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BREWSTER — When Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee) took the mound on June 15 for his 2018 summer debut, the Chatham Anglers could barely touch him. The right-hander allowed one-hit — a solo homer to Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington) — and struck out eight in four innings as the Brewster Whitecaps blew out the A’s, 10-1, at Veterans Field.
Nearly two months later, the Anglers reversed the narrative.
Facing Linginfelter in Game 2 of the East Division Championship Series, it wasn’t Chatham’s power display — like the one it showed in Game 1 of the series — that frustrated the Brewster pitching staff. Rather, Linginfelter was worn down by patient at-bats. Throwing 65 pitches, he walked five and struck out one. After three innings, his day was over.
“We remembered [Linginfelter] pitching against us earlier in the year,” Blake Sabol (Southern California) said. “He was throwing a lot harder than he did today.”
Chatham (4-0) used long, drawn-out at-bats to force Linginfelter out of the game early and defeat the Whitecaps (2-2), 3-2, to advance to the Cape League Championship Series for the first time since 2001.
Michael Busch (North Carolina), the third batter of the game, made Linginfelter work right off the bat, but not before the A’s jumped out to a quick lead. Sabol whacked a ground-rule double over the right-field fence on the first pitch of the game. He dashed across home plate just four pitches later off a Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) RBI double.
“I think that set the tone early when I got that first-pitch fastball and drove it,” Sabol said. “When I got back to the dugout, I told everyone it seemed like [Linginfelter] was tired.”
Busch fell behind in the count, 1-2, before fouling off a pitch and taking three balls for Linginfelter’s first walk of the game. In the second inning, Chatham continued to grind out at-bats.
Drew Mendoza (Florida State) — making his first start of the postseason — did not swing at any of the five pitches Linginfelter threw to him to start the frame and drew a walk. Later in the inning with two outs, Kyle McCann (Georgia Tech) worked a full count before lacing a seeing-eye single to right.
Working deep into counts, fouling off pitches and patience at the plate greatly affects a pitcher’s performance, Anglers manager Tom Holliday said on August 5.
“Walks are going to get pitchers worn out, their velocities are going to drop,” Holliday said. “You keep giving us opportunities to go around our batting order until we get the right guys to the plate.”
Sabol and Torkelson — the one- and two-hitters in the A’s lineup — continued to frustrate Linginfelter with extended at-bats. In the third, Sabol fell behind 0-2, watched three balls pass by and fouled one off before seeing a pitch sail wide of the strike zone for a leadoff walk. Torkelson followed up with a patient at-bat of his own, working a six-pitch walk after Linginfelter threw a first-pitch strike.
Despite all of Chatham’s baserunners, it mustered just two runs during Linginfelter’s outing. The Whitecaps turned three double plays in the first four frames to avoid a bigger deficit.
“Those first three innings when we left all those runners, that will bite you in the rear end,” Holliday said. “That has a little bit of a karma about it and I wondered about that.”
Mendoza led off the fourth by drawing another free pass, this time coming on seven pitches. That marked the last batter Linginfelter saw before being replaced by Jeff Criswell (Michigan). In three innings, the Tennessee product tossed just 29 strikes in 65 pitches.
On June 15, six Chatham players — Jones, Sabol, Torkelson, McCann, Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) and Ben Ramirez (Southern California) — combined to go 1-for-8 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch. Friday, those same six hitters went a combined 3-for-7 with two walks.
“We just try to have quality at-bats,” Sabol said. “The name of the game is just trying to get on base, whether it's an error or a walk or preferably a base knock. Fortunately for us, we were seeing pitches well today.”