Leading for the entire game, the Chatham Anglers defeated the Bourne Braves 5-3 at Doran Park. After two failed attempts to play a game originally scheduled for June 23, clear skies reigned supreme. As the local weather warmed up to a steady 75 degrees in Bourne, so did the Anglers (7-4).
"It was a good win," said manager John Schiffner. "We got out in front early and stayed out in front. Bourne came back at us a little bit, but we came right back at them. We battled tonight."
San Diego right-hander Michael Wagner (1-1, 2.38 ERA) was credited with the win for the Anglers. The sophomore threw five and a third innings and gave up three runs on five hits while striking out two. Wagner was able to pitch to contact during his outing and commanded both sides of the plate.
"That's Wags for you," said Schiffner. "Michael's not going to punch out 12 or 15 guys. He's going to get batters out by moving the ball around the plate and throwing quality strikes. We've got a good defense out there that is ready to help him."
Florida Central southpaw Chris Matulis (0-1, 81.08 ERA) suffered the loss for the Braves (2-9). Matulis gave up three runs on three hits in just one third of an inning. Bourne's bullpen kept the Braves within striking distance, conceding two runs in eight and two thirds innings of work. But, the Anglers were able to get to La Salle's Ryan Donahue (0-1, 3.38 ERA) for two runs in the sixth inning, a scoring push that ended up being the difference in the game.
Chatham wasted no time initiating its offense on Thursday evening and plated three runs in the first inning. With runners on second and third after a double steal by centerfielder Adam Engel (Louisville) and catcher Andrew Knapp (California), third baseman Chad Pinder (Virginia Tech) started the Anglers off by poking a two-run single into right field. Pinder's clutch hit gives the middle infielder 14 RBI on the season.
"I had two runners in scoring position there after the double steal and I knew that all I had to do was get a ground ball to the right side or up the middle," said Pinder. "A lot of the lefty pitchers in this league have been throwing fastballs inside with two strikes in the count. I was thinking about seeing a fastball and getting my hands inside of it. Luckily, I got some barrel on the ball and we got two runs out of it."
Designated hitter Alex Chittenden (Louisville) added on the final run of the first inning after drawing a walk with the bases loaded. The Anglers' last two runs came in the sixth inning in the form of a sacrifice fly to left field by shortstop Pat Valaika (UCLA) and an RBI double by second baseman Mike Fransoso (Maine), who led the Anglers with two hits on the night. Chatham's insurance runs were vital against a Braves team that had cut the lead to 3-2 after a solo home run by designated hitter Colin Moran (North Carolina) and an RBI single by catcher Joe Jackson (Citadel).
"Those two runs we scored were huge," said Schiffner. "That sacrifice fly by Valaika was exactly what we needed. Those are the kind of plays that we'll need to keep winning streaks alive this season."
Schiffner was particularly impressed with Valaika's Cape Cod League debut. The middle infielder's sacrifice fly came one at-bat after he grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Valaika also flashed the leather on a couple of occasions, displaying a large amount of range and a strong throwing arm.
"Pat's a really nice player to watch," said Schiffner. "I'd never seen him play before tonight. If you are the starting shortstop for UCLA, there's a chance that you're a really good player."
While Chatham's offense provided the Anglers with the luxury of an early lead, the bullpen sealed the victory, allowing three hits in three and two thirds innings. UC Irvine's Jimmy Litchfield (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Louisville's Nick Burdi (0-0, 9.00 ERA) were in top form on Thursday, keeping the Braves from scoring and pounding the strikezone.
"The bullpen did an excellent job tonight," said Schiffner. "Jimmy and Burdi did great work in their outings."
The Anglers finished off Bourne in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Virginia Tech closer Jake Joyce (0-0, 2.25 ERA) escaped a bases loaded jam to earn his third save of the season. Although Joyce struck out two hitters, he issued three walks and lived dangerously by facing Moran, one of the Braves' best hitters.
"Jake scared us, but he got the big out to end the game," said Schiffner. "Getting Moran out was huge. Moran has been owning us over these two games. Striking a batter out with the bases drunk is always a huge play."
Even though Thursday's game ended without aid from Mother Nature, there was serious concern about whether or not the game's umpiring crew would make it through the game. Umpires Rick DelVecchio and Don LaValley both took pitches right off of their face masks and had to be seen by the trainers from both teams.
"I've seen umpires get dinged all the time," said Schiffner. "But both of those plays were very severe. It was a little weird, but that's the risk that they have to take when they go behind home plate."
On Friday, Chatham will resume its schedule when the team travels to Falmouth to battle the Commodores (7-5) at 6:30 p.m.
"The road trip stinks because tomorrow is the start of the most heavily trafficked weekend on Cape Cod," said Schiffner. "You have to go onto Route 28 unless you have a helicopter that you can take into Falmouth. It's just part of the Cape League lore. You go to Falmouth from the other end of the Cape on a horribly busy day."
For live coverage of Friday's game, tune into the Anglers Extra Pregame Show at 6:10 p.m. with broadcasters Chris Fitzgerald and Brandon Liebhaber at at TRZ Teamline.