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Chatham concedes seven runs in sixth inning, held to 10-10 draw in season opener

by Tyler Schiff
Sunday, June 11, 2023

Chatham concedes seven runs in sixth inning, held to 10-10 draw in season opener
It all came down to Cameron Pittman. With two runners on board in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Radford outfielder walked up to the plate.

Brewster closer Ben Gorski put the count at two strikes early, but Pittman recorded foul ball after foul ball to maintain an exciting aura at Veterans Field. The scoreboard read 10–10.

“I was getting fastballs but missing them by just a second,” Pittman said. “He [Gorski] threw a 1-2 slider and I got fooled so I have to tip my cap to him for a good pitch.”

Chatham fans had seen it all. From a four-inning scoring streak by the Anglers to a seven-run sixth inning by Brewster, this contest could best be described as a shootout. But with Pittman in a position to win it all, Anglers’ fans would not eventually experience that final sigh of relief as the hitter struck out in his first at-bat of the season.

Behind a 12-hit day from the Anglers’ offense, and a lights-out performance by starter Parker Smith, Chatham (0–0–1 East) tied the Whitecaps (1–0–1 East) 10–10 in its 2023 season opener. With the tie, Chatham manager Tom Holliday is now 1–2–2 in opening day games throughout his five-year tenure.

“It was kind of a weird game,” Holliday said. “I mean it happens. A weird opener but I guess a tie is better than a loss. I don’t know, I have a hard time with ties.”

In the top of the first inning, Brewster’s leadoff man Will Turner fired a grounder past Chatham’s shortstop, Sam Antonacci, to land on first. Two batters later, Smith was just one strike away from fanning James Tibbs, but the Whitecap hit a sacrifice fly into deep center field to make it 1–0.

The Chatham bats lit up in the bottom of the first inning, however, and never stopped. Texas A&M freshman Kaeden Kent stepped up as Chatham’s sixth batter with the bases loaded and sent a line drive that made a beeline near second base. Brewster shortstop Payton Green seemingly had an easy pickup, but fumbled, allowing Jared Sprague-Lott and Janson Reeder to cross home safely to give the A’s a 2–1 lead.

Smith managed his first 1-2-3 inning to begin the second frame, placing Chatham back at the plate. In his second at-bat, with Antonacci and designated hitter Kaden Hopson on base, Sprague-Lott launched a deep ball to left field that was mishandled. The error led to cheers at Veterans Field as well as a two-RBI double to increase the Anglers’ cushion to three.

“He [Smith] looked as good as he has all year,” Smith’s teammate at Rice and fellow Anglers pitcher Hayden Durke said. “He goes out there, throws strikes and competes his butt off. He was locked down and locked in.”

Entering the bottom of the third, Brewster opted to bring in Rocco Reid as a reliever. Xavier Casserilla punched an RBI single down the right side to give Chatham a 5–1 advantage, and, in the following frame, Reeder connected perfectly for a two-RBI home run.

After four innings of one-run baseball from Smith, Holliday went to the bullpen to bring out Durke to start the fifth.

Durke, who did not play in a collegiate baseball game throughout the entire 2023 season, was last featured on the mound for the Anglers in 2022. Despite reaching speeds of up to 101 miles per hour and moving through his first inning unscathed, Brewster’s offense would pile on six runs alone in the top of the sixth, striking a gut-wrenching punch into Chatham’s lead.

“I just went out and had a lot of adrenaline at first,” Durke said. “Not throwing in a year and only getting an inning every week for the spring, it really wasn’t built up and it kind of caught up to me after the first. I just couldn’t get it rolling again.”

Despite Durke’s explosive pitches, his deliveries were occasionally errant. This trend continued so much so that Holliday paid him a brief visit on the mound before taking him out completely. Two Brewster bats piped homers in the top of the sixth, respectively, before a Reeder error in center field allowed the Whitecaps to score two more runners to make it 8–7 in their favor.

Weston Eberly registered an RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to add another run to Brewster’s lead, but after three scoreless innings, the Anglers finally chipped back.

Pittman entered the game as a pinch-runner and scored on an RBI single from Antonacci, and the top junior college hitter in the country scored unconventionally on a dropped third-strike stolen base by Reeder.

Kyson Donahue, who had previously gone 0-4 on the night, then promptly hit a line drive between second and third base for a 10–9 Chatham lead.

“I knew at that point that I was going to have another opportunity to come into play in a big situation,” Donahue said. “I knew that their pitcher was throwing a lot of fastballs to the left-handed hitters so I was just ready for a pitch I could hit.”

The advantage would be short-lived, however, as the Whitecaps’ designated hitter Dylan Leach soared a ball high above the Anglers’ outfield and past the outstretched hand of Ballestero for the contest’s final run of the game to knot things up at 10.

Not a single run was scored in the tenth inning despite the Cape Cod Baseball League’s new rules of placing a runner on second base for extra innings. With Ervis Solis on the mound, Chatham produced a crucial double play to stretch it into the bottom of the tenth inning, but the offense couldn’t convert. The Anglers will now look to Monday’s matchup with Hyannis in hopes of clinching their first victory.

“You can tell there’s a little unsettledness amongst the team,” Durke said. “I think these guys are hungry and ready to play.”