homer, he grabbed it from Brown and disappeared into the third base dugout.
After Garibay's blast, Cooper Ingle drew his team-leading 16th walk. Caden Grice followed with a sharp ground ball that skipped past second baseman Graham Pauley. A team that had been deprived of offensive rhythm for significant portions of the season had strung together three successful at-bats to begin the game.
With one out and the bases loaded, a wild pitch advanced all three runners, scoring Ingle from third. Roc Riggio then scorched a triple down the right field line. Riggio raced around the bases, taking a turn around second as the ball skipped into foul ground. Grice and Lyle Miller-Green crossed home as Riggio dove into third.
After exploding early, Chatham's offense went silent. The Anglers added 16 strikeouts to their league-leading total.
'We scored four in the first and took the rest of the night off, that's what's wrong, that's what's sad,' Holliday said.
Regalado made the most of his offensive support, allowing one run on four hits over five innings. He was dominant out of the gate, collecting three strikeouts in the first inning, all with his slider. Regalado's lone mistake came in the top of the fourth, when reigning Cape league MVP Brock Wilken lifted a solo home run to left field.
Regalado was quick to issue walks in the early going of the season, but he made strides in his previous start, walking one batter in four innings. He continued on the right course Wednesday, walking two and striking out six.
'He's just one of those kids that goes out there and he sees the hole that the hitter shows him and pitches to the hole and he gets them out,' Holliday said. ' 'He's kinda fun to watch. I'm kinda glad he's on our side.'
But Chatham's ideal start was washed away by its ninth-inning meltdown. At many points throughout the season, a tie may have been perceived as a win for the Anglers, but Wednesday's outcome couldn't have felt more defeating.