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Chatham, Mass. — With the Anglers trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the eleventh inning Wednesday night, Tanner Gardner grabbed his brown bat and his royal blue batting helmet, readying himself to go on deck as the fourth batter of the inning. Just before Gardner stepped out of the dugout, teammate D.J. Artis challenged him with some playful words of encouragement. “Give me something special here,” said the outfielder. Gardner obliged by crushing a three-run walk-off homerun in his first game in a Chatham uniform. The Anglers defeated the Wareham Gatemen, 6-5.
“We’ve got a great group of guys so to be able to do something special like that. . . .it’s nice to get my initial impact in on my first game and hopefully we can get something rolling here,” said a beaming Gardner. “I didn’t expect [Garcia] to throw a curveball, I just got one that was hanging, and the rest is history.”
As he rounded third base heading towards the horde of ecstatic Anglers waiting to mob the Texas Tech outfielder, Gardner took off his helmet and tossed it high into the pitched black Chatham night sky before jumping into the arms of his teammates.
“Coming down third base like that is a once in a lifetime feeling, making that impact,” said Gardner, a smile permanently plastered to his face like clay to his jersey. “It was fun.”
Facing a 5-3 deficit entering the bottom of the frame, Chatham remained resilient. Patrick Mathis worked a leadoff walk and moved over to second on Gunnar Trouwine’s single one batter later. Jeremy Vasquez then struck out looking, setting the table for Gardner to play the hero in his first CCBL game.
The Anglers offense kept Chatham (11-12) in the game the entire evening, twice rallying despite being doubled up in hits by the Gatemen, 16-8.
Troutwine roped two of Chatham’s eight hits, reaching base four times after drawing walks in the seventh and the ninth. The Wichita State catcher legged out Chatham’s fourth triple of the year in the second inning, coming home to score three batters later after Kyle Adams laced a single into left-center.
Chatham rallied in the seventh and the eleventh after blowing two one-run leads earlier in the contest. Falling behind to a Wareham team that entered the contest atop of the West Division, the Anglers never rolled over, continuously chipping away against Gatemen pitchers.
“I’m very proud of them,” said manager John Schiffner of his team. “They could have quit and they didn’t. Especially after we gave up three runs late to let them go ahead of us, we could have quit and we didn’t.”
On multiple occasions the Anglers squandered opportunities to win the game before the eleventh, failing twice on sacrifice bunt attempts with the winning run on first base. Troutwine led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, presenting the opportunity to Vasquez to bunt the catcher over to second. After two failed attempts, Vasquez grounded into a double play.
An inning later, Sean Bouchard failed to lay one down after Hagen Owenby singled to lead off the bottom of the tenth. Bouchard ended up striking out as pinch runner Simon Matthews watched helplessly from second base.
“Our execution wasn’t very good, but you know what' We won 6-5, so right now we aren’t going to worry about how we executed. . . .we’re going to enjoy that one, that was a pretty good win,” said Schiffner. “We’ve been saying all along that the one thing these guys have is character. They don’t like to lose; they stick with each other the entire game; they’re in every at-bat, every out, and it’s a testament to them.”
After Chatham took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Wareham (12-10-1) stayed determined, stringing together three consecutive hits and scoring Joey Bart to tie the game. The Gatemen appeared to have put the game away in the top of the eleventh after four straight two-out singles gave them a 5-3 lead before Gardner's blast lifted the Anglers to victory.
Control issues were limited for the Anglers pitching staff on Wednesday night. Chatham pitching issued two walks, a stark improvement for a team that had given 34 free passes over its last six games. However, Robert Metz came around to score the go-ahead run in the seventh on a Kale Breaux wild pitch. The Mississippi State right-hander had plunked Metz at the beginning of the inning.
Connor Moore (1-0) got the win for the Anglers, pitching a third of an inning after Schiffner pulled UCLA’s Moises Ceja in the eleventh. Starter Nick Meservey turned in his fourth straight scoreless outing, striking out three batters while conceding three hits and one walk in three innings pitched. Robert Garcia (2-1) was the losing pitcher for Wareham after giving up the final three runs in a third of an inning.
The Anglers undergo one of the most integral parts of the CCBL experience on Thursday when they head to Fenway Park for a team workout.
“They’ve all grown up hearing the stories of the legendary, and famous Fenway Park, I think it’s going to be quite special for a lot of them,” said Schiffner. “If they’re a baseball historian or a baseball fan it’s going to be special for them to be on the field where Ted Williams played and all the other tremendous Red Sox.”
Following the off day, Chatham heads to Brewster for a matchup with the 9-12 Whitecaps. First pitch is at 5 p.m. and can be heard live on the Cape Cod Baseball Network.