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Roc Riggio wasn't in the starting lineup for Chatham on Tuesday. But his 32-inch bat laid in the dugout.
Cooper Ingle picked it up before he went into the on-deck circle in the sixth inning, feeling that his 33-inch bat was making him 'drag' earlier in the game. Ingle wasted no time swinging his new piece of equipment, barreling the first pitch he faced directly at first baseman Hunter Stokely for the final out in the top of the sixth.
Two innings later, with two runners on base again, Ingle watched the first pitch. He saved his improved bat speed for the next pitch, belting the ball to deep right field. It landed over the fence and he took off his helmet before touching home plate, greeted by Chatham's entire dugout as he had kept the Anglers' playoff hopes alive.
'We get a three-run dinger and the game just turns around,' Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. 'It just happened on one swing.'
Holliday thought about showing his players the score from Orleans and Wareham's game, as a Firebirds loss meant the Anglers could still secure a playoff spot on Wednesday. He didn't have to give them more motivation as Ingle's home run gave the Anglers their first lead of the night, but Orleans also took the lead off a Luke Keaschall homer roughly 20 minutes earlier. Chatham defeated Harwich 4-2 on Tuesday, but Orleans beat Wareham 6-4, kicking Chatham out of playoff contention.
'It was a chance to rollover and die,' Holliday said. 'They didn't play like that ' it's cool that we won.'
Holliday opted for a bullpen game on Saturday against Harwich, saving arms like Roman Kimball and Owen Stevenson for the final two matchups of the season. A win wasn't necessary, though it would have provided a much-needed boost for the Anglers' playoff hopes. But Chatham's pitching staff couldn't stop Harwich's offense, which scored 10 runs in the first four innings.
Kimball got the start for Chatham on Tuesday though. He hadn't allowed an earned run through 17 innings entering the game but he couldn't find control of his pitches early, walking the first three batters he faced.
With the bases loaded, Kimball threw three straight balls to Brock Wilken before finally landing a pitch in the zone. But he missed on another high fastball on his ensuing heave, sending David Smith walking home for Harwich's first run.
The Mariners hadn't swung at a pitch until Stokely popped the ball to center field in the next at-bat. Jake DeLeo made the catch easily, but Tommy Seidl scored from third.
Will Butcher gave the Anglers their first hit of the night, lofting the ball into shallow right field in the second inning. He rounded first but retreated after Seidl corralled the ball. Butcher lunged back at first base, making it in time as he popped the bag out of its place.
Butcher stole second after Luke Benneche spiked a slider in the dirt with his teammate from UNC Charlotte Kaden Hopson at the plate. But Hopson, like two other Chatham batters already had in the frame against Benneche, swung and missed for the final out.
Kimball improved after his earlier mistakes, facing the minimum over the next two innings. Chatham's defense helped as well with Anthony Nunez and Marcus Brown ending the bottom of the second with throws to first. And Brown raised his glove for a high catch in the third inning before diving headfirst into second base to double off Seidl.
'Kimball struggled, but he got it done,' Holliday said.
Benneche posted his second straight 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth before Kimball ran back onto the mound. He walked Stokely to begin the inning before Kalae Harrison roped the ball into shallow center. It was the Mariners' first hit of the night, but Dennis Cook met with Kimball for the last time, placing Brian Holiday on the mound for Chatham.
Holiday quickly found a rhythm on the bump, striking out six batters in his first three innings. In the top of the sixth, Nunez and Guy Garibay Jr. worked walks, prompting Harwich to replace Benneche with righty sidearmer Griffin Young.
Brown stepped into the left-handed batter's box, chopping back-to-back foul balls before settling back in with a 2-2 count. He swung at a pitch Young heaved low and away from him, but he couldn't make contact.
Nunez and Garibay continued to take a lead off first and second as Ingle came into the batter's box. But he was put out at first, keeping the Anglers with two hits through the first six innings.
Holiday continued to deal on the mound, putting out 17 consecutive batters. He said the high fastball was working for him, and he placed his curveball 'everywhere' during his outing. Holiday finished with 10 strikeouts over six innings in relief.
Harrison finally broke through Holiday and the Anglers' defense, blooping the ball into shallow left field in the top of the ninth. Brown leaped for the catch, but it went inches above his glove. After walking a batter, Holiday forced a grounder to seal the Anglers' win.
'I'm glad I was able to get that next guy out,' Holiday said.
A half-inning earlier, Chatham had extended its lead. The Mariners replaced Young with Gerry Peacock on the mound, and Butcher immediately took advantage of the new arm. He rocketed the second pitch he faced into left field, hitting the top of the trees bordering the Whitehouse Field outfield fence. Like Ingle, he was received by the entirety of the Chatham dugout after successfully notching his first home run of the year.