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Prior to Saturday night, Chatham’s success at the plate in the early goings of the summer had been underwhelming.
Excluding an 8-0 victory against Brewster on Thursday, the A’s bats produced just six runs in three games. Players who established themselves as power-hitters during the college season were coming up empty at the dish. On Friday against Brewster, the Anglers combined for 17 strikeouts.
“I don’t think we hit a ball hard all night,” A’s manager Tom Holliday said after Friday’s 10-1 loss. “Seriously.”
On Saturday, Chatham (2-2-1) reversed the narrative. The Anglers peppered balls all over — and out of — Veterans Field, erasing any distressing memories from the night before. In total, the home team belted three home runs en route to a dominating victory over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks (2-2), 10-1, achieving its first home win of the summer.
Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) put the home team on the board in the first, turning on a Travis Marr (Clemson) fastball in the first inning. The NCAA's home run leader sent it 15 feet left of the Chatham scoreboard and into the woods for his second long ball of the summer.
Minutes later, the Harbor Hawks evened the score. After a Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) error in left field allowed Seth Gray (Wright State) to reach second, Todd Lott (Louisiana-Lafayette) blooped an RBI single to left-center to knot the game at one.
Then, the Anglers broke the game open. In the bottom of the second, Kyle McCann (Georgia Tech) torched a three-run homer over the center-field fence to give Chatham the lead. An inning later, Blake Sabol (USC) smoked a near-identical shot to center, tacking on two more. In three innings, the A’s equaled their home run total from the first four games of the season. Holliday credited the team's success on offense to an adjusted pregame routine.
"We went in there, saved energy, toned it down a little bit," Holliday said about Chatham's pregame schedule on Saturday. "Sometimes a routine gets to be a routine. We're gonna have a routine, but we'll vary it up every once in a while."
While the Anglers’ bats were putting on a clinic at the plate, their pitching staff was shutting down the Hyannis lineup. Starting pitcher Troy Miller (Michigan) tossed six strikeouts in four innings of work in his Cape League debut. On three different occasions, Miller faced a batter with a runner on second and each time left that runner stranded.
Dan Hammer (Pittsburgh), who played for Chatham during the 2017 campaign, relieved Miller after four innings. The right-hander bested Miller’s stat line, going five frames with five punch outs while surrendering just one hit. The most impressive aspect of the A's nine-run win was not the power-hitting, rather it was the concentration of Miller and Hammer in situations that are typically difficult for pitchers.
"Miller was really good when the game was in motion,” Holliday said.“He had a really good curveball, good command, and great mound presence. Everything we were hoping for, he was.Hammer went out there and pitched like it was nothing-nothing. In a game where sometimes you tend to look at the scoreboard, he never did that. That's a special outing."
Miller noted an exchange with Sabol — his catcher for the game — in regards to the A's outburst of power early in the game.
"Blake (Sabol) was joking about it, he said, 'it must be tough to pitch today with all the run support.'" Miller said, chuckling. "When that happens, you kind of pitch carefree and let the offense have fun.
After the A’s two-spot in the bottom of the fourth, the scoreboard read nothing but zeros. Paired with Hammer’s dominance was two-hit ball from Hyannis’ Zach Kohn (Central Michigan) and Wes Engle (Texas State), who each tossed two innings.
Despite a quiet final four frames from Chatham’s bats, its offensive explosion in the opening four innings was enough to ensure a blowout victory. A day after a nine-run loss, it came as no shock to the Anglers that a completely different product showed up on the field on Saturday.
"That's baseball," McCann said. "You go 0-for one day, but you have to come back the next day and play."