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For the second consecutive day, an opposing manager opted to not pitch to Spencer Torkelson. The Arizona State star turned at the dugout, smiled as he tossed his bat and jogged to first.
He’d be back an inning later. This time, it was Jamal O’Guinn’s (USC) turn with the bases loaded in the second. O’Guinn took a curveball and pummeled it to the right field hill at Veterans Field.
When O’Guinn finished his trot around the bases, one teammate quipped. “Good AB.”
The Anglers (6-3-1) had their best offensive performance of the season in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader, defeating Bourne (3-5), 8-2, in seven innings. The Anglers’ lineup showed pop and took advantage of a Bourne pitching staff that dealt out seven free passes. Chatham’s six-run second inning that featured just two hits, was more than enough for the A's pitching to corral the Cape League’s worst offense.
“You get in those situations and whenever you have guys in scoring position, you have to get them in,” O’Guinn said. “He threw me a curveball and he left it out over the plate and I made him pay.”
Austin Vernon (NC Central) and Luke Bartnicki (Georgia Tech) are two of the top strikeout arms in the Anglers’ bullpen this season, and on Sunday, they mowed down batter-after-batter in the Braves’ lineup. Taking advantage of the inside corner, Vernon worked his fastball early in counts to get ahead, then used the outside of the plate to send Braves’ hitters packing.
Vernon struck out the first two batters of the game looking, setting the tone for 15 total strikeouts in 21 outs on the afternoon, the most by any team in a game this season. Vernon allowed the opening run on a throwing error by first baseman Alex Toral (Miami). For the seventh time in 10 games, the Anglers conceded the opening run.
Their deficit didn’t last long, though. Chatham’s second inning showed the abilities of their lineup, up and down, to see pitches and drive in runs. Bourne’s pitcher, JP Woodward, walked three of the first four runners in the inning to bring Brady Smith (Florida) to the plate. Smith drove a 2-1 pitch down the left field line, scoring two.
After Tyler Doanes (West Virginia) laid down a sacrifice bunt, Torkelson walked to the plate. Bourne manager Harvey Shapiro opted to walk him intentionally.
“It’s a respect thing,” Torkelson said of getting intentionally walked. “It’s a compliment, I’m a little against it, I mean it’s summer ball.”
When Yarmouth-Dennis manager Scott Pickler made the same decision on Saturday, it worked, as Smith lined out to third base after Torkelson to end the inning. But O'Guinn made the Braves pay. His grand slam may make managers think twice about giving out free passes to Torkelson. The league’s second best hitter through two weeks (.387 in 31 at-bats), O’Guinn hit his second home run of the summer and his 10th RBI.
When Shapiro decided to pitch to Torkelson in the bottom of the third with a runner on, Torkelson knocked his first home run of the season to almost the exact same spot as O’Guinn.
“Home runs tend to make games look easy,” manager Tom Holliday said. “We have the best home run hitter (Torkelson) in the country. He’s contagious. Everyone else benefits from hitting behind Tork. When you put this team together, how do you protect him, and who’s going to benefit around him.”
One of the benefactors of the Chatham offensive output was its pitching staff. Leading 8-1, Holliday wanted his pitchers to just throw strikes. The next four innings, the A’s walked just one batter. Even when Bartnicki relieved Vernon in the third inning, the dominance continued. Outside of three singles in the fifth that brought in one run, Bartnicki’s command (zero walks) and fastball overwhelmed the Braves. In 3.1 innings, his longest outing of three this year, Bartnicki struck out seven of his 10 recorded outs and allowed just one run.
Burl Carraway (Dallas Baptist) entered in the seventh inning for the first time in 2019. Carraway had been waiting for his opportunity, attempting to get one or two one-inning outings before heading to Team USA tryouts on Tuesday. If there were any rust for Carraway, having not thrown in a game in more than three weeks, he shook it off after an opening walk, striking out two to clinch the A’s biggest win and most complete performance of the season.
“That made pitching real easy for us,” Holliday said. “We had our pitching in perfect alignment to win two games today.”