Nolan Schubart didn’t need to swing for Chatham to take a 2–1 lead.
Instead, his Oklahoma State teammate and Cotuit’s starter, Janzen Keisel, balked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning.
Stationed at third base, Brennan Holt jogged home and high-fived Schubart as Kaeden Kent advanced from second. Then, with two Angler runners in scoring position, Schubart placed a hit in right field to open up a three-run Chatham advantage.
As Kent and Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek came in to score, an aura of revitalized confidence seeped through Veterans Field.
It had been a week since the Anglers either won a game or held a multi-run lead. A seven-run fourth frame by the Kettleers however, canceled out Chatham’s optimistic beginning.
The contagious aura, once prevalent around the bleachers behind home plate, fizzled out as the Anglers (10–25–2 East) fell 12–6 to Cotuit (26–11–1 West), marking a fifth straight defeat.
“When we gave up seven, it took the air out of everybody here,” Chatham’s acting manager Marty Lees said.
Chatham starter Tanner Witt began his final start of the season by inducing a double play off of a Carter Mathison grounder to third base. Cotuit’s Sean Keys then produced a bouncer destined for Kent’s leather a few paces away from first. Waving an incoming Witt away, Kent stepped on the bag himself to end the top of the first inning.
Lane Forsythe rocketed a high-looping double for Chatham’s first hit of the night. His shot to right-center came in the bottom of the second frame after Keisel struck out Tyler Wulfert and Kyson Donahue. Positioned at second base, Forsythe maintained a healthy lead, eyes glued to Lees’ signal. To Forsythe’s frustration, Lees stayed motionless.
Chatham’s next turn at the plate drove Forsythe home. Seven-hole hitter Hudson White sent a line drive past a ducking Keisel which leaked into the outfield to put the Anglers up 1–0.
Witt, who entered Thursday’s contest with an 0–2 record, shut out the Kettleers through the top of the second frame but couldn’t keep them scoreless in the third. Though Cotuit’s leadoff hitter, Cole Mathis, grounded out to second base, the effort allotted time for Trotter Harlon to stroll forward and tie the game at 1–1. Donahue caught a fly-out in deep left field to return the Anglers’ offense.
In four total appearances going into Thursday’s matchup, Witt’s time on the Cape had been turbulent. In 11 1/3 innings pitched, the Texas product gave up 16 earned runs while only delivering nine strikeouts. And, after Witt placed runners on first and second in the top of the fourth inning, Lees signaled to the bullpen.
“Tanner was good,” Lees said. “He gave us a chance and he left with a lead.”
Trey Gibson emerged and walked briskly from left field. His arrival on the mound marked a team-high ninth appearance for a Chatham pitcher. His outing lasted 19 pitches, though. He couldn’t see out the frame after just 1/3 of an inning.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t the best outing for Trey,” Schubart said. “But he’s had outings before where he’s picked us up and we can’t put anything on him.”
On July 19, at Lowell Park, Cotuit tormented Gibson as well. In a 3 1/3 inning showing, Gibson let up seven earned runs and 10 hits, tasking his reliever with halting a seemingly impossible seven-run deficit. On Thursday, at Veterans Field, the Kettleers’ bats enjoyed another three unanswered runs on Gibson’s tosses to draw level at 4–4.
“In the last few days, we’ve left people out there a little longer than we would,” Lees said. “That’s just where we’re at. We only have so many pitches in each arm and we have to space it out.”
Tommy Molsky replaced Gibson and, accompanied by a lone out, immediately entered a jam. With the bases loaded, Keys unleashed a fly ball to center field for a three-run double. Then, facing a slow trickler off Mathison’s barrel, Deric Fabian collected but overthrew Kent at first base to increase Cotuit’s lead to 8–4. Molsky eventually forced a routine fly-out to escape the top of the fourth inning.
Across the fourth and fifth frames, the Anglers managed to slightly penetrate a comfortable Kettleers’ cushion. White tacked on a stand-up double and Fabian needed just one pitch from Cotuit reliever Aidan Hunter to bring home Chatham’s fifth run.
Molsky recovered well from an unfortunate start to keep Cotuit off the board until the top of the eighth frame. Yet, his pitches remained shaky. Molsky tallied eight straight balls to put runners on first and second base before Mathis mustered a bloop single to juice the bases.
Cotuit’s next batter, Keys, lofted a sacrifice fly, which nestled in Brennan Holt’s glove. The center fielder hurled desperately toward home plate but failed to catch a speedy Jack Scanlon who tapped the plate, generating a commanding 9–5 Kettleers’ advantage.
“He was just put into a tough situation but after that he settled in and threw well,” Schubart said of Molsky. “I think he just got tired.”
Another walk prompted Lees to chase Molsky off the bump and Ryan Verdugo stepped in. Verdugo didn’t experience anything different from the prior two Chatham arms as a wild pitch, mishandled by replacement catcher Jayden Melendez, gave up another three runs.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek launched a solo home run onto the grassy lawn lining Depot Road. The moonshot was the first of his Anglers’ career and gave the third-base dugout something to celebrate.
“We tend to give up a crooked number every game and it’s not just two,” Lees said. “That’s kind of been our nemesis this season.”