Veterans Field, Chatham, MA

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Hyannis and fifth-inning fog takes out Chatham 7–4 through five innings

by Graham Dietz
Saturday, July 01, 2023

Hyannis and fifth-inning fog takes out Chatham 7–4 through five innings
Batting under the Mendoza line, slang for a .200 batting average and the supposed threshold for offensive value, is not a good sign in baseball. 21 at-bats into Chatham’s season, Hudson White was doing just that.

White’s .182 average going into the Anglers’ Saturday night matchup with Hyannis was also not what Chatham manager Tom Holliday would’ve expected. Before the summer, Holliday claimed that White possessed one of the best bats of any catcher in the country. Three games into White’s tenure with the Anglers, though, Holliday said there was a confidence issue.

That didn’t stop him from raking in his first at-bat on Saturday night, however. White demolished his first home run of the season to extend Chatham’s lead to 4–1 in the bottom of the second inning. As White dropped the bat to make his trot around the diamond, his shot sailed into the batting cages behind left field. Pure elation was the only emotion White, who had previously gone 3-for-21 at the plate, displayed.

“Felt really good,” White said. “Just trying to put aggressive swings in every at-bat. Just keep going at it, freeing up, letting it go. Just being the player I know I can be.”

Even though White roused the Chatham crowd early, five runs allowed in back-to-back innings put the A’s into a pitching conundrum which they could not escape. Play got even murkier from there, as thick waves of fog settled above the field, and Chatham (5–12–1 East) dropped the affair 7–4 after five innings. Following a 30-minute delay, Holliday and Hyannis manager Eric Beattie shook hands to make the fog-out official, and the Harbor Hawks (9–8–1 West) came out triumphant.

“Quite honestly, when you start losing fly balls like Lyle [Miller-Green] did, and Lyle’s played in this, you look out right now and you can only wait so long before you lose the momentum and the feeling for a game,” Holliday said. “Took away a pretty good feeling we had rolling.”

Nine strikeouts in four relief innings on June 24 certainly prompted Holliday to keep Jack Sokol, a right-handed pitcher from Pittsburgh, on the roster, and the first two innings of Sokol’s first start of the season impressed.

A crack of the bat on Sokol’s second pitch of the contest resulted in a ground-rule double for Hyannis’s Nick Mitchell, who only had one hit in 11 at-bats up to that point. Mitchell came in to score after Cameron Smith knocked a single through the right-infield hole, and Sokol hit the next batter, Austin Kelly.

After using Kelly as a human dartboard, Sokol fanned the final two batters of the inning to keep the A’s deficit to just one run.

“Sokol was throwing alright, he just threw a bunch of pitches in a short period of time,” Holliday said. “Too many pitches and then he laid an egg.”

Two full-count walks in the bottom of the second inning placed Lyle Miller-Green and Carter Trice on first and second base, respectively, and a Sam Antonacci bunt advanced the runners to second and third. Then, Kaeden Kent blooped a single to left field to score Miller-Green. Chatham’s barrels didn’t end there.

White’s three-RBI homer ignited the bleachers at Veterans Field and put the home dugout into a frenzy. Trice and Kent met White at home plate as he merrily strolled around the bases. They tapped their batting helmets to White’s fist as he flashed an ear-to-ear smile.

“He’s getting better everyday,” Holliday said of White. “He’s working hard and we’re trying to speed him up. Speed his progress up so he can gain more confidence.”

Sokol allowed two more runs in the top of the third inning, decreasing Chatham’s lead by two runs, and things only worsened when he walked the first batter, Zach Ehrhard, to kick off the top of the fourth. Despite preserving a 4–3 lead, Holliday had seen enough of Sokol, replacing him with left-hander Carlos Rey.

After the pitching change, the Harbor Hawks loaded the bases quickly. Despite erasing Smith with a strikeout, a Kelly ground-rule double on Rey brought in two runs for Hyannis, and Will Taylor grounded out to score a sixth run. It appeared as though Miller-Green had full command of Kelly’s double in right field, but he failed to track the shot all the way to the outfield fence, letting it drop and gallop into the grass on the opposite side.

Rey relinquished a seventh run to Hyannis in the top of the fifth inning and his relief was terminated there. On his walk back to the dugout, Rey shook his head vigorously. His Chatham ballcap, slanted on his head to begin with, tumbled off, just like the Anglers’ three-run lead they had owned going into the third inning.

“A guy who’s last time on the mound was maybe the best effort I’ve seen from him in two years,” Holliday said of Rey. “And then tonight, it was terrible. Bad effort, bad body language, bad, bad, bad. Nothing he should be proud of. I didn’t bring him up here for that, and he’s spent a lot of time on the Cape.”

Holliday opted to replace Rey with Zach Harris, a product of Georgia Southern and a new-timer for Chatham, but it took four pitches into the top of the sixth inning for play to be halted again.

The Anglers got their first taste of the “fifth-inning fog” in their 8–1 victory over Harwich Friday, and the fog came back to bite them in Saturday’s affair too when Miller-Green couldn’t see a routine fly ball in right field, courtesy of Smith. While Miller-Green leapt on the ball in the deep corner of right field, the runner had made it all the way to third base. In response, first-base umpire Warren Nicholson signaled for a 20-minute delay.

“Absolutely nothing,” Miller-Green said of what he could see in right field. “I mean, you don’t really practice fly balls in fog. I could barely see the hitter, catcher and umpire when I was out there in right. It is what it is, but can’t really play through this type of weather.”

The sky only thickened as time moved on. Enough innings were played to call it an official 7–4 loss for Chatham.

“Helpless,” Holliday said of the fog-out. “Nothing they could do. It’s totally out of their control. Through all their preparation, you play five innings and get a loss at home—that hurts.”