Trace Willhoite boomed a home run over the center field fence.
The hit narrowly missed one of six surrounding floodlights and settled behind Whitehouse Field’s transparent 330-foot porch. It handed Chatham a 7–0 lead in the top of the third inning.
For Willhoite, Lipscomb University’s program leader in homers (34), the hit was desperately needed. Through nine games and 20 at-bats with the Anglers, Willhoite struggled. His moonshot marked his third hit. And, he obtained a fourth in the seventh frame as well.
Chatham’s Zach MacDonald and Hudson White reached home ahead of Willhoite. They waited for his vibrant red cleats to tap the plate before all three retreated to the visiting dugout, smiling.
“He [Willhoite] needed to get some at-bats and that’s what he did today,” Chatham's interim manager, Todd Shelton, said. “I threw him out there, gave him a full game and it paid off. He’s going to be better tomorrow because of it.”
Saturday’s 9–7 loss to Bourne eliminated Chatham’s postseason hopes. But, despite their absence from the playoff picture, Shelton believed the Anglers should finish the regular season playing for pride.
So, in its 41st game of the 2023 regular season, Chatham (12–27–2 East) competed hard. The Anglers’ bats totaled 13 hits and their pitching staff tossed 11 strikeouts, thwarting Harwich’s (18–22–1 East) offense to produce an 11–0 shutout.
“We haven’t run away from anybody all year,” Shelton said. “Once we scored big, you could see the energy out of the dugout and it was just a matter of finishing the ballgame.”
Starting pitcher Brayden Kurtz (George Washington) on July 30, 2023, at Whitehouse Field Emma Connelly / Chatham Anglers
Chatham entered the bottom of the first inning with a comfortable 3–0 cushion. It provided starting arm, Brayden Kurtz, room to work with in his Anglers debut.
After leadoff batter Brennan Holt was gunned down at second base, Tyler Wulfert raised a ball to left-center field, placing a runner on each corner. Then, Kyson Donahue laced a two-run single to right field.
Harwich starter Reid Easterly walked Hudson White to advance Donahue to second and Chatham’s designated hitter, Kaeden Kent, stepped into the right-handed batters box. Kent slapped the first pitch he saw, out of Devin Obee’s reach in center field, to score Donahue. Easterly induced a fly-out next, leaving White and Kent stranded.
Kurtz immediately gave up a line drive, landing Kevin Keister on first. Keister later stole second and a balk put the Mariner 90-feet away from a run. However, a composed Kurtz tallied three consecutive strikeouts to retire Harwich’s bats.
“As soon as I got on the mound and settled in I felt really comfortable,” Kurtz said. “I just tried to give it my all and I liked how it worked out.”
Holt belted a single to begin Chatham’s second cycle through the order and was driven home by a Wulfert sacrifice fly. But, with Donahue at the plate and two outs, Lane Forsythe was caught stealing a bag to end the second inning.
Kurtz kept Harwich scoreless upon coming back to the bump. Though he allowed Mariners to perch menacingly on first and second base, a diving catch from MacDonald helped return the Chatham offense.
“I think just trying to stay ahead was my main focus,” Kurtz said. “We had some great plays behind me that really allowed me to keep going.”
White looked poised to earn his second straight walk before piping up a floater. His effort raced high and dropped behind Danniel Rivera, who failed to complete a basket catch. MacDonald followed up with a single down the third-base line and Willhoite’s home run brought both Anglers home.
Kurtz conceded loaded bases, in both the third and fourth frames, but managed to escape back-to-back times. His fatigued arm likely came as a product of inexperience. Coming off his sophomore year with George Washington, Kurtz’s role primarily lay in relief, or as a closer. The most he pitched at one time with the Colonials was 2 1/3 innings.
“It was really good stuff,” Shelton said of Kurtz’s performance. “The fastball was alive, it was moving, he was throwing strikes. His breaking ball was really good and he commanded the zone. Anybody that’s as talented as he is, you’re going to succeed up here.”
Kurtz ended his first Cape League outing by subjecting Kevin Karstetter to a fly-out. He finished with seven strikeouts and relinquished just six hits. Kurtz also juiced Chatham’s hopes in charting its first shutout victory since the Anglers won 3–0 against Yarmouth-Dennis on July 13.
Offensively, Chatham remained scorching hot. Though Easterly garnered his first 1–2–3 inning of the contest in the fourth inning, Harwich’s Dax Dathe entered in replacement to start the fifth. Nine pitches, and two passed balls later, the Anglers generated a 9–0 advantage.
Then, in the same frame, with Willhoite positioned on first base after Dathe registered his first walk, Deric Fabian deposited a home run in right-center field to make things 11–0.
Chatham reliever Sam Simmons continued the visitors’ bid to keep the Mariners off the board through the sixth inning. Behind 3–0 in the count facing Obee, Harwich’s leader in home runs (6) and RBIs (23), Simmons won an arduous six pitch battle to begin the seventh. He promptly foiled two more off high-fly balls, destined for second base and right field, to eliminate the opposition side.
“I wouldn’t have brought him out here if he couldn’t get outs,” Shelton said of Simmons.
Shelton made one last change to see out the game. He called on Jack Brodsky from the right field bullpen. Brodsky fanned two in the eighth inning, refusing to let a Mariner reach base. He then recorded Chatham’s first 1–2–3 inning of the matchup to clinch victory.