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Durke's six strikeouts, Chatham's 12 hits leads A's to second home win

by Graham Dietz
Friday, June 16, 2023

Durke's six strikeouts, Chatham's 12 hits leads A's to second home win
Five days after appearing in Chatham’s season opener and allowing seven runs in a devastating sixth inning, starting pitcher Hayden Durke entered the A’s sixth contest of the season on the hot seat.

Seven pitches later, it didn’t look like that hot seat had ever existed.

Topping out at 97 miles per hour, Durke tossed a 1-2-3 inning to open the affair, notching one strikeout along the way. And unlike his first appearance of the year—a relief outing—the starter fanned three more in the top of the second, finding his stride with a poise.

“Just kind of went out there and found a groove early,” Hayden Durke said. “Pounded the strike zone and try to get my team in the dugout and let them hit the ball.”

Behind Durke’s performance and a 12-hit day by the Anglers’ offense, Chatham (2–3–1 East) tallied its second win of the season over the visiting Gateman (3–3–0 West) to stay undefeated at Veterans Field with a 7–4 victory.

“Same arm, same guy,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said of Durke. “You have to remember Durke hadn’t pitched in over a year. … He was a lot more relaxed. He did the things today that you would expect to see in a guy’s second time out.”

The bottom of the first inning went just as quickly as the top when Wareham starter Will Koger pitched a 1-2-3 inning of his own.

But the bottom of the second got out of Koger’s grasp. Kaeden Kent advanced Oklahoma State’s Nolan Schubart to second base with an infield single, and Mark Shallenberger put the runners in scoring position with a bunt. Janson Reeder grounded out to make it 1–0 Anglers.

Durke issued a walk on four consecutive balls to the second batter of the third inning, but his control showed, as he struck out two more.

“This game is played between ears,” Holliday said. “The only difference between one guy throwing 95 with a good curveball and the other guy throwing 95 with a good curveball is what’s between the guy’s ears—his mentality.”

With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Arizona State product Nick McLain clobbered a home run off Durke into right field. That was the only scab the righty would suffer, though, as North Carolina’s Ben Peterson replaced him on the mound in the top of the fifth. Still, Durke finished his second shot on the Cape in 2023 with six total strikeouts.

“There’s one thing about baseball you don’t know until you play,” Holliday said. “You don’t know the guy's temper. Guys like him [Durke] who got a year taken away from him is pitching with a lot of tension, a lot of built-up anger. I think tonight he looked like he was totally controlled.”

Before Peterson even came out, Shallenberger squared up a two-RBI homer in the bottom of the fourth inning, adding two runs to Chatham’s lead. But every time the A’s struck, so did Wareham.

With a man on first base in the top of the fifth inning, Bobby Boser stepped up to the plate for the Gateman and deposited a home run to deep right-center to tie the game at 3–3.

Chatham loaded the bases for Schubart in the bottom of the fifth inning against Wareham reliever Alexander Hughes, however, and the six-foot-five lefty batter hit a sacrifice fly ball into center field for a 4–3 A’s lead.

“When you don’t play this game for three weeks, that’s a long break,” Holliday said of Schubart. “Two hits tonight, that’s kind of what he is. He’s a high-level hitter. This is a hard ballpark to hit at twilight.”

After a scoreless top of the sixth inning, Shallenberger walked in the bottom of the sixth, and Logan Suave posted a two-out RBI single to make it 5–3.

Peterson pitched another scoreless inning in the top of the seventh, and Schubart recorded the first hit of his Anglers career with a low-arching shot to left field in the bottom of the seventh.

Kent then scooped a single to center field, putting runners on first base and third with one out. Jack Bowry, the Gateman reliever, hit Shallenberger to load the bases, and Vanderbilt product Chris Maldonado launched a ball to center field to score a sixth run for the A’s in his first at-bat.

“Really good,” Kaeden Kent said of how it felt to post 12 hits as a team. “Everytime you can look at a guy who has success in the game of baseball as hitters and learners of the game, you look at other hitters and see what they do well and maybe implement it in your swing if it works.”

After putting a man on third base and first, respectively, in the top of the eighth inning with two outs, Chatham manager Tom Holliday substituted Ervis Solis for Georgia Tech’s Aeden Finateri. While a McLain single piled on a fourth run for Wareham, Finateri struck out Dorian Gonzalez to stop the Gateman offense there.

West Virginia's JJ Wetherholt pummeled a home run ball in the bottom of the eighth inning to increase the A’s lead to 7–4, and Finateri finished the job with a punch out in the top of the ninth.

“You play a tight game all the way through,” Holliday said. “They exchanged punches with us. That game wasn’t over until the last out. [Aeden] Finateri got the last out, which is always the most important out of the ballgame.”