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Donahue’s 2-homer performance leads Chatham to 5–4 win over Orleans

by Tyler Schiff
Friday, July 28, 2023

Donahue’s 2-homer performance leads Chatham to 5–4 win over Orleans
Kyson Donahue allowed Chatham to live another day.

Entering Friday’s doubleheader against Orleans, the Anglers’ postseason hopes remained slim-to-none. They stood at fifth place in the Cape Cod Baseball League’s East Division, 10 points away from the next team—Brewster. Chatham lost Game 1, 8–7, and a loss in Game 2 would’ve effectively ended any dreams of postseason action.

But, with the contest knotted at two apiece, Donahue’s second home run of the night jolted Chatham back in front in Game 2. The lefty walloped a moonshot over the right-field porch in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Anglers a 3–2 lead.

Chatham tacked on two more runs from there and weathered two Orleans’ scores in the eighth frame to end a six-game losing skid. Spearheaded by Donahue’s dominant offensive performance, the Anglers (11–25–2 East) also utilized a pivotal relief performance from Trey Gibson to defeat the Firebirds (20–19–0 East) 5–4.

“The offense and the pitching came together,” Chatham’s interim manager Todd Shelton said. “Ultimately we probably played our most complete game today.”

Through four appearances against the A’s this season, Jo Oyama has served as an unrelenting issue for Chatham’s defense. In Game 2 on Friday, Orleans’ leadoff hitter boomed a home run to generate a quick 1–0 advantage.

Oyama’s moonshot arrived on Chatham starter Zander Sechrist’s third pitch. But, Sechrist did well to bounce back.The Tennessee product, who possessed a 7.14 ERA in 11 1/3 innings pitched going into the affair, induced two consecutive fly-outs and a slow dribbler to third base to end the opening frame.

Brennan Holt charted a double to begin the Anglers’ first turn at the plate and advanced to third base after Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek’s infield single. Though Kaeden Kent’s ground-out to first initiated a double-play, the effort was enough to score Holt.

Chatham’s hot bats continued when Kyson Donahue clobbered his first home run of the contest. The shot landed high over the 314-foot porch in right field, and settled on Depot Road, marking Donahue’s second homer of the summer.

“I kind of knew his plan was to come in with the fastball then change-up away,” Donahue said. “I got into a 1–1 count where I was ready for the heater. He left one in and I got a good piece of it.”

Toward the beginning of Donahue’s Angler campaign, he served as a utility player before enduring a two-week period with barely any playing time. On July 17, he was reinserted into Chatham’s lineup and initiated an eight-game hitting streak from July 18 to July 26.

Now seen as a reliable and versatile starter, Donahue managed to keep a straight face as he rounded the bases. He couldn’t hold back a wide grin as he stepped closer toward Chatham’s third-base dugout, though.

“I’ve been feeling good as of late,” Donahue said. “Throughout those two weeks where I wasn’t getting much playing time, I’ve been working a lot on my swing and my lower half, especially my load. It’s helped put me in a better position to see the ball.”

Sechrist breezed through the second, third and fourth innings, including a revenge fanning of Oyama in the process. Coming into Friday’s matchup, the most Sechrist had pitched in one outing was 3 1/3 innings.

“He knows how to pitch,” Shelton said. “You started seeing him [Sechrist] really use his changeup more, his fastball more and I think that’s what extended him as long as it did.”

After his third consecutive 1-2-3 frame, Sechrist relinquished a one-run double to Oreleans’ Justin Rubin. Brandon Stahlman scored from third base, tying the game at two apiece in the top of the fifth. Shelton quickly paid Sechrist a mound visit, and Liam Paddack emerged from the bullpen.

“Paddack was the freshest arm we had and I wanted to bring on a left-hander,” Shelton said. “I knew the left-handers would give us the best opportunity to win.”

Despite an injection of early offense, Chatham produced a series of hard outs across the next four innings. Popping high-flying balls and lacing line drives out to right field and shallow center, the Anglers’ bats were foiled by a collection of well-communicated catches. The scoreless streak ended, however, when Donahue launched his third home run of the summer.

All season long, Chatham could never implement a successful small-ball strategy. It felt like each time an attempt was underway, the Anglers failed to bring home runners in scoring position. So, when Lane Forsyth singled and then reached third base to begin a promising rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Chatham faithful grew hopeful.

Zach MacDonald charted a single on Orleans’ reliever Mauricio Rodriguez, who then hit Jayden Melendez with a pitch. A wild delivery from Rodriguez resulted in a passed ball to score Forsyth. Another walk, off an eight-pitch battle with Martin-Grudzielanek, put Chatham ahead 5–2.

“We took our base hits and our walks,” Donahue said. “The pitcher got a little erratic at times and we were disciplined to our approach. That helped us out a lot and we put up some runs.”

Paddack, who arrived on the bump in the top of the fifth inning, stayed consistent to keep Orleans off the board until the top of the eighth. After mustering the first out, Paddack swiftly gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases. Shelton reacted by opting for his second call to left field. Gibson emerged.

Tasked with maintaining a comfortable three-run cushion, it took just one pitch for Gibson to relinquish a two-run single to Matt Halbach. The righty promptly made up for his mishap. Gibson induced a double play off Colin Tuft to escape an impending Firebird comeback.

“He [Trey] was going right to the strike zone and making them hit his quality pitches,” Shelton said. “The first hit was still a quality pitch. I’d rather them beat us swinging the bats.”

Then, in the top of the ninth inning, Gibson walked one but struck out three to see out a thrilling 5–4 Chatham victory.

“The first two runs I don’t think nothing of,” Shelton said. “He [Trey] settled down after that and that’s where I pat his back. He got us this win.”