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Orleans, Mass. — Chatham was batting in the top of the eighth inning when they heard the news. An eruption of cheers from the Anglers’ bullpen sent a felling of hope throughout the rest of the Chatham dugout that was shortly confirmed a few moments later, the Anglers had clinched a playoff birth.
“[First reaction was] a sigh of relief, you know it’s been a grind these last two weeks trying to get that final spot,” said A’s infielder Jake Palomaki, smiling from ear to ear. “It’s great. Nothing but happiness right now.”
After the Brewster Whitecaps fell to the Harwich Mariners on Wednesday night at Whitehouse Field, Chatham (17-26-1) officially locked up the East Division’s final playoff spot.
However, the Anglers were still in the midst of a tied contest with their rival, the Orleans Firebirds. After jumping out to an early 3-0 lead against Orleans, Chatham watched as Kelly Nicholson’s squad battled back, before eventually upending the Anglers, 4-3, at Eldredge Park.
Will Golsan knocked in the game-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth by driving an RBI double to the wall in left-center field that plated Zach Kirtley from second base.
The blast came off of Chatham’s Reed Howell (0-1), who took the loss for the Anglers in just his second appearance since returning to the team in mid-July. Will Stokes (3-1) closed the game out for Orleans (20-23-1) and earned the win after pitching two-innings of relief.
Golsan drove in all four of the Firebirds’ runs on the night as he went 3-for-4 and reached on a fielder’s choice. The University of Mississippi first baseman was the ninth hitter for Orleans, but came up big with RBIs in the fourth, sixth, and eighth.
In the fourth inning, Golsan launched a two-run double down the line in left field to score Justin Jones and Riley Mahan with two outs in the frame.
Two innings later, the Ole Miss Rebel followed up three straight one-out singles from the Firebirds by hitting into a fielder’s choice that plated Mahan to tie the score at 3-3.
Andrew Karp started the game for the Anglers but failed to factor into the decision despite pitching five and a third innings. The Florida State right-hander held the Firebirds to just two hits through the first three innings, and finished the contest with three strikeouts and three earned runs in the affair.
“[Karp] did an excellent job,” said manager John Schiffner. “He’s been phenomenal. Florida State is going to want to call [pitching coach] Rob Bono say thank you for what Rob’s done for Andrew because he has not thrown that much since senior year of high school and he’s done an excellent job for us. He’s proven that he can pitch in the Cape Cod League, which will be a boon to them when they know what he’s going to be able to do in the ACC.”
Chatham’s offense opened the scoring in the top of the fourth with a surge of power. After two singles put runners on the corners to start the frame, DJ Artis laced a single into right field that scored Palomaki to give Chatham a 1-0 lead.
The Anglers pushed their lead to 3-0 later in the inning after two straight pitches from starter Chandler Day resulted in Chatham runs. Mason Koppens broke for the plate on a wild pitch and scored standing up as the speedy Northeastern Husky reached home before catcher Riley Adams could find the baseball. On the next pitch, Jeremy Vasquez lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that brought home the quick-footed Artis.
In total, the top three of Chatham’s batting order scored all three of the Anglers runs while turning in four of the team’s seven hits. The trio of Palomaki, Koppens, and Artis have accounted for nearly half of Chatham’s 14 runs over the past three games.
“I think we’re just trying to get on base,” said Palomaki. “See the ball, go get it. Our bottom of the lineup has been swinging it well so we’ve been trying to get on base for those like Jeremy Vasquez. Koppens has been a great sparkplug at the top, Artis has been swinging it well so it’s a lot of fun to be in that lineup.”
The Anglers hope to bring that charging lineup, along with a pitching staff that has been able to shut down potent lineups down the stretch, into Whitehouse Field on Friday against the Harwich Mariners.
After championing hard for the first-place Mariners to beat Brewster on Wednesday, Chatham will now focus on downing the lethal Harwich squad in the East Division Series.
“We were brought here for a reason,” said Gunnar Troutwine. “We got the opportunity to play in the Cape League and I feel like we should take full advantage of that right now. We’ve been blessed to play in the playoffs and everyone now is up and ready to go and we should finish this thing strong.”
Game One begins on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Whitehouse Field. Don’t miss any of the action as the Anglers Extra Pregame Show gets underway 20 minutes before first pitch on the Cape Cod Baseball Network.