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CHATHAM, Mass. – It’s hard to walk across Veterans Field without getting goosebumps. The history that has unfolded on its humble grounds over the past 92 years ever-so-gently raises tiny mounds of flesh off a person’s arm nearly without notice. It is the most significant diamond in the greatest amateur baseball league ever assembled. And on Thursday night, it played host to another historic event.
Following Chatham's 6-1 victory over Cotuit, Manager John Schiffner officially became the first Cape Cod League manager to win 500 games. And as the people of Chatham will so proudly boast, every one of of those wins has come with the Chatham A’s.
“We all know the history of the league, and to be in that book a little bit is pretty special,” said a Gatorade-soaked Schiffner. “I’m honored; I’m proud; I’m humbled.”
Immediately after the skipper had his squad break down their post-game huddle with a single-word refrain –"team"– he sought to ensure the work of his supporting casts throughout the years did not go unpraised.
“We’re nothing without our players,” said Schiffner when asked how he achieved the milestone. “I’ve had a lot of good players, outstanding assistant coaches, and support from this community and the Chatham Athletic Association.”
Will Craig (Wake Forest), one of the many excellent players to which Schiffner alluded, delivered the crucial blow in Thursday's historic victory. When Craig came to the plate the bases were loaded and the game was tied in the sixth inning. Shortly thereafter the bases were empty and the game was no longer tied.
The ball got out in a hurry, and within seconds the missing bunting on Veterans Field’s right-centerfield wall and the pandemonium beyond it were all that was left of his grand slam.
“He kept going to me outside and I got one low-and-away kind of right where I like it,” said Craig. “I was just thinking about going opposite field and getting the run in from third, and I was lucky enough to pop it out of here.”
Zack Short (Sacred Heart) produced the other two Chatham (21-15) RBIs on an eighth-inning single. And in typical Angler fashion, the pitching staff and defense held Chatham close while the offense searched for outbursts.
Jake Godfrey (Louisiana State) made his fifth start of the summer, throwing four and two-thirds scoreless frames while striking out three. The Kettleers (13-23) did not threaten Godfrey often, but his teammates were behind him when they did.
For the second consecutive game an Angler second baseman provided outstanding defensive support in the early going. The previous night it was Nate Mondou (Wake Forest) who injected life by starting a 4-6-3 double play on a spectacular diving stop. Thursday evening it was Garrett Hampson (Long Beach State) who used a diving stop of his own to start a heads-up, inning-ending 4-5-2-6 putout of a runner who made an aggressive turn around third. After ranging deep in the hole to stop the ball, Hampson was aware enough to see his only play and strong enough to make the throw.
“Garrett Hampson’s play was as good a play as I’ve ever seen,” said Schiffner. “The presence of mind and the instincts to do that were fantastic.”
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fifth, the Anglers radioed Zack Burdi (Louisville) in from the pen. The hard-throwing righty may have been thrown into the fire, but he was throwing smoke.
Burdi sat Brett Stephens (UCLA) down on strikes to escape the jam, and he would go on to allow only one unearned run over 3.1 innings.
The Cardinal also did not require much assistance, but he got some highlight reel-worthy plays behind him nonetheless. In addition to Jake Fraley (Louisiana State) flying around in center field, Kyle Brooks (North Florida) used every bit of his 5’7” frame to snag a Baltimore chop with runners on second and third and one out in a scoreless sixth inning.
“Brooks just did a good job,” said Schiffner. “That’s what we’ve been getting all year long. I’m really proud of the kids. They’ve worked hard.”
In the ninth, Aaron McGarity (Virginia Tech) did what he does best—slammed the door shut.
The Anglers next travel to Red Wilson for a 5 p.m. tussle with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (18-17). Chatham is expected to hand the ball to Daniel Castano (Baylor) in this season’s penultimate matchup between the two East Division foes. The left-hander enters play with the seventh-best ERA (2.57) among eligible pitchers in the division. The Red Sox are expected to counter with the right-handed Brandon Bailey (Gonzaga). Bailey is 1-4 with a 3.95 ERA through five starts this summer.