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Chatham Watches Lead Slip Away in Wareham

by Mike Morris
Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chatham Watches Lead Slip Away in Wareham
Chatham traveled to Wareham on Wednesday night, but failed to cleanse its palate of the bitter taste still lingering from the last trip over the bridge. The Anglers lost a tough one, 4-3.

In its last trip to Wareham, on July 9th, Chatham lost a game it should have won on a three-run, ninth inning walk-off home run.

Wednesday's game was doubly frustrating for the boys from Chatham. After jumping out to a quick lead, it seemed things were looking good for the Anglers. Then the bottom of the sixth inning rolled around, and the Gatemen captured the lead.

Again in the ninth, it felt like Chatham was about to pull out the victory, when the would-be game tying hit was caught at the warning track in center field.

Per the recent trend, the Anglers' hitters staked their starting pitcher to an early lead. In the top of the first inning Joe Sever (Pepperdine), hitting from the two spot, smoked a double to center field, was advanced on a Dane Phillips (OK State) ground out, and scored on a wild pitch.

Then in the third, Chatham's run-producing duo of Phillips and Richie Shaffer (Clemson) struck again. Phillips worked a walk from Gatemen starter, and the game's winning pitcher, Justin Amlung (Louisville), who earned his third win of the season, going six innings and allowing two runs, which believe it or not, raised his ERA to 1.76. The right-handed batting Shaffer then collected his 16th RBI by doubling home Phillips.

Chatham 2 Wareham 0.

Starting pitcher Tim Cooney (Wake Forest) stepped on the hill for Chatham with the lead, and for five full innings, the lefty held up his end of the bargain. He allowed only one unearned run (error at second base by Sever) and three hits, while racking up seven strikeouts.

In the sixth inning, though, the complexion of the game changed drastically.

The score entering the bottom of the sixth was 2-1 Chatham. But the Anglers had managed only two walks since scoring in the third. And although Cooney was pitching like a man not capable of surrendering the lead, that was about to change.

Cooney's first pitch of the inning drilled C.T. Bradford (Mississippi State). The speedy Bulldog stole second, and advanced to third on a bloop hit that dropped just behind Chatham's third baseman Pat Blair (Wake Forest). With runners on the corners and only one out (a K), Johnny Field (Arizona) lifted an RBI sac fly to right field, deep enough to score the tagging Bradford.

Back-to-back singles plated Max Muncy (Baylor), who was the villain of the last meeting between the Anglers and Gatemen at Wareham (he hit the walk-off home run in the ninth inning). Cooney managed to escape the inning with his ninth strikeout on the night. However the Gatemen had taken a 3-2 lead, and Cooney went from being in line for the win to on the hook for the loss.

Wareham's lead would grow to 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, when Muncy reached base on a standup double, and was then driven home on a sac fly by Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech).

The fourth Wareham run, surrendered by Chatham's Cody Penny (UNC), would prove very costly as the Anglers would rally in the ninth but fall one run short.

Despite Chatham's mid-inning struggles at the plate, the Anglers' bats woke up in the ninth inning against Wareham's Konner Wade (Arizona). The 6'3" righty had been shutting down opposing hitters all season. He boasted a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings, while also compiling 17 Ks.

Leading off the ninth for Chatham, down 4-2, was Stephen Perez (Miami). He put a charge in a ball that looked to be extra bases for sure. Instead, center fielder Brandon Thomas (Georgia Teach) got a great jump on the liner and made the put out near the fence.

Darrell Matthews (Cal) got aboard after he ripped a base hit up the middle. With two out and the tying run coming to the plate, Chatham manager John Schiffner tapped Alex Calbick (Maine) to pinch hit. The lefty batter rocketed the 1-2 offering from Wade into right center field. The ball did not stop rolling until it hit the fence, allowing Matthews to score all the way from first.

Calbick, now standing at second base, represented the tying run in a 4-3 game. This time, Schiffner pressed Kris Bryant (San Diego) into pinch hitting service. And for the second time, it seemed Schiff had caught lightning in a bottle.

Wade grooved the very first pitch to Bryant, who could not resist the temptation. Bryant drilled the pitch high and deep to center field. But for the second time in the inning, center fielder Brandon Thomas robbed the Anglers of a pivotal late-game extra-base hit. The ball fell into his outstretched glove at the warning track, a mere three feet from potentially tying the game, and only about five or six feet from giving Chatham the lead.

It was another tough one-run loss at Wareham for a Chatham team that cannot afford to give away any games if it wants to remain in playoff contention.

Thursday night the Anglers and Cotuit Kettleers will once again try to play a makeup game that has twice been rained out. First pitch from Veterans Field will be at 7 p.m. ET.

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