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Both Colin Hall (Georgia Tech) and Cooper Davis (Vanderbilt) laid down bunts in the high Brewster grass, and beat out an infield single in the third and fourth innings.
Manager Tom Holliday said on Monday the A’s needed to bunt more to compensate for their lack of power up and down the lineup. On Tuesday, Chatham had both.
“I reminded them how important it is for guys like that to get those base hits,” Holliday said. “When you’re tired and you’re hitting the ball hard and it’s not going anywhere, a bunt base hit is the same as a line drive for your batting average.”
The A’s used the bunts and power to rack up 13 total hits, the most Chatham has had in one game since a 15-1 drubbing of Yarmouth-Dennis on July 1. For the first time in more than a week, Chatham had a stress-free victory. The Anglers offense added five runs in the opening two frames, three different pitchers were steady on the mound and the Anglers (19-11-2) rolled to a 7-2 win, their fourth consecutive victory and second-straight against division opponent Brewster (13-16-1).
“I don’t like to use the word team in this setting,” Holliday said. “But you look at the last two, three nights, we’ve turned it around on a tie. I think we’ve turned it around, I think we’ve become a ballclub.”
Holliday spent the majority of the season wondering why his team rarely, if ever, finds early offense.
Whether it’s the opposing starter, an inability to hit breaking balls early in counts or any other reason, the Anglers haven’t scored early. On Tuesday, Chatham didn’t need to be the “late-inning ball club” that multiple players have dubbed them as. For the fifth time all season, the Anglers scored in the first.
The influx of lefties in the lineup against Brewster right-handed starter Chance Huff sparked an early onslaught. Of Chatham’s 13 baserunners in the first four innings, 10 came from the left side of the batter's box.
“He had trouble commanding his stuff, it was kind of easy,” Saul Garza (LSU) said of Huff. “I mean any pitcher that is giving up free passes, you try to take advantage of those as best you can.”
Switch-hitter Kaden Polcovich (Oklahoma State) doubled to the right field corner to lead off the game, and Davis drove him in with a line drive single up the middle. Alex Toral (Miami) continued his current 11-for-17 hitting stretch by belting a first pitch fastball over the head of the Whitecaps’ second baseman, and his collegiate teammate Anthony Vilar (Miami) hit a deep fly to left to plate Davis, the A’s second run.
Chatham had a cushion before starter Cole Ayers (State College of Florida) had to deliver his first pitch. He skipped to the mound and delivered a perfect first inning in just seven pitches, enabling the Anglers offense to go back out and build a bigger lead.
Newcomer Saul Garza (LSU) notched his second hit in five at-bats when he roped a single into left-center to begin the second. Polcovich reached base again, this time through a base on balls, and set up Davis to drive in Garza another run with a single.
While Chatham was at one point the league’s worst offensive team with runners in scoring position, the Anglers have improved their situational average 40 points to .203. That’s mostly due to Davis and Polcovich, who are a combined 15-for-32 with 21 RBIs with runners in scoring position.
“We got a bunch of two-out hits tonight,” Holliday said. “Those first five runs were huge. We shouldn’t lose with our pitching with a five-run lead, and we didn’t.’
Garza had five home runs at LSU in the spring, and after his rocket to left-center that cleared the 375 foot sign in the fifth frame, he’s now opened his summer tally in just his seventh at-bat. His home run pushed Chatham’s lead to 6-1. Garza said he’d been “fooled” on a prior pitch in the same at-bat.
“I had an idea it was gone,” Garza said. “I got a pitch I could handle that time and took advantage.”
With A’s pitching in control, Brewster never brought the tying run to the plate. Ayers cruised through his first four innings, and after loading the bases in the fifth, his former college teammate Mason Hazelwood (Kentucky) struck out both hitters to strand all three runners.
When Hazelwood walked back to the bench, Ayers was the first one to greet and congratulate him on the top step of the dugout.
Chatham didn’t need its traditional late-inning rally. The lead was now on Hazelwood and Zach Cable (Oklahoma State), who combined to throw 4.2 innings while allowing just one run. Unlike the late drama of the last three wins, Chatham strolled to its fourth.
“We just did back-to-back and back-to-back. That’s four wins against two teams in a row,” Holliday said. “That’s not easy. The temptation to go home has passed them, and now they want to play for something.”