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Brewster, Mass. — The focal point in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Brewster Whitecaps came in the ninth inning in the midst of yet another Chatham rally. Trailing 2-0 entering the final frame, the Anglers offense, which had been subdued by the likes of Mississippi State freshman Konnor Pilkington and the rest of the Brewster pitching staff all game, suddenly came roaring back to life.
After two errors gave the Anglers runners at second and third, three consecutive hits gave Chatham a momentous 4-2 lead and put Orlando Garcia on second base for D.J Artis. Artis, looking to add to keep the Anglers in their newfound groove, laced a single into shallow centerfield. And then chaos ensued.
As Orlando Garcia made his way to third, Brewster’s Zack Gahagan stepped directly in front of Garcia’s pathway, prompting the third base umpire to call obstruction and appeared to award Garcia a free pass to home plate. However, as the Texas Tech infielder was walking to the plate, the Whitecaps’ Kekai Rios simply tagged him, at which point home plate umpire Rudy Firnbach called Garcia out.
Mass confusion sprung up throughout the park as Garcia pleaded his case that he was awarded home before John Schiffner trotted out from the Chatham dugout to have a lengthy discussion with both umpires. After a ten-minute delay for the pivotal decision, Garcia was called out, and Chatham’s momentum had been ripped from its hands.
“I was rounding third heading home, and right before I stepped on third base, [Gahagan] was in my way, so I kind of put a hand out and it slowed me down, so I stopped halfway through the bag,” explained a composed Garcia after the game. “I looked back and [the third-base umpire] called obstruction and I started heading home. And that’s when the catcher tagged me and I was out.”
The moment was an infuriating one for A’s manager John Schiffner, who was heard telling Firnbach during the argument that “I have to put this game under protest.”
The skipper’s case however proved futile as Firnbach explained that Garcia was awarded third base, not home, when the obstruction occurred – though Garcia had already reached third safely with no play and looked to be headed home. After that, according to Firnbach, Garcia proceeded home under his own accord before being tagged out. The head umpire declared that his third base counterpart felt that Garcia would not have scored on the play, and was therefore not awarded home.
Garcia, standing back at third base waiting for the decision, was sent back to the dugout without an explanation. The inning ended for Chatham on the next batter as Jake Palomaki grounded out back to the pitcher.
Brewster then got a chance to win the ball game in the bottom half of the ninth with two on and two out and All-Star Nick Dunn at the plate. Battling with closer Moises Ceja, the Maryland product slapped a Ceja pitch back up the middle, scoring two runs and ending the controversial contest with a 5-4 Whitecaps win.
“It’s part of the game, I guess,” said Garcia. “I try to respect all the umpires, we’re out here all trying to have a good time, and I appreciate them coming out each and everyday. . . .it’s just a game.”
With the loss the Anglers (13-21-1) drop a point and a half behind Brewster (14-19-2) for the last playoff spot in the East Division, but still have nine more games to gain ground back. Though the loss stings for a Chatham team that had won two of its last three coming into Stony Brook Field, the Anglers can take away with them a feeling of accomplishment after rallying down to their last two outs in a game with a crucial impact on postseason implications.
“We’re really good, these guys come to grind each and every day and I felt like that was our win and they kind of took it away from us at the end,” said Garcia. “These guys have been [rallying] all summer so you’re not surprised if it happens in the ninth, the eighth. After a couple at-bats these guys get comfortable in the box and put good at-bats together so that’s all we can really do at the end of the day. . . .We’re good, we’re not worried, we still have a couple games left, we’ll be fine.”
Ceja (1-2) took the loss for the Anglers while Landon Hughes (1-0), who threw just four pitches for Brewster, was credited with the win.
An encouraging sign for Chatham was once again how the team was able to forget poor at-bats earlier in the game and string together a series of hits when it truly mattered. Konnor Pilkington threw six innings of three-hit shutout baseball, keeping the Anglers offense at bay. However Chatham dug deep and was able to forget its six strikeouts on the night as they rallied off of the Brewster bullpen.
“[Pilkington] was really locating with his fastball and getting ahead in his counts and once you get ahead in this league, it’s hard to string together some hits,” said John Aiello, who came in as a pinch hitter in the fourth when Sean Bouchard was lifted due to a sudden bout of light headedness and extreme fatigue. “I think we were more aggressive on fastballs early [later in the game]. Their pitchers were leaving the ball over the middle of the plate a little more so we were able to capitalize.”
Chatham now heads into the All-Star Game just a game and a half out of a playoff spot. Coming together and trying to bring a Cape League Championship back to Chatham, the Anglers are coming together at the perfect time. They look to move past this game and gear up for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks on Sunday at 7 p.m.