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CHATHAM — For seven-plus innings of Tuesday’s contest, the Chatham Anglers were in the driver's seat as they held a 1-0 lead over the Falmouth Commodores.
But, Falmouth (5-8) broke through in the ninth, and, after Chatham (6-5-2) responded in the bottom half of the inning, Maverick Handley (Stanford) hit a go-ahead two-run home run that narrowly stayed on the fair side of the right-field foul poul in the 11th inning to win, 4-2.
“Honestly, it's like you got punched in the gut,” Tristin English (Georgia Tech) said. “It's a letdown. We are 10 times better than the team we just played. We didn’t show up today.
In the eleventh, Kyle Stowers (Stanford) walked with one out to put a runner on base. Handley then sent the second pitch he saw from Greg Veliz (Miami) out of the ballpark to break the tie. The home run was only Falmouth’s third hit of the contest.
Anglers manager Tom Holliday said losing a ballgame in that fashion is “ugly.”
“[Handley] goes opposite field, inside the foul pole about 316 feet.” Holliday said. “I don’t even know that he knew that he hit it. He was late and it just flickers inside the foul pole.”
For most of the game, base runners were hard to come by, but that all changed in the ninth inning.
Kyle Hurt (Southern California) — pitching in his fifth inning of the day — walked the first two batters of the final frame. Hurt then forced Stowers to slap a grounder to Tristin English (Georgia Tech) at first, but his throw to second base hit David Sims (Murray State), who was ruled safe, and loaded the bases for the Commodores.
Hurt struck out Handley to get one out and then got Edouard Julien (Auburn) to hit a comebacker right to him, but the ball hit off Hurt’s glove, allowing a run to score and keep the bases loaded.
Veliz then came into the game and got Cameron Cannon (Arizona) to hit a ground ball to Greg Jones’ (UNC-Wilmington) backhand. Jones did not field it cleanly and got a force out a third, allowing Falmouth to take a 2-1 lead.
The A’s would not stay behind for long. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Kyle McCann (Georgia Tech) blasted a solo shot deep into the night sky to tie the game, sending the remaining crowd into jubilation.
“I was trying to hit it hard up the middle and it ended up going over,” McCann said.
After John Rave (Illinois State) doubled down the left field line, Greg Jones hustled and beat out a weak ground ball to first, and Ben Ramirez (Southern California) walked, Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game. On the first pitch, Simpson hit a fly ball to deep center field. However, it was not deep enough, and Will Brennan (Kansas St.) made the catch on the warning track.
The A’s first run came in the bottom of the second. After throwing thirteen pitches to the first four batters he faced, Spencer Strider (Clemson) gave English a pitch to hit and the Yellow Jacket delivered. He hit Strider’s fastball over the left field wall for his first round-tripper of the season.
“He had only thrown one off-speed pitch with every batter combined at first,” English said. “I was thinking just look for a fastball somewhere in the zone. First one wasn’t there. Second one was. Luckily I put some good wood on it.”
Jeff Belge (St. John’s) ran into some trouble in the first. Logan Davidson (Clemson) reached on an error to start the inning and Belge then walked Steven Williams (Auburn) to load the bases with one out. But Belge forced Kyle Stowers (Stanford) hit a grounder to Austin Wilhite (Georgia Tech). Wilhite stepped on the second base and made a clean throw to first to end the inning.
Belge settled down after the first inning. While he did work seven full counts during the game, the left-hander gave up only one hit in four innings of work and struck out six Commodores.
Kyle Hurt (Southern California) replaced Belge in the top of the fifth and, for his first four innings, was just as good as his predecessor. Before running into trouble into the ninth, Hurt had allowed only two base runners and struck out six batters of his own.
“Kyle Hurt for four innings was untouchable,” Holliday said. “He earned the right to go out there in the ninth inning. His pitch count was low. It was a no-brainer to let him go out there and finish it.”
Chatham had a chance to add to their lead in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but failed to capitalize. The Anglers got runners on third base in each frame, yet were unable to cross home plate and extend the their lead.
The loss was Chatham’s third defeat in a post-off day game this season. Unlike the other two losses, Holliday said had the team much better effort in Tuesday’s game.
“Fact of the matter is they played hard right down to the last out,” Holliday said. “Give it your best effort. If that's your best effort than you should be able to sleep tonight.”