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Cooper Ingle was out of breath. As Chatham's de facto designated hitter, he spends most of his ballgame respiration charging between bases, calming himself in the batter's box or conversing with assistant coach Randy Whisler about his previous at-bats.
But after blasting a walk-off line drive into center field, Ingle zigged and zagged through Veterans Field while his teammates chased him from all directions, avoiding the probable dogpile before he finally caught his breath.
'I was running from first all the way to the right field wall,' Ingle said.
The Anglers were held hitless for five innings, similar to their first matchup against the Firebirds this season when they were no-hit. Ingle broke the hitless streak, paving the path for the offense before certifying the 3-2 win over Orleans. Ben Hampton allowed one run in his 7.1 innings on the mound ' the most from a Chatham starter this season ' which Ingle and the Angler bats eventually took advantage of.
Hampton and Donye Evans traded strong frames to start the game, striking out a combined six batters in the opening two innings. The Anglers loaded the bases through walks and wild pitches in the first, bringing Caden Grice to the box. But he struck out on five pitches. And five pitches later, Lyle Miller-Green sent a weak bouncer directly at the mound to end the frame.
The Firebirds registered the first hit of the night when Garret Guillemette sent the ball scorching toward second base in the third inning. Roc Riggio dove to his right, losing his hat and sunglasses, but it bounced past him.
Chatham quickly erased all baserunners with a 4-6-3 double play and the frame ended after a pop fly. Travis Honeyman rolled the ball down the third base line in the ensuing fourth inning, and the ball eventually reached the Anglers bullpen for a ground rule double. Nate Furman then launched a similar hit off a Hampton breaking ball down the right field line, bouncing it right over the first base bag as Honeyman rounded home.
Honeyman's score was the only blemish in Hampton's showing as he avoided a bases loaded situation to end the inning. He vacated the mound in the seventh inning after striking out seven batters, but manager Tom Holliday said he kept asking for the ball.
'That might have been the best pitched game,' Holliday said. 'That kid can really pitch pitch.'
The Anglers stayed hitless against Evans, who was pulled in the fifth inning. Cole Reynolds took to the mound, and Ingle said he wanted to attack early, sending the first pitch of his first at-bat against Reynolds' into shallow left field.
'I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball, and luckily for us it fell,' Ingle said.
Ingle advanced to third following a grounder from Grice. Though Grice was put out at first, Brown said the team's focus on more team-oriented at-bats late in the game allowed them to bring in more runs.
'When your thought in the box is to get a guy over or get a guy in, you start putting the ball in play,' Brown said. 'We were having more team at-bats and putting balls in play regardless of if they were being hit hard or not.'
Lyle Miller-Green came up, grabbing the tip of his bat with his left hand before facing the third pitch he saw. He boomeranged the ball back at Reynolds, who made the easy throw to first to maintain Orleans' lead.
Guy Garibay Jr. fixed his gloves before stretching out his right wrist in the seventh. Unlike Ingle, Garibay Jr. made contact with the sixth pitch he saw, but the dribbler between second and third base awkwardly bounced in front of Kevin Sim.
Sim wasn't able to grab it in time, and Mitchell Daly touched home base for Chatham's first run.
After fouling the first pitch he saw, Brown dribbled the ball down the right field line, matching its speed with his stride toward first base. Brown reached in time, bringing Jake DeLeo home for the leading run.
Garibay Jr. was hit by a pitch before placing his cleats on home plate for the game-clinching run, then advancing to second off a wild pitch. Brown bunted to get him to third, putting enough force on the ball to make it to first base himself before Ingle stepped in for the next at-bat.
'Playing a team game, you have to play on behalf of the team,' Brown said.