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South Yarmouth, Mass. — For the second time in as many trips to Red Wilson Field, the Chatham Anglers entered the ninth inning facing a multi-run deficit. Much like its last visit to Yarmouth-Dennis, the Angler stormed back in the ninth inning, erasing what looked to be a comfortable win for the Red Sox.
After cutting the Y-D lead down from five to one, DJ Artis stood at the plate with two outs, the bases loaded, and a chance to deliver a painful blow to the two-time defending CCBL champs. However, on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Y-D’s Calvin Faucher induced a game-ending groundball that nullified Chatham’s chance to take Game 1 of the East Division Championship Series. The Red Sox held on to win 9-8 and pushed Chatham to the brink of elimination by taking 1-0 series lead in the EDCS.
“Last few weeks we’ve been doing that,” said manager John Schiffner the A’s late-game rallies. “We just come back, we take great at-bats late in the game, and guys just step up and say ‘let’s see what we can do.’ They did that again and they’ve been doing it a good portion of the last quarter of the season and certainly in the playoffs.”
Mike Fitzgerald (0-2) took the loss for Chatham (17-26-1) allowing two runs on three hits in an inning of relief. Pat Vanderslice (3-4) tossed four and two-thirds innings and allowed six hits as he set down six Anglers on strikes in the win.
After the A's struck for four runs off of Bryan Sammons through the first four innings, Vanderslice came on and kept the Anglers off the base paths. Between the fifth inning and the top of the ninth, Chatham mustered up one hit.
“He just was pitching backwards, he was throwing his curveball early, and then he’ll come at you with a fastball with two strikes,” said Mason Koppens, who scored three runs while going 1-for-4 at the plate. “I think we made an adjustment [in the ninth] and we just laid off those curveballs and got pitches that we wanted to hit.”
Faucher earned the save for the Red Sox after coming on in relief of Vanderslice with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth.
Chatham starter Caleb Gilbert went four innings for the A’s while the right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits while striking out four. The start was Gilbert’s second consecutive strong outing as the LSU freshman hopes to have put to rest his worrisome contests from earlier this season.
A tall right-hander who commands a four-pitch repertoire, Gilbert’s main area of focus has been his mentality during starts.
“He’s actually not overthrowing,” said pitching coach Rob Bono. “He’s trying to take a little off and stay within himself. Sometimes his emotions get the best of him and he tries to overthrow and he leaves the ball up in the zone. He’s just been staying calm and staying under control and trying to work down in the zone.”
Gilbert began the contest by cruising through the first two innings after the tall righty allowed two hits heading into the third.
A leadoff single followed by back-to-back groundouts put TCU’s Nolan Brown on third base with two outs in the third as Dillon Persinger stepped up to the plate. On the third pitch he saw, the Cal State Fullerton product cranked a two-run homer over the fence in dead center field to tie the score at 2.
However, the score would not stay tied for long as the next batter, Kevin Smith, crushed Gilbert’s next offering into the woods way behind the centerfield fence to swing the score, and the momentum, in favor of Y-D.
Despite the quick change in score, Chatham remained positive, striking for two runs over the next two innings to retake the lead despite not managing a hit in either frame.
Sean Bouchard led off the fourth with a walk before DJ Artis reached on an error by the first baseman. After a John Aiello bunt moved the runners over, Orlando Garcia drove in Bouchard with an RBI groundout to shortstop.
Koppens came home on a wild pitch after leading off with a walk and stealing third in the fifth inning.
“Koppens is a classic number two hitter,” said Schiffner. “You need a guy that can get on base and you need a guy that can bat behind [the leadoff man] and move the ball, sacrifice bunt, hit-and-run, and that’s what Koppens has done for us. He’s been a great spark.”
However, the run would be the last the Anglers would score until the ninth inning, as Y-D strung together six runs across the next four innings to take a 9-4 lead.
A pair of wild pitches brought in what eventually became the winning run when Persinger came home easily after a Mike McCormick pitch skipped past catcher Gunnar Troutwine.
Schiffner noted after Sunday’s win over Harwich that he was worried about the state of his bullpen after utilizing three of his best relievers to help eliminate the Mariners. On Monday, the skipper’s worries came to fruition when the Anglers bullpen went through four relief pitchers, all of whom threw one inning and conceded at least one run apiece.
“Well we’ve got to get the job done, and a few guys didn’t get the job done today,” said Schiffner. “Obviously we don’t want to burn those guys out. It’s a three game series so you’ve got to go win two now.”
The Anglers rallied furiously in the ninth as the first four batters reached on a trio of singles and a fielder’s choice, which scored Hunter Lee to make it 9-5. An error by Persinger at second followed by a Jeremy Vazquez RBI single made it 9-7 Y-D before Kyle Adams drew a bases-loaded walk to bring Chatham within one.
The A's will now look to stave off elimination and keep their season alive with a win in Game 2 of the EDCS Tuesday at Veterans Field at 7 p.m. Make sure to tune into the Cape Cod Baseball Network for all the action, including the Anglers Extra Pregame Show 30 minutes before first pitch.