Late-Inning Magic Strikes Again, Chatham clinches East Division Title
by Chris Jones Thursday, August 01, 2013
Late inning magic struck again at Veterans Field. How else could the Chatham Anglers clinch the 2013 East Division Regular Season title'
With the game knotted up at five in the 10th inning, the bases were loaded for the Anglers with one out, and Jimmy Pickens (Michigan State) at the plate. Pickens had blasted a two-run home run in the ninth inning to help tie the game, and what happened next surprised the team, the fans, and even Pickens himself.
Pickens bunted, scoring Blake Butera and winning the game for the Anglers.
"I was looking for something offspeed, I saw that the infield was playing back and that there was only one out," Pickens said. "It wasn't the call, but it was a bold move, and luckily it paid off."
After an 8-1 loss to the last-place Brewster Whitecaps, the Anglers came out flat against the Red Sox, digging themselves a 5-1 deficit going into the ninth inning.
Tommy Lawrence (Maine) got the start for Chatham, and gave up four runs over five innings pitched. The defense did not help Lawrence out, as the Anglers were plagued by numerous defensive errors and miscues.
"He (Lawrence) pitched well, but we could not do anything right defensively," Mitch Gunsolus (Gonzaga) said.
Chatham was also plagued by many missed opportunities through the first eight innings, as they stranded 13 men on base, including the bases loaded three separate times.
Everything seemed to be breaking the Red Sox way, then came the bottom of the ninth inning.
Down to their final strike, J.D Davis (Cal State Fullerton) chipped an infield single that got past the pitcher, then narrowly avoided the tag from the first-baseman and was called safe.
photo by Graham Harboe/Chatham Anglers Jimmy Pickens (Michigan St.) was the hero for Chatham on Wednesday night, contributing a 2-run homer in the 9th inning, and the game-winning squeeze bunt.
Pickens then stepped to the plate, and smashed a 1-1 offering from Jonathan Danielczyk (Pittsburgh) that reached the fire station across Depot Road, making it a 5-3 game.
"I had made good contact my last two at-bats, so I was confident going into this one," Pickens said. "I took a pretty big swing, made good contact, and it just flew out."
Still down to their final out, Michael Russell (North Carolina) reached second on a single and an error, then Gunsolus doubled to score Russell and make it a 5-4 game.
Brandon Sedell (Nova Southeastern) then stepped to the plate, and floated a single to left field that scored Gunsolus and tied the game.
"We just never felt we were out of it," Manager John Schiffner said. "We scratch and claw, and we just never give up."
With two outs in the ninth inning, the Anglers had four runs on five hits.
The crowd that remained at Veterans Field was euphoric, and the game was headed to extra innings.
Lost in the action was reliever Mitch Merten (UC Irvine), who pitched a perfect ninth inning to keep the score at 5-1, then after allowing a one-out double in the 10th inning, he buckled down and kept the Red Sox from retaking the lead.
"He was huge," Schiffner said. "He was one of the unsung heroes of the game."
Blake Butera (Boston College), who was brought in as a defensive replacement in the middle of the game, was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. He then stole second base, but would have been called out had the ball not been dropped on the tag.
Dante Flores (USC), the next batter, battled back from an 0-2 count against Darrell Hunter (Oregon) to draw a walk. Connor Joe (San Diego) then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position with one out.
After Hunter intentionally walked Davis to load the bases, Pickens stepped to the plate with a chance to be the hero. He bunted a 0-1 pitch to the right side of the infield. Hunter fielded it, attempted to get Butera at home, but he had already scored, and the Anglers had won the game.
"Nobody in the ballpark knew he was going to bunt. I don't even think he did until that pitch," Schiffner said. "The element of surprise really worked well, and we won the game. Bold move by him (Pickens)."
With Harwich losing 13-1 to the Falmouth Commodores earlier in the night, the win clinched the East Division Regular Season title, their first since 2001.
"It is pretty special," Schiffner said. "The guys and the coaches have worked so hard this whole season, and they really deserve it."
The Anglers will now play a doubleheader against the Mariners on Thursday, and instead of going into it with a two-game losing streak, the Anglers will march into it with one of their most exciting wins of the season.
"It has to help, but every night we play a great team," Schiffner said. "We have to keep this momentum going for the rest of the season, and then the playoffs."