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Blake Butera (Boston College) has made mistakes on the diamond before. He’s pushed them out of his head. For a collegiate baseball player, that’s something of a well-rehearsed routine.
But when the shortstop walked up to a bases loaded at-bat in the top of the eighth and the Anglers holding onto a two-run lead, the trio of faulty errors he committed earlier in the game aptly crept into his conscious.
“Obviously you have those in the back of your head when you go up in a big situation,” Butera said. “I was just trying to help my team out.”
That he did.
Butera smacked a three-run double to push Chatham’s (1-0) lead to five, and the Anglers didn’t look back in a 10-2, season-opening win over Orleans (0-1) in front of 357 at Eldredge Park on Wednesday night. Butera made three errors in the field but made up for that with a 2-for-5, four-RBI performance that helped hand Firebirds starter Tyler Thornton the loss in his first start of the season.
Anglers’ starter Andrew Chin (Boston College) went four full and gave up an unearned run before he was relieved by Lou Distasio (Rhode Island), whose two perfect innings earned him the win. But at the heart of the bullpen’s five-inning, one-run debut was Butera’s drive into the left-center gap that put the game way.
“Blake’s just a great player,” said third baseman Matt Peters (California-Pennsylvania), who reached base in all four of his at-bats. “We knew that when he got up he’d get those guys in and that’s what he did.”
Before the errors and eighth inning rally set the stage for Butera’s big hit, he helped jumpstart the Anglers from the leadoff spot. He reached in his first at-bat of the season on a single to left and would later score on a sacrifice fly by college teammate Chris Shaw (Boston College). Then two more runs scored when Butera hustled out a swinging bunt and Orleans catcher Korey Dunlap threw the ball high and wide of first base.
Just two innings into the season and Butera was featured in every segment of Chatham’s 3-0 lead.
“We wanted to come out here early and make a statement and jump on this team early,” Butera said. “We wanted to keep the pressure on every inning and we did a good job.”
After turning a double play with Kevin Fagan (Stetson) to clear the bases in the bottom of the fourth, Butera picked his glove up early on a routine groundball and handed R.J. Ybarra first base. Dunbar took advantage of the extended inning and plated Ybarra with an RBI single, which sent Chin to the bench with a small stain on his line.
Then a pair of Butera errors in the bottom of the seventh — one a throw that hit the back of Edwin Rios and granted him home on a triple — allowed the Firebirds to threaten the Anglers’ two-run lead. But Kyle Davis (Southern California) came on with two outs and used just one pitch to get out of the inning.
And before Davis struck out the three batters he faced in his next frame, Butera punctuated his up-and-down night with a swing that swung it up. When Butera plated Patrick Mazeika (Stetson), Ryan Medeiros (Massachusetts-Dartmouth) and Peters, Chatham’s lead ballooned to five runs and sucked the life out of the Firebirds almost as soon as the season started.
Said Chatham manager John Schiffner: “Blake getting that hit is just awesome. Just awesome.”