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Chatham notches six unanswered runs, 15 strikeouts in 6–3 extra-innings win

by Tyler Schiff
Monday, July 17, 2023

Chatham notches six unanswered runs, 15 strikeouts in 6–3 extra-innings win
JJ Wetherholt fastened his bright-yellow batting gloves and slung a blue-tipped bat over his left shoulder.

Chatham was searching for its insurance run, equipped with runners on second and third base. The Anglers had taken a narrow 4–3 lead in the top of the tenth inning.

Facing Wareham reliever Jackson Reid, Wetherholt patiently sat through the first three deliveries. On Reid’s fourth pitch, Wetherholt belted a shot to right-center, initiating a roaring pop. The effort settled quickly, scoring Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek and Deric Fabian.

Wetherholt’s two-RBI shot generated the Anglers fifth and sixth runs in the game’s extra frame. The hit drew an end to a three-game losing skid and propelled Chatham (8–18–1 East) back into the win column. Exceptional relief pitching, paired with a series of timely at-bats through the final four innings, exacted a 6–3 comeback victory at Wareham (11–17–2 West).

“At the end of the day, we got 12 hits, scored six runs and our team energy was good,” Chatham’s acting manager Marty Lees said. “It was kind of ugly but we’ll take it. Any way we can take a win, we’ll take it.”

The game’s opening score played out in bizarre fashion. In the bottom of the first, Chatham starter Zach Harris surrendered a single to Wareham’s leadoff batter, Nick Mclain. A passed ball advanced Mclain to second base. Then, Harris’ fifth pitch to Garen Caulfield pelted the facemask of catcher Gavin Mez and ricocheted back toward the mound, allotting Mclain enough time to reach third.

In an effort to gun Mclain down at third, Harris collected and produced a wild hurl that skidded off the grass. His errant throw hopped off the right shoulder of Anglers third baseman Aidan Meola and landed out of play, permitting Mclain to comfortably trot home.

Running laterally, eyes fixated on a weak grounder that had entered no-man’s land near second base, Fabian and Martin-Grudzielanek collided with each other. The ball trickled into the leather of Chatham center fielder Zach MacDonald.

The pair eventually rose to their feet, though shaken-up, as Wareham tacked on another run in the first to make it 2–0.

At the plate, the Anglers’ bats failed to best opposing starter Aidan Major. Major had seemingly figured out the visiting offense by breezing through the opening two innings, holding Chatham to just two hits after three frames.

“I felt again for the first few innings, we were just about sleepwalking,” Lees said.

Wareham extended their advantage to three when third baseman Michael Brooks lined one, over the head of Fabian, to drop in left-center field. With personnel at either corner, the Gatemen dugout furiously waved its runners forward as Tommy Splaine scored.

Lees motioned to his bullpen in right field. The Anglers stood one out away from escaping the fourth inning. Facing a red-faced Harris, Lees calmly explained his reasoning to replace the first-time starter as Jack Seppings strode onto the diamond. After a few warm-up tosses, Seppings obtained the frame’s final out as he forced a floater which Kent easily corralled at first base.

Harris’ outing probably wasn’t what he dreamed of but it ended far from forgettable. His three earned runs on the evening were paired with five strikeouts and just one walk. His 3.2 innings were also the most Harris pitched in a single appearance all summer.

“We got good starting pitching today,” Lees said. “Zach gave up a couple runs but he got himself settled down. He took care of us. We had an error and he picked us up.”

Seppings readjusted his cap, licked his fingers and leaned left slightly to bark orders at Kent. Though Seppings’ wild pitch allowed Wareham’s Grant Sherrod progress to second base, he strayed away from initiating a jam in the bottom of the fifth inning. Seppings then fanned two straight and induced a routine fly-out.

Chatham’s offense came alive in the seventh inning. Fabian’s shot to left field scored Martin-Grudzielanek to cut the Angler deficit to 3–1. A Kent walk placed two runners on and Tyler Wulfert’s line drive put a third aboard.

“The bottom of our order was really good tonight, really good,” Lees said. “They competed very well, a lot of two-strike balls that snuck through the six-hole, got down the line, the commitment to a one or two-strike approach. Put the ball in play and see what happens.”

Out of the five-hole, MacDonald tapped the plate and whirled his bat twice. A foul ball and a strike set him behind in the count but he was undeterred. MacDonald laced a grounder that avoided the clutches of Brooks. His invigorating two-run RBI tied the affair at three apiece and teed up another Seppings masterclass.

The righty generated a 1–2–3 bottom of the seventh, tallying his fourth strikeout of the contest along the way.

“I felt like I had all three pitches,” Seppings said. “I was able to mix it in and out. I felt like I got a little bit away from the fast ball but it was always there. I feel like just having all three, working on always having the change-up was really helpful.”

Entering the waning innings, Chatham held the upper-hand. A noticeable momentum shift had seeped through Spillane Field, stemming from two drastically different dugouts. Upon positioning runners on during the top of the eighth, the Anglers introduced an orchestra of whoops, cheers and first-pumps. Though it took Wareham’s side several minutes to adjust to the playful taunting, it snapped back, riling up the visitors even further whenever a situation fell in favor of the Gatemen.

“We got energy from the dugout and this was the day we needed it,” Lees said. “All of our pitchers were down there. The team can’t thank them enough. Sometimes you need help from your teammates to get you over the hump.”

Seppings gave way to Chatham closer Aiden Jimenez in the ninth frame. He finished with seven strikeouts and relinquished two hits in 4.1 innings.

“He [Seppings] is one of the better pitchers we have,” Lees said. “I’d put him up against anybody. He’s facing very good hitters in the Cape and he continues just to wipe them out.”

Jimenez immediately extracted a double-play, prompted by Fabian’s fluid execution at shortstop, and fanned Wareham’s Grant Hussey to issue a 10th inning.

Lees opted to utilize MacDonald as the Anglers’ automatic runner. Perched at second, mounting a substantial lead off, MacDonald reached third off of a drifting pitch and arrived at home after Brooks misfielded a Martin-Grudzielanek grounder to give Chatham a 4–3 advantage. Wetherholt’s two-run stroke put the game out of reach. The Gatemen bats fell silent in response.

“We were down a lot of the game and clawed back,” Seppings said. “Coach was saying the bats were coming and they came.”