Sam Antonacci did everything correctly. He acted quickly to move from his post at second base and position himself directly in front of James Tibbs’ skipper.
Antonacci fielded the hit but slipped as he tried to dish to Tate Ballestero at first base. Antonacci’s right leg gave way and he fell, awkwardly and stomach-first, but was still able to get a throw off. The attempt missed Ballestero and clanged against the surrounding metal cage. Still sprawled on the infield grass, Antonacci dipped his head in disappointment. Tibbs, meanwhile, arrived on the base untouched.
“When you don’t make a play, you don’t make a base hit, and you have your head down, walking around, then the game beats you,” Chatham manager Tom Holliday said. “The game wins and you lose.”
The mishap in the bottom of the fourth inning was one of four errors which further depleted Chatham en route to a 5–0 deficit through the opening two innings. Though the Anglers’ (4–8–1 East) defense tightened up for the latter half of the game, their lowly three hits weren’t enough to prevent a 6–0 road loss at Brewster (6–6–2 East).
“For seven innings offensively, we looked lethargic and tired,” Holliday said. “I guess if we don’t pitch good we’re not going to win.”
Matthew Etzel’s Anglers debut began in bizarre fashion. Facing Brewster starter Josh Timmerman’s third pitch of the evening, he fouled toward the third-base dugout but immediately dropped his bat and trotted to first base. A rare catcher’s interference had been issued. The early stroke of luck was short-lived, however, as the Whitecaps easily took care of Carson Benge and Nolan Schubart to end the top of the first inning.
Chatham starter Hayden Durke rubbed two fingers together near his right leg as he steadied himself for another throw in the bottom of the first inning. The last time Durke’s gaze met a Brewster bat, the righty conceded six runs in a single frame during Chatham’s season-opening 10–10 tie. Durke geared up and delivered but Trevor Werner read the fastball perfectly, firing a line drive into deep center field to bring home two runners and generate a swift 2–0 lead.
Brewster’s Jaime Ferrer then stepped up to the plate. He mustered a weak effort past Durke and into the range of Kaeden Kent. Running forward, Kent scooped the ball but underthrew Mark Shallenberger at first base. As the ball scampered past the right sideline and to the Anglers’ dugout, a seemingly surefire groundout morphed quickly into another run to make things 3–0.
“I haven’t seen an arm that good come out and get whacked like that,” Holliday said of Durke, who's pitching peaked at a velocity of 101 miles per hour. “Tip your hat to them because they didn’t miss a barrel. He was throwing serious gas.”
Despite a drawn-out bottom of the first inning, Timmerman made quick work of Chatham’s side in the second frame. When the A’s returned to take the field, Durke’s pitching remained wild and reckless. After pelting Payton Green’s helmet, Durke loaded the bases before walking Ike Irish. Irish calmly stepped out of the right-handed batters box and Green sauntered home.
Holliday paid Durke a mound visit soon after. But after a brief conversation, Holliday allowed the Rice product to finish the inning. In his second at-bat, Werner piped a sacrifice fly toward center field, which Etzel routinely snuffed out. It didn’t matter, though, as the floater was enough to score Davis Diaz, extending the Whitecaps advantage to 5–0.
During a quiet third inning, Timmerman cruised to the tune of another 1-2-3 showing while Durke managed his first shutout frame of the contest. Timmerman then strolled through the top of the fourth but Durke couldn’t do the same. Another threatening hit from Werner was ruled a ground-rule double and, after another errant pitch by Durke that skidded past catcher Hudson White, Werner reached third base. Tibbs’ mishandled single brought Werner home to create a six-run advantage.
“Their offense came out hot,” Chatham reliever Carlos Rey said. “You’re never going to be perfect in the game of baseball.”
A second Holliday mound visit chased Durke off the bump and Tampa righty Jack Brodsky came in as a replacement. Brodsky lasted just one inning, but totaled a clean sheet, before Rey stepped in. In the bottom of the sixth, Rey silenced all three batters to return the Chatham offense. Yet, like they had all game, the Anglers’ bats failed to find the barrel.
“I was just trying to read the game,” Rey said. “I was trying to see what their swings were telling me to keep them off the scoreboard as much as possible. I’ve struggled a lot recently to find the strike zone but I felt like I got ahead of batters consistently.”
Chatham’s most promising try at a comeback arrived in the top of the eighth inning. Coming on as a defensive substitution for Antonacci in the sixth, Xavier Casserilla notched a ground-rule double, and Etzel laced one into shallow left field, to put two runners aboard. Then, Vanderbilt’s Chris Maldonado walked to juice the bases after a hard-fought battle with Brewster reliever Tyler Mudd.
Schubart took a deep breath, looked down and readied himself. The six-foot-five lefty clobbered a hit down the right-hand side on the second pitch. But, unfortunately for the designated hitter, his shot burrowed directly into the glove of Brewster’s Brock Tibbits for the frame’s final out. A frustrated Schubart slammed his bat down in response, and the affair ended 6–0.
“In order to win a game, you need timely hitting, defense and pitching,” Kent said. “And we’re lacking that timely hitting.”