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Kaden Polcovich (Northwest Florida State) did what baserunners rarely do. Standing on second base with just one out, Polcovich ambitiously tagged and ran to third base on a deep fly ball to left field.
Despite the short distance from the catch, Polcovich beat the throw. A few pitches later, a pitch squirted past Hyannis catcher Chad McDaniel, and Polcovich, with three hits already on the day, darted home to give Chatham its first lead of the night in the top of the 10th.
“You never want to make the last out at third,” Polcovich said. “But I heard the guys in the dugout yelling 'you got three' so I thought I had a chance. I went off my instinct.”
Chatham erased a 4-1 deficit entering the eighth inning, scratching their way back into the game despite a disappointing effort with runners on base. Even though they stranded 15 runners in total, the Anglers survived.
The A’s haven’t practiced much together, they’re still learning each other’s names, and the bats haven’t settled in yet. Because of the number of players making their respective routes to the Cape, head coach Tom Holliday said Monday’s season opener would be “an all-star game” due to the unfamiliarity with one another. He hoped the talent would do the talking. Monday night, Chatham’s bats were relatively silent when it mattered most, and it still didn’t matter.
Only once did the A's drive in a run on an actual hit. The other scores came off a sacrifice fly, a walk and a wild pitch – five in total – enough for Chatham (1-0) to beat the Hyannis Harbor Hawks (0-1), 5-4, in 10 innings in the opening game of the Cape Cod Baseball League season.
“The look on their faces when a situation comes up to where the games on the line,” Holliday said. “Some guys are going to make a statement as to what they have this summer.”
After missing multiple opportunities earlier in the game, Chatham finally strung together hits in succession in the eighth inning. A Jamal O’Guinn (USC) single through the hole in left, a Charlie Welch (Pepperdine) full-count walk and a Ben Ramirez (USC) single set up the bases loaded for Adan Fernandez (Florida International).
Including the end of his collegiate season, Fernandez had just one hit in his last 28 at-bats, including two strikeouts prior on Monday night. Then, he ripped a 1-1 pitch over the third baseman’s head and into the left field corner. Two runs scored, and the Anglers had two more on, trailing by just one run.
“At the end of the day, it’s a new game up here,” Fernandez said. “It’s fun to come out here. I felt like I gave some life to the team and it helps to bring us closer as a team.”
But like most of the night, Chatham couldn’t bring home the ensuing runners. Paxton Wallace (Wichita State) struck out after Fernandez, and Hyannis lefty Nick Mondak (St. John's) made back-to-back fielding plays on the pitcher’s mound to turn potential hits into outs and leave the runners stranded. The tying run was 90 feet away, but it never came home. At least not yet.
In 2018, Chatham tagged Hyannis starter Joseph Quintal (Fordham) for five runs in one inning. But this year, Quintal kept the Anglers off balanced with first-pitch breaking balls for strikes, and only allowed two hits through three innings.
Their first chance came in the third inning after Jorge Arenas notched a third inning single off Quintal on a blooper to right field. Polcovich followed it with a hard-hit single in the gap, leaving Chatham with two runners on and none out. The Anglers managed just one run, though, after a miscue on the bases. On a wild pitch that got away from McDaniel, Polcovich attempted to follow behind Arenas and take second, but was thrown out. With Arenas on third, Colin Hall (Georgia Tech) hit a deep fly to left that comfortably scored Arenas to tie the game at one.
“We had a lot of good at-bats,” Holliday said. “Yeah, we had a bunch of strikeouts, but they were good at-bats, fouling balls off, going deep in counts.”
Wallace stepped into the batter's box in the ninth inning in a similar position to most of his teammates the entire night. Runners on, two outs, a chance to tie the game. He didn’t have to swing the bat. Wallace looked at four balls in five pitches before tossing his bat toward the Chatham dugout as Hall jogged home to tie the game at four runs apiece.
The Wallace walk brought Drenis Ozuna (Oklahoma Wesleyan) to the plate, with the same opportunity Wallace had. He could give Chatham the lead. Five pitches later, Ozuna looked at a breaking pitch on the outside corner for strike three.
But even after they tied the game in the ninth, the Anglers weren’t done clawing runs out. They managed one more. Despite all of the missed chances, it was Polcovich’s high-risk, high-reward play that decided the game. An intelligent tag up and a wild pitch steal of home that delivered the first win of the 2019 season.
“Hey guys,” Holliday said as he walked toward the team bus, “we’re in first place.”