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COTUIT — Brady Smith (Florida) had an entire season’s worth of experience hitting at Lowell Park in Cotuit. Paxton Wallace (Wichita State) had just three at-bats. Both carried Chatham’s offense to another victory on Saturday.
Smith spent his entire 2018 summer with the Kettleers, hitting his only home run against Chatham. On Saturday, he hit his first 2019 homer against his former team. Smith launched a two-run blast in the second inning to put the A’s in front of Cotuit after Chatham conceded the opening run.
Unlike Smith, Wallace had only ever been to Lowell Park once. In the A’s first visit to Cotuit, Wallace notched a single. Saturday, he was a home run short of the cycle.
The two, who’ve danced around the A’s lineup, had their best offensive games of the season on Saturday night to carry the Anglers (14-7-1) to their seventh win in eight games, beating Cotuit 5-3 in a daylight-shortened, seven-inning game.
The A’s won their third consecutive game against the Kettleers in 2019, all three after conceding the opening run in the first inning. While the middle of their lineup went a combined 1-for-7, five hits combined from Wallace and Smith scored and drove in three of the A’s five runs.
“You could say it was revenge a little bit,” Smith said. “I got to play in front of the people I played in front of last year.”
In Smith’s first at-bat, he saw a fastball up in the zone and belted a line drive to left-center. The Kettleers’ outfielder, Parker Chavers, barely even moved for it. The home run brought his Florida teammate Kendrick Calilao in from first.
After Smith returned to Florida in the fall, Gators manager Kevin O’Sullivan asked if Smith wanted to change teams. He did, and after speaking with manager Tom Holliday and assistant coach Randy Whistler, he was set on Chatham for his second Cape League summer.
“I didn’t even know Brady had played for Cotuit,” Holliday said. “Smith is a very popular name, and I did not know that. When I asked (O’Sullivan) for recommendations, I took everyone he told me to take.”
In the same frame, Wallace was anticipating a two-strike fastball. He smashed the ball into the right-center field gap, and it reached the wall. Wallace slid head first into third base with a triple. Holliday has said the A’s need a right-handed hitter who can hit lefties well, and on Saturday, Wallace was exactly that.
During one inning break, a stray throw from center fielder Colin Hall (Georgia Tech) hit Wallace in the back of the head. Wallace suffered a concussion back on June 16 in a doubleheader at Wareham after a ball bounced up and hit him in the forehead on a close play at third base. He missed a week of game action.
“You hate not playing, when you get in you want to grind,” Wallace said. When I came back, my first round of BP was bad. Two or three days after I swung the bat again, and ever since then I keep getting a good feel for the swing.”
He iced his head in between innings and went back out to first before his next at-bat. With Smith on first after a walk, Wallace lined another ball into the gap, this time a hanging slider that ended as a one-hopper into the wall. Smith raced around to score and tie the give the Anglers the 4-3 lead.
Chatham had dug its way out of a deficit again. Hugh Fisher started for the Anglers, and the Cape League’s hottest hitter, Nick Gonzales, took him deep on the third pitch in the bottom of the first inning. Fisher, who recently arrived on the Cape after winning a national championship at Vanderbilt, allowed four consecutive singles that drove in two runs to reclaim the Kettleers lead, 3-2.
Fisher was relieved by Zach Cable (Kentucky) in the third inning. The A’s usual late-inning reliever found himself in an extended middle relief role on Saturday, and he excelled. The right-hander shut down a Cotuit offense fresh off a 16-run performance on Friday against Hyannis. In four scoreless innings, Cable allowed just one hit and struck out two. He saved a short-staffed pitching rotation that had just three pitchers available the entire game.
“Cable gave us the win,” Holliday said. “After (Wu-Yelland), we had nobody. Cable was the key to that ballgame for us.”
After Smith and Wallace’s walk and RBI double combination gave Chatham the lead in the fourth, Wallace again played a key role in adding an insurance run in the seventh. He lasered a breaking ball straight back at the opposing pitcher for a leadoff single. Then, Wallace scored four batters later on an infield single by Jorge Arenas (Stetson).
Wallace never got a fourth at-bat to try to complete the cycle because the game ended early due to darkness and an 18-minute delay after an umpire exited the game due to injury. Smith and Wallace had done enough to continue the A’s best stretch of 2019.
“Paxton did what he has to do,” Holliday said. “We need someone to surface as a left-handed pitcher killer. Because we struggle from that side. Paxton made a statement tonight.”