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Leaving out a few bad innings, the pitching staff has been impressive so far. What have you seen from the pitching staff'
David Schneidman: Although we saw plenty of bright spots, Chatham’s pitching in its first four games was inconsistent. One-run and shutout performances against Yarmouth-Dennis and Brewster were sandwiched by two double-digit run outings versus Wareham and Brewster. In the latter two games, the A’s tossed 11 scoreless innings, but allowed three or more runs in an inning four separate times. It was not until its home win over Hyannis and doubleheader sweep of Bourne that we saw consistent, dominant pitching from Chatham over the span of three games.
The ups and downs of baseball make it near impossible for the Anglers to keep opposing teams to two runs or fewer every game, but stretches of three or four games with such performances are realistic, and, with the power we’ve seen from Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State), Blake Sabol (USC) and others, should be enough to spark a win streak.
Peter Warren: One thing Chatham’s pitchers have done in every game so far is strike out batters. The Anglers lead the league in strikeouts with 73, 10 more than second-place Y-D. Excluding opening night against Wareham, Chatham has averaged over a strikeout per inning in every contest. The A’s have a bevy of pitchers who can be unhittable. Nine Anglers average eight strikeouts per nine innings this spring season, including Greg Veliz (Miami) at 13.50 strikeouts per nine, Michael Kirian (Louisville) at 12.71 and Alek Manoah (West Virginia) at 10.00.
The advantage of having so many pitchers who can strike out batters has already been on full display. During Wednesday’s tie against Y-D, Jeff Belge (St. John’s) worked into some trouble in the sixth. With runners of second and third and one out, he got Charlie Concannon (St. Joseph’s) to strike out swinging. Then, after walking the bases loaded, he got Kale Emshoff (Arkansas Little Rock) to strikeout looking. By striking out those batters instead of having them hit into outs, it ensures there is little chance for base runners to advance. Chatham’s pitchers have had clutch strikeouts in such scenarios multiple times so far, and it has proved to be a key to their success.
After a streaky first four games, the Chatham offense has scored 21 runs over the last three contests. What was the difference between the team over the weekend and the team early last week'
DS: While Chatham’s three-game win streak has been a result of well-rounded performances, one factor has pushed the A’s to a new level: power. Torkelson, who led the nation with 25 home runs during the collegiate season, tallied just three hits in 18 plate appearances through the first four games. Since, the National Freshman Hitter of the Year has a hit in each game, including two long balls and five RBIs.
The injection of Sabol into the lineup has also proved instrumental in the Anglers’ recent success. While the USC product’s two-run homer against Hyannis on Friday was just part of a flurry of runs the A’s put up in a 10-1 win, his opposite-field two-run shot to break a 1-1 tie with Bourne on Sunday single-handedly gave Chatham the win.
Relying on the long ball all season long is not a winning formula for the Anglers. But as long as its pitchers keep on racking up strikeouts while limiting opponents to two runs or less like they have in five of seven games this season, one swing of the bat can be enough to power Chatham to a victory.
PW: Coach Holliday likes to mention the wood bats and their effect in post-game interviews, and he has a point. Wood bats are different from the BBCOR bats the players use at school. Not everyone is going to pick up at wood bat and feel fully comfortable. There is going to be a little bit of an adjustment period. I think we are seeing a lot of the players getting fully adjusted to their new tools.
It also takes some time to get used to playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Hitters are facing off against the best pitchers in the country, and for some of them, they have not faced live pitching in a few weeks before their first at-bats this summer. And if they are coming from a Regional or Super Regional (or for some players soon to be on their way, the College World Series), they are going to need some time to acclimate as well. As the Chatham players get more at-bats, they will continue to get more comfortable in all areas of the game. There will be more of the hitting prowess we have seen the last few nights than the struggles of the first games for the rest of the season.
Chatham has another full week of games after Monday’s offday. What are you going to be watching for during this weeks’ games'
DS: Something to look for as the season progresses is how long Holliday allows pitchers to stay in the game. So far, he’s primarily halted a pitcher after four innings, but on Friday against Hyannis and in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader at Bourne, we saw Dan Hammer (Pittsburgh) and Manoah throw five innings. Holliday originally implemented a four-inning limit to avoid overuse and potential injury for pitchers who threw throughout the spring season.
After game two versus Bourne, Holliday said if a pitcher has a low pitch-count through four frames, he will send him out for another. The skipper also noted that as Chatham’s pitchers continue to make appearances and get more comfortable as the season progresses, it is likely that a we’ll see more five- and six-inning outings.
In addition, it will be interesting to see how A’s pitchers cope in their second outing compared to their first. On opening day versus Wareham, Manoah and Cam Jabara (Orange Coast) allowed a combined seven runs in 4.1 innings of work. On Sunday, we saw Manoah and Jabara cruise through game two of the doubleheader, combining to give up just one run and three hits in seven innings. This is something to consider for when Jackson Wark (Saint Louis) and Benny Wanger (Yale), who each struggled in their first appearance of the summer, take the mound again.
PW: The Anglers lead the league in stolen bases with 12 and stolen base attempts with 16. They have been very aggressive while on the bases with Holliday imploring them to always try to take the extra base on a ball in the dirt. And Chatham has responded. It seems like everytime there is a ball in the dirt, an Anglers base runner is always on the move. There were even a few times during the week where the ball was only a short distance away from the catcher, but the Chatham runner had such a great jump that he easily scored from third base. The Anglers have smart, quick baserunners and it will be interesting to see how much pressure they continue to put on opposing pitchers.
Many times, those Chatham baserunners reached base after drawing a walk. The Anglers lead the league in walks with 35, with Greg Jones (UNCW) tied-for-first among all players with nine free passes, and Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) right behind him with seven. Even when the bats have struggled, Chatham has managed to draw walks and get runners on base. Sometimes, the A’s are going to be in close games, and if they continue to be patient at the plate, its ability to draw free rides will continue to be crucial in those close contests.