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The game was easily definable for six full innings.
There were three standouts — the two starting pitchers and a home-run hitter who was on the Chatham roster before being cut a week ago, only to return Wednesday and set off fireworks in the third. One run separated two teams that, no matter what they did, couldn’t separate from one another. The script was supposed to continue down that path because who doesn’t like a fanciful ending'
But instead of letting the start decide the finish, Wareham took a lead it would never let go of with two runs in the top of the seventh. The storybook closed and the melodrama went with it.
“We battled and that’s all you can ask for,” Anglers manager John Schiffner said. “But it’s tough to give up a late lead and we have to hold onto that.”
Chatham (12-12-1) held a one-run lead from the third to seventh inning — thanks to a solo home run from Mitchell Gunsolus (Gonzaga) — but a late two-run rally helped Wareham (8-17) to a 2-1 win at Veterans Field on Wednesday night. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the last-place Gatemen and handed the Anglers their third straight defeat, before both the teams take a league-wide off day Thursday.
Zack Burdi (Louisville) received the loss for the Anglers after coming on in the seventh for starter Jordan Hillyer (Kennesaw State). Brock Hartson started for Wareham and earned the win after throwing seven innings and giving up one run on three hits. He also struck out 11 while only walking three.
“Jordan was great and their guy also threw really well,” Schiffner said. “No one was going to score too much tonight with two pitchers throwing.”
Most of the night was a pitching dual interrupted by one swing. Hillyer, who has now thrown at least five innings in every one of his four starts this season, came into the game 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA and stayed on that track. Six innings made for his longest outing yet and he used his running fastball and diving slider to keep the Gatemen off the scoreboard with six shutout innings.
But Hartson, making his last start of the season due to an innings limit, nearly matched Hillyer frame-for-frame. Hartson faced the minimum three hitters in the first, second and fourth, and struck out at least one hitter in all seven of his innings. The lone blip on Hartson's line came on Gunsolus’ home run — which was inconsonant with the rest of the Gunsolus' summer.
Gunsolus, a utility infielder that can also hang in the outfield, played for Chatham last year and was given a temporary contract this season. But he was cut a week ago before being invited back due to a string of injuries around the infield and after traveling all day Tuesday, Schiffner told him he’d start at third his first day back.
The first pitch he saw ended up more than half way up the hill behind the right-field wall.
“I wanted to go up and look for a first pitch because I knew that it was going to be something in the zone,” Gunsolus said. “I haven’t hit a home run in a game in over two years, college included, so that was pretty cool.”
After that the Anglers were held hitless until A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) singled in the bottom of the sixth, and Hartson ended the inning a batter later with a strikeout of Chris Shaw (Boston College). As for the dual, Hartson went one more inning than Hillyer and it was that seventh frame that proved decisive in the end.
Willie Calhoun grounded out to first John Bormann to tie the game. Then a single by Chris Chinea plated Corey Ray then gave the Gatemen the lead. A ninth-inning rally by Chatham saw two runners — including Gunsolus — reach base, but that fell short when sidewinding Jason Richman came on for a hitter and notched a one-out save.
“Every time I go out I want to go as long as I can,” Hillyer said. “But you have to think about your arm too and I think that the guys that came in after me did a good job. Just didn’t go our way.”