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After a stress-free 7-2 victory in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Bourne Braves, the Chatham Anglers and their Western Division foe were locked in a stalemate in game two.
The dark blue scoreboard over the fence in right-center field at Doran Park read 1-1 through five innings, and the two teams had combined for just seven hits. The brilliance of Chatham’s Alek Manoah (West Virginia) and Bourne’s Casey Legumina (Gonzaga) suggested the contest would be a pitcher’s duel rather than a shootout.
Then, Blake Sabol (USC) turned the game on its head.
Sabol turned on a Greer Holston (Ole Miss) fastball, knocking the ball high into the navy blue sky and over the right-field fence, giving Chatham a 3-1 advantage. Suddenly, the deadlock was blown wide open, as the A’s finally plugged in its winning formula: power.
“When a guy really squares up wood, it makes you stop and watch. [Sabol] did that,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “He and (Torkelson) today, for anybody watching the game, they gave 'em a thrill. That's the fun of watching wood.”
Sabol’s long ball single-handedly pushed the Anglers (4-2-1) past the Braves (2-4), 4-1, in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader, completing the sweep over Bourne and marking Chatham’s third-straight victory.
Over the first two innings, both pitchers were lights-out. Legumina held a hot Chatham lineup, which scored 17 runs in its previous 16 innings, at bay, allowing one hit while striking out two.
Manoah, Chatham’s opening day starter, made his second start of the year, tossing five innings while accruing two hits, a run and eight strikeouts. The 6’7” right-hander toyed with Bourne batters, alternating between his 95-plus mile per hour fastball, changeup and curveball. Manoah used such deception to strike out eight Braves, topping his debut performance on June 12 when he tallied three punch outs while allowing three runs to the Wareham Gatemen.
“They know about the fastball, but the offspeed hasn't always been there,” Manoah said. “I've gained a lot of confidence in that pitch. It feels really good. It's pretty fun to toy with the hitters.”
In the third frame, each team cracked the code of its opposing pitcher. First, it was Chatham’s Rylan Thomas (Central Florida), who joined the team Sunday morning, registering his first hit in an Anglers uniform with a deep double.
A batter later, a slow Greg Jones (UNC-Wilmington) chopper forced Legumina to rush his throw to first, where it sailed beyond Spencer Horwitz (Radford), enabling Thomas to come home with ease to give Chatham a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Manoah hit Anthony Prato (UCONN) with a pitch after striking out his first two batters. The mistake, which was the first of Manoah’s outing, made him pay, as Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville) drove in Prato with an RBI double just four pitches later to even the score at one.
While Legumina’s day concluded after four innings, Manoah’s continued. Holliday opted to keep the right-hander in the game beyond the fourth frame, a decision he has made with just one other pitcher this summer when Dan Hammer (Pittsburgh) threw five shutout innings in relief during Saturday’s win versus Hyannis.
Manoah’s fifth inning was just as stellar as his first four. The rising junior strutted around the mound after pounding his eighth strikeout of the night. Cam Jabara (Orange Coast) relieved the right-hander for innings six and seven, recording three strikeouts of his own and faced just seven batters in two innings of work.
"Jabara just came out and did it. He really fit well behind Manoah,” Holliday said. You see that big guy coming at you with that 95, then here comes a guy who's a finesse pitcher. That can be effective.”
In the pitches leading up to Sabol’s fifth-inning homer, the USC product attempted to bunt in order to advance Spencer Torkelson (Arizona St.) to second. But, with a 2-0 count, Sabol missed a signal from third base coach Randy Whisler to bunt, and instead, he swung away.
“I was gonna bunt the guy over to second, work a run in,” Sabol said. “It was a pitcher's duel, you gotta play a small game to win those ones. I missed the sign to bunt 2-0, got a fastball over the plate and took my best swing at it.”
The long ball extended the Chatham lead to two, but the visitors weren’t finished. Aggression on the basepaths, something Holliday has preached all season, led the A’s to an insurance run courtesy of Jones. The shortstop advanced to third on John Rave’s single in the seventh after a base knock of his own before dashing home on a wild pitch by Holston, making the score 4-1.
After a sluggish first four games of the summer, the Anglers are playing consistent, well-rounded baseball. Three consecutive games of scoring at least four runs and allowing two runs or fewer has led the A’s to its best stretch of the young season.
“I think we’d all love to play tomorrow,” Sabol said. “Guys will still get their work in, but it’ll be nice to have an off day.”
After Chatham's off day on Monday, it will travel to Wareham for a 6:30 p.m. game at Clem Spillane Field.