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Chatham, Mass. — A 7-4 loss to the Falmouth Commodores Friday marked the first Opening Day loss for Chatham since 2008. After the Anglers built a 3-0 lead in the first three innings, Falmouth scored seven straight runs, five of which were charged to starter J.B Bukauskas.
For the first three innings, Bukauskas was unhittable. Relying primarily on a fastball that reached the high 90s, the right-hander from UNC struck out five of the first seven Commodores. And while the pitcher’s throwing error in the fourth inning scored Kevin Merrell, Bukauskas seemed to settle back down, striking out the last two batters in the frame.
“He’s special,” said manager John Schiffner. “You can see what he has, big time velocity. . . . That was really good stuff, and his breaking, secondary stuff is excellent. He’s just a good pitcher.”
After Bukauskas allowed a fifth-inning home run to Willie Burger, Angel Alicea doubled. Merrell singled two batters later to tie the game at 3-3. Bukauskas issued a two-out walk to Matt McLaughlin putting Commodores on first and second.
That signaled the end of Bukauskas’s night as Schiffner turned to Reed Howell to halt the Commodores’ offensive attack.
“I have this really nasty blood blister [on my right middle finger] and couldn’t really feel the ball after the third inning,” explained Bukauskas. “After that I kind of lost the feel of the slider, couldn’t throw it for a strike, and it kind of went down hill from there.”
Chatham and Falmouth combined to commit six errors. A throwing error by Anglers’ third baseman Joe Tietjen led to two runs for the Commodores and kept the fifth inning alive. The Commodores added an insurance run off of a pair of Angler mistakes in the seventh, after both Matt Vernon and Hunter Lee misplayed groundballs.
With runners on the corners in the top of the seventh, Michael Gigliotti drove a Howell fastball to deep right-center. What looked to be a backbreaking home run turned into a highlight reel grab as right fielder Patrick Mathis reached over the fence to rob the Commodores of a three-run shot.
The Anglers did lead at one point, striking in the first inning thanks in large part to mistakes by Falmouth’s Brady Puckett. The right-hander walked Vernon for the first base runner of the game. Vernon moved to second on a groundout by Mathis and advanced to third on a Puckett wild pitch. Gunner Troutwine drove in Vernon on a swinging bunt.
“We battled," said Schiffner. "You saw a lot of really quality at-bats with two strikes, which is key and we’ve got to keep doing that."
Chatham added to its lead in the second and third innings. Cam Hanley’s single started things off in the second. The Northeastern first baseman smacked a pitch down the third base line into left field. Another error, this time by Falmouth’s Zachary Clark, allowed Hanley to stroll into second after the left fielder bobbled the ball. A groundout to the pitcher advanced Hanley while Lee followed by dribbling a single just fair down the third base line to score the runner.
Troutwine’s second infield hit of the day started the bottom of the third. After Kyle Adams walked, Joe Freiday hit a grounder to shortstop that looked destined to be a double play. Instead, a wild throw by Falmouth’s second baseman allowed Troutwine to score easily.
The Anglers try for their first win 6 p.m. Saturday at Bourne. Righty Tanner Chok is slated to start for Chatham while lefty Joshua Shapiro will take the mound for the Braves. Listen to the live broadcast at 5:40 on the Cape Cod Baseball Network.