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Casserilla’s heroics, efficient pitching puts Chatham back in win column

by Graham Dietz
Saturday, June 24, 2023

Casserilla’s heroics, efficient pitching puts Chatham back in win column
Gabe Davis shook his head. He shook it twice. He finally gave the nod, his gold chain swaying against the felt of his black undershirt. Davis threw two more balls. After the latter, he swiped his foot through the dirt and grunted with dissatisfaction. He then delivered the final blow, fanning the first Falmouth batter of the game, Joseph Redfield.

Easy power. Confidence in his team. That is what the Oklahoma State rookie showcased in his first start for Chatham. Following his strikeout on Redfield, Davis proceeded to fan the next Commodore at the plate, John Spikerman, and induced a groundout to the final batter, Travis Bazzana.

On his last pitch to Bazzana, Davis watched as the ball scuttered to the left of the mound, destined for Chris Maldonado’s leather. Maldonado secured the ball from his backhand and smoothly underhanded the routine grounder to first base. But Davis wasn’t looking. He was already on his way back to the dugout.

Davis never looked back in Chatham’s (4–7–1 East) 12th game of the season against Falmouth (3–8–2 West) as the Anglers’ pitching staff combined for 16 strikeouts and only two hits in a 4–1 home win.

“That was my first start since my senior year,” Davis said. “I just wanted to go out there and throw the ball hard, hit my spots, and just give my team a chance to go out there and win a ballgame.”

Davis kept his foot on the gas pedal in the top of the third inning. Still sizzling at velocities in the mid-90’s, Davis grouped his fastball with a slider to swipe through the Commodore order 1-2-3. At only 33 pitches through three innings, his concealed delivery made him near impossible to plant a hit on.

“He’s got a big-league arm,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “Gabe Davis was excellent. Tonight, he was the man out there. The man pitching.”

As Tate Ballestero inched away from second base with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Carson Benge dug a low-flying liner through the middle of the infield. But to the disappointment of Anglers fans, Gavin Kilen was there to make the grab to keep the game scoreless.

It looked like Davis would finally relinquish a run in the top of the fourth inning when Redfield blasted a high-arching ball to right field, bound to leave the diamond. But, tracking the shot through the sky, Xavier Casserilla retreated back to the outfield fence and made a leaping grab to save the potential damage. Redfield could only tip his hat to Casserilla’s acrobatics. Davis struck out the next batter for his fifth of the day and Bazzanna flew out to continue the pitcher’s duel.

“First time out in the outfield—I was just kind of daydreaming,” Casserilla said. “Gabe was throwing good, so I didn’t get any action. Just daydreaming, I was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool if I robbed a homer today.’ He smoked one, I just ran back and jumped, happened to hit the fence, and just came down with this wonderful thing.”

After Chatham left a runner stranded on second base for the third time, Pittsburgh’s Jack Sokol replaced Davis on the mound in the top of the fifth inning and did not disappoint, striking out all three batters. Davis finished the night with five strikeouts, no hits, and no runs allowed.

The A’s finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth inning. After Aidan Meola advanced to first base with a single, Casserilla fired a ball right back to the same spot where he made his miraculous catch, piping an opposite-field home run to make it 2–0.

“Cheap porch out there,” Holliday said of the right-field dimension at Veterans Field. “People throw 95 miles per hour, I’ve seen a lot of guys go that way, go oppo and hit one out.”

The top of the seventh inning proved it was Casserilla’s night. Following a strikeout and the A’s pitching staff’s first walk of the game, a Bazzanna lineout landed right in the flaps of Casserilla’s glove, catching Spikerman, the baserunner, off guard. Casserilla nuked his cutoff throw to the bag, where Ballestero was waiting, and the first baseman made a sprawling grab to register the final out.

“Marty’s been working him in the outfield,” Holliday said of Casserilla. “He runs a little bit better than what I thought and he’s athletic and he likes to play. You’re trying to get some right-handed bats in the batting order because we’re really left-handed.”

Sokol unwinded the potential Chatham no-hitter in the top of the eighth inning as Colby Shelton blooped a single before scoring on a Kilen single. But Sokol's debut, along with Davis’ pitching and Casserilla’s heroics, would not go overlooked in the A’s 4–1 victory.

Casserilla notched Chatham’s third run of the contest in the bottom of the eighth inning on a passed ball at home plate and Nolan Schubart loosened on an 0–1 count for an RBI single to generate the Anglers’ fourth run. Maxx Yehl finished the pitching effort, fanning two batters in the top of the ninth.

“The learning process here is so different—it’s so unique,” Holliday said. “When we get the opportunity to help them, I just want ‘em to trust us. Tonight was … I almost would say that was a perfect ballgame.”