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CHATHAM — Chatham Anglers manager Tom Holliday has continuously emphasized the importance of scoring first as of late.
“Whenever you come out and score first, you win the majority of the time,” Holliday said on June 19. “Whether you believe it or not, look it up. That’s a fact.”
Saturday night, Holliday got his wish. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Michael Busch (North Carolina) swung his bright-blue bat at a Karl Kaufmann (Michigan) fastball, shooting it high into the cotton candy-colored sky. The ball sailed beyond a leaping Quin Cotton (Grand Canyon), who flipped over the left-field fence in hopes of reaching it, and into the woods between the Veterans Field scoreboard and batting cage.
“We've kinda caught on to the fact that they're into trickery, throwing changeups on every pitch, every hitting count,” Holliday said. “Our guys talked about it and Buschy took one, he goes opposite-field and hits one out of the yard.”
The solo-shot jump-started the Anglers (18-15-2) to their third-straight win, this time coming against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (20-11-4), 7-3, on a picturesque night in Chatham. The win halted Y-D’s two-game win streak against the A’s and brought Chatham within three games of the East Division leaders.
Once the Anglers got their first hit off Kaufmann via Busch’s blast, balls started getting peppered all across Veterans Field by the home team.
In the third, John Rave (Illinois State) smoked a leadoff double that one-hopped the right-field fence and later came home on a passed ball. After Kaufmann walked Drew Mendoza (Florida State) and Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington) to start the fourth, Jorge Arenas (Stetson) bounced an RBI single off second base, causing it to shoot well over the heads of Y-D’s middle infielders and into center.
“We are a really full team with Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) back,” Holliday said. “Now the batting order in the middle is good against righties and lefties.”
With Arenas and Jones on second and third, respectively, Tristin English (Georgia Tech) came to the plate. English, who came to the dish with one hit in his last 17 at-bats, returned to his late-June form from, cracking a three-run bomb inches inside of the left-field foul pole.
The entirety of Veterans Field fell silent as the ball took flight as the final destination of the ball was unknown. English trotted slowly as he watched the ball during his trek to first base before putting his head down and completing the home run trot once the ball landed in fair territory.
As the A’s built a six-run lead, Alek Manoah (West Virginia) did what he has done all season — punch out batters. Manoah rolled through Y-D hitters for six innings and tied a 2018 CCBL single-game record for strikeouts by one pitcher with 12.
The 6’7” hurler faced the minimum of three batters in three frames and struck out the side in the fourth. In that inning, each third strike was an offspeed pitch.
“Once I had them cheating to try and hit the fastball, that's when I started breaking out the slider,” Manoah said. “I had 'em going back-and-forth.”
Manoah underwent a shaky fifth inning, allowing a two-run shot to Nick Quintana (Arizona) after walking Christian Koss (UC Irvine) to open the inning, but rebounded to strike out two more in a flawless final sixth inning.
After a hitless fifth and sixth innings, Chatham’s offense came to life in the seventh, and again, it was courtesy of Busch. The North Carolina product launched his second opposite-field homer of the night, marking the first multi-home run game by any A’s player this summer.
Jeff Belge (St. John’s) finished what Manoah started, tossing a scoreless final three innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and run while striking out seven. The combined 19 strikeouts also tied the season-high for strikeouts by a team in one game.
In seven games from July 8 to 13, the Anglers surpassed five runs in a game once, marking its worst offensive stretch of the season. In the past five days, Chatham has tallied five or more runs in each contest its played in, including 34 runs in its past three games.
“The quality of our at-bats is really clicking right now,” Busch said. “It's not just the big hits, we're walking and getting pitchers out of games.”