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During a ceremony prior to the Anglers' Fourth of July matchup against the Firebirds, former Chatham manager John Schiffner delivered a simple message:
'The season doesn't start until July 4 against Orleans.'
For an Anglers team that entered the holiday with a 4-13-3 record, the words provided a sigh of relief. At that point, Chatham had been shut out four times and was averaging 2.25 runs per game, a mark that prompted manager Tom Holliday to joke about burning the team's bats in a beachside bonfire on June 25. Four days later, the Firebirds no-hit the Anglers.
But the bonfire never took place, and Schiffner's words proved true. Despite missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, Chatham's 4.83 runs per game over its final 24 contests defined a second-half surge that kept the Anglers in the hunt for playoff contention until the last days of the season. Over its final 14 games, Chatham went 9-3-2.
Beyond Holliday's bonfire plans or Schiffner's remarks was a more concrete reason behind the Anglers' uptick in offensive production. On July 6, Rusty Greer, who batted .305 over his nine-year Major League career, joined the Anglers as their hitting coach.
'Sometimes guys try to bark when they coach, he just kinda talked to the guys, presented the ideas to them, didn't ram anything down their throat ' and I thought he was very effective,' Holliday said.
From his first day with the Anglers, Greer focused his attention on helping hitters with their mindset rather than reworking anyone's swing.
'He just had so many great pointers about approach and getting up to the plate,' Matt Hogan said.
After going 0-10-5 in its first 15 road games, Chatham captured its first win away from Veterans Field on July 16 against Yarmouth-Dennis. The 6-2 victory also marked the start of a five-game winning streak.
In the top of the sixth inning, Guy Garibay Jr. roped a bases-clearing double to give Chatham the lead. Garibay was in the midst of a 10-game stretch in which he went 10 for 30 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and six extra-base hits.
'I was off to a rough start at the beginning and in my head I was just like, 'You just gotta keep going, keep going, keep going.' And one good moment led to another, and I just pushed off that,' Garibay said.
Before the Anglers' last game, Garibay won the team's Silver Slugger Award along with Jake DeLeo.
'It was definitely a summer that's gonna go down as one of my best baseball experiences,' Garibay said.
In addition to Garibay, Roc Riggio added a spark to Chatham's offense in the later weeks of the summer. After beginning the season 2 for 37, the Anglers second baseman went on a 12-game hitting streak from July 10 to July 27. Riggio belted his first home run of the season in the first inning of the last game of his hitting streak, a 6-0 win over Falmouth. Four innings later, he hammered another home run, giving him five of the Anglers' six RBIs in the contest.
While its offense received help internally, Chatham bolstered its pitching staff with the additions of Roman Kimball and Owen Stevenson, two of 61 players who were on the Anglers roster at one point or another during the summer.
Kimball made his first appearance with the Anglers on July 8 and did not surrender an earned run in his first 17 innings. He finished with 28 strikeouts and a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings.
Stevenson made four appearances ' the first of which came on July 14 ' and three starts with Chatham, pitching to the tune of a 3.09 ERA. The right-hander pitched the first seven innings of Chatham's only nine-inning shutout this summer.
Kimball and Stevenson started the Anglers' final two games ' a 4-2 comeback win over Harwich and an 8-6 victory over Y-D.
In the midst of the Anglers' game against Harwich on Aug. 2, Orleans sealed a 6-4 win over Wareham to knock Chatham out of playoff contention. The Anglers trailed 2-0 at the time at Whitehouse Field, but Cooper Ingle's three-run homer in the eighth inning gave Chatham the lead.
Chatham entered its final game with nothing on the line. On the other side, the Red Sox were playing for the East Division crown, something Anglers shortstop Marcus Brown said the team used as motivation. After falling behind 4-2 in the fourth inning, Chatham scored six unanswered runs en route to its 15th win.
'It's real easy to just roll over and come out here today and just get your butt pounded, but they didn't do that,' Holliday said after Chatham's regular-season finale.
'You kinda hope that over the whole summer that you get a point across, and I've tried to make it a point that this game is tough, but you have to be tougher if you wanna make money and play this game. ' The moral to the whole thing is they didn't quit.'