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Looking to close its five-run gap, Brewster’s Duke Ellis singled into right field. The bases were loaded, and down 5-4, the Whitecaps could score the go-ahead run on what should have been a single.
The ball neared right fielder Kendrick Calilao (Florida) as he went to throw it home, the ball bounced under his glove. The ball rolled, all the way to the ‘357’ sign in right-center field. By the time the ball was relayed back into the infield, the A’s lead had disappeared off a four-run sequence.
“We broke down today on the mound,” manager Tom Holliday said.
Offensive struggles had plagued Chatham in its last three game. But in the first three innings, its cold bats turned into five early runs. But slowly, its lead disappeared off a trio of pitchers. The A’s allowed eight unanswered runs spanning from the fourth to sixth inning that was topped off by a basing clearing error. With the loss, Chatham (23-16-2) dropped its fourth straight game, this one to Brewster (17-22-2), 8-5.
Following the loss, Chatham has a game at 7 p.m. with Orleans at Eldredge Park — a three-hour gap from the end of Tuesday’s first game.
"We just need to flush it and go home,” Welch said. “Get a hot shower. Maybe cold actually."
The struggles of not only Chatham, but Brewster, a team who’s playoff hopes have gotten gloomier each game, have been well documented. The Whitecaps dropped their last contest by 10 runs. And that wasn’t as bad as the A’s last loss, a 11-0 bombardment against Harwich.
“Sometimes, when you clinch it’s easy to just chill and wait for the playoffs,” pitcher Austin Vernon (NC Central) said on Monday. “But we can’t do that.”
Both regressions could be broken with one big game — they just needed offense to start a takeover. That started with Hueston Morrill (Oklahoma State), who’s been a positive in Chatham’s recent cold stretch. Morrill came into Tuesday batting 8-for-18 in the leadoff position. When the A’s mustered just four hits against Harwich on Sunday, he had three of them. Tuesday, Morrill kept his hot streak going with a leadoff single.
The same opportunity arose in the second, this time with nobody out, and the A’s appeared to blow it again after two straight outs. But then, Morrill came up. The right-hander got up in the count and when a fastball came on the outer edge, he floated a ball toward the right field corner to score the A’s first run since Sunday. After they got over the hump, the Whitecaps gifted the Anglers a second run on an errant pickoff attempt at first.
“I thought we looked relaxed,” Holliday said. “Yet, you still have to play seven innings.”
Ty Madden (Texas) ran through the Brewster lineup in the first three innings, recording seven strikeouts — all swinging — through nine outs. He preserved the lead, and two more got on in the bottom of the third off a pair of walks.
Charlie Welch (St. Johns River State) started down 1-2 and took a fourth pitch ball. At Pepperdine, his first collegiate at-bat was a grand slam. In his next 94 at-bats, he wouldn’t have another long ball. Against Brewster, Welch muscled a ball over the left field fence toward the A’s batting cage for his third blast of the season. It unloaded the bases and gave Chatham a quick 5-0 lead.
“I knew it wasn’t going to get by me and he gave me one two-strike count,” Welch said. “I turned on it and got it.”
The lead started to deflate, though. Madden loaded the bases to start the fourth, and walked a run home. Jeremy Wu-Yelland (Hawaii) closed the fourth, but allowed a two-run shot to right to pull the Whitecaps within two scores. Wu-Yelland faltered again in the sixth, keeping Brewster within one, and side-arm closer Dawson Merryman (Texas) came in.
With two on, Merryman allowed a base hit down the third base line to load the bases. That’s when Calilao’s mishap happened. The swing was a four-run swing, one the A’s would have just two innings to recover from.
“We threw a lot of dumb pitches to the plate today,” Holliday said. “Wasn’t like anybody didn’t have good stuff, they just weren’t very smart.”
Brady Smith (Florida) ripped a long fly ball to center to start the sixth, but it came up a couple of feet short. The A's loaded the bases in the seventh with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts ended the chance.
It’s offensive outburst was overshadowed in the later innings, and Brewster would run away with a season-saving win at Veterans Field.
“That’s a ball club that’s playing for its life,” Holliday said. “(They) walk in, don't take infield, don’t take BP, and just walk out and beat you.”