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CHATHAM — After the Chatham Anglers held threw six scoreless innings to start the game, the Falmouth Commodores were 90 feet away from tying the game.
Zack Noll (Point Loma Nazarene) — who Anglers manager Tom Holliday praised after Chatham’s 4-4 tie against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox on June 27 — had continued his impressive stretch with a no-hit sixth inning Sunday at Veterans Field.
But in the seventh, he faced the bases loaded with one out and CCBL All-Star Kyle Stowers (Stanford) at the dish.
The Falmouth left fielder cracked a double to the left-center field gap, clearing the bases, erasing the Anglers’ lead and putting the visitors up two. The Commodores (22-18-1) plated two more runs in the frame to down the A’s (20-18-3), 6-1, on a clear Sunday night at Veterans Field.
“If there's an ugly inning, there's an ugly inning,” Holliday said. “But that inning was responsible for the game spinning out like that. You have to make a pitch and get an out. We didn't do it.”
After Chatham starter Alek Manoah (West Virginia) mowed down the Commodores in order to open the game, the Anglers bats plated the first run of the game for the fourth straight contest.
Blake Sabol (Southern California) started the rally with a five-pitch walk before Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington) — who has been absent from the A’s lineup the last two games — singled, advancing Sabol to third. Michael Busch (North Carolina) then struck out, bringing Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) to the dish.
The left-handed hitter — who smacked a grand slam and drove in six runs Saturday against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks — continued his productive hitting. Simpson grounded out to shortstop Logan Davidson (Clemson) for the second out of the frame as Sabol strolled home for the first run of the game.
“Sabol hit the ball on the screws big-time. Busch had a good night, Simpson had a good night,” Holliday said. “We want to rest guys. We gave Torkelson and Rave a night off. We're trying to get some guys off their feet.”
Chatham held its one-run lead until the fateful seventh inning. In the meantime, Manoah controlled the Commodores batters. The 6’7” right-hander did not have his best stuff but still held the visitors scoreless in five innings of work. Manoah allowed two hits while striking out six on the night.
The West Virginia product did deal with some hiccups. In the top of the third, Manoah slipped when planting his left foot, causing him to sail the ball well above the head of Austin Langworthy (Florida) and into the back netting. Two innings later, he pelted two batters in the same inning.
“It was one of those days you have to compete,” Manoah said. “I didn't really have all my stuff today, my fastball was good, the slider was good at times. It just wasn't as consistent as usual.”
The Anglers’ bats created several opportunities to add to their one-run lead but let sloppy baserunning and strikeouts snatch such chances away.
In the bottom of the third, Busch slapped a two-strike, two-out single to center field. On the next pitch, Simpson cranked another base knock to left, advancing Busch to third and sparking a potential two-out rally. Drew Mendoza (Florida State) walked, loading the bases for Ben Ramirez (Southern California), but the third baseman’s strikeout crushed Chatham’s hopes of adding to its lead.
In the next two frames, it was the Anglers’ mistakes on the basepaths that cancelled their run-scoring chances. Dan Valerio (Southeastern) worked a two-out walk in the fourth before Sabol roped a single to right. Valerio took a wide turn after rounding second base and was gunned down by Falmouth right fielder Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi), ending the inning.
Jones smoked his second base knock of the day to open the bottom of the fifth after an eight-pitch at-bat. Busch flew out to the third baseman in foul territory before Simpson lined out to the shortstop. As the ball flew off Simpson’s bright-blue bat, Jones started toward second base before stopping short and darting back to first. His head-first slide could not salvage the situation, as the Chatham two-hitter was doubled up to end the inning.
All six of the Anglers’ hits came from the first four hitters in the lineup as Jones and Busch each tallied two base hits.
After Falmouth’s five-run seventh, the visitors added a run in the ninth. Despite the loss, Chatham clinched the two-seed and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. In addition, the Mariners solidified their place in third, meaning the two sides will meet in Game One of the East Division semifinals on August 4 at Veterans Field.
"You don't want to get sloppy. Defensively, we're sloppy right now,” Holliday said. “I want to think it's because we're tired. The off day tomorrow couldn't come at a better time. I told the players I didn't want them here at all. No batting practice, no nothing."