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Chatham falls to Bourne 9–7, eliminated from playoff contention

by Graham Dietz
Saturday, July 29, 2023

Chatham falls to Bourne 9–7, eliminated from playoff contention
Chatham reliever Ryan Verdugo needed to deliver with the bases loaded and no outs. Thanks to the right-hander from Cal State Bakersfield, the Anglers were back at the plate after a Bourne strikeout and double play ended the top of the eighth inning.

Then, Chatham exploded for four runs in the bottom of the frame.

A Zach MacDonald walk juiced the bases for the A’s against reliever Garrett French. After fanning Deric Fabian, a wild pitch by French scuttered to the backstop, scoring Chatham’s fourth run of the night. Another throw off the pads of catcher Hugh Pickney cut the Anglers’ deficit to just two runs. Pickney knelt over his knees, hands below his waist, as Forsythe stepped up to bat.

Brennan Holt scurried to second base to put two Chatham runners in scoring position for Forsythe. The Oklahoma State product hung his leg over the plate and knocked an RBI sacrifice fly to right field. Three pitches later, a passed ball allowed Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek to knot the affair at seven apiece. To the probable confusion of Anglers fans, Chatham was back in the game.

The amusement didn’t last long, however, as Bourne capitalized with a runner in scoring position and two outs in the top of the ninth inning. The Braves (20–19–1 West) tacked on two runs in the final frame to eliminate Chatham (11–27–2 East) from playoff contention with a 9–7 victory.

With the blue-pinstriped sleeve of his white uniform, Gabe Davis rubbed his nose and climbed onto the mound. It didn’t take long for Chatham’s starter to put runners on first and second base, both via singles up the middle.

After taking ball three at the numbers, Kendall Diggs walked on a full count to load the bases for Bourne. Davis showed his frustration, beckoning for Chatham catcher Jayden Melendez to meet him on the hill. After a quick discussion, Melendez patted Davis’ back and returned to home plate. But Nuu Contrades, in the six-hole, bounced another single through the shortstop and second base alignment for a 2–0 Braves’ lead.

Gage Harrelson walked on five pitches to start the top of the second frame and attempted to steal second base with Sam Peterson at the plate. As Davis winded up, kicking his leg to the base of his mitt, Harrelson took off sprinting toward the bag.

Melendez caught Davis’ pitch and hurled without hesitation from the backstop. The pickoff attempt sailed about 20 feet over Martin-Grudzielanek’s extended arm, though, moving Harrelson to third. Harrelson scored on a Joshua Kuroda-Grauer ground ball to Forsythe at short to add a third Bourne run.

Chatham mustered three base runners in the first two innings combined but couldn’t tally any runs. In the bottom of the second, Bourne starter Dalton Pence fanned MacDonald and Fabian back-to-back to cap off the frame.

Pickney took a deep breath and rested his red-tipped barrel on his shoulder. He elevated his right foot and swiped through the top of the zone. The lefty batter clipped the upper half of a Davis fastball which trickled through first base into right field. Caden Bodine, on second, ran all the way home to give the Braves a 4–0 advantage in the top of the third inning.

After surrendering his third earned run, Davis left a runner at each corner before he made way for newcomer Shane Van Dam out of SUNY Cortland. Davis was charged with his fourth earned run when Harrelson chopped a single into shallow right-center on a Van Dam off-speed pitch to score Diggs.

Van Dam notched Chatham’s first scoreless inning of defense in the top of the fourth, garnering a strikeout along the way. Then, Kyson Donahue crushed a double to center field to begin the bottom of the frame. Kaeden Kent recorded the Anglers’ first run of the matchup with a single through the middle, scoring Donahue.

After Tyler Wulfert walked and Melendez struck out, MacDonald loaded the bases with a rocket to left-center. Fabian stepped up to bat but didn’t swing with a full count. Instead, he walked to cut the deficit to 5–2.

With the bases still juiced, Pence broke out of the jam by inducing two fly-outs. Pence brushed the palm of his hand across the sweat stain on his undershirt and lethargically walked back to the dugout.

Chatham couldn’t catch a break in the top of the fifth frame as Harrelson jolted an RBI double down the third-base foul line. While the run was charged to Van Dam, Alec Ritch, another fresh hurler for the A’s, threw the pitch. Kent responded by producing his second RBI of the night with a groundout to first base.

The A’s registered their second and third errors of the night to relinquish a seventh run in the top of the sixth frame. Their four-run eighth inning ensued two frames later.

Bourne struck the final blow when Pete Cuiffreda stole second base and scored on a Vastine double in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bryce Eblin belted a second consecutive double to give the Braves’ a 9–7 lead, which stayed put.