Chatham defeats Orleans 14-12 in final game of centennial season
by Tyler Schiff Thursday, August 03, 2023
Deric Fabian called his shot. He was going to hit a home run. That’s what he told Chatham’s two broadcasters.
In the top of the ninth inning, he had leaned toward the protective black netting to share his prediction in an almost secretive manner.
According to Fabian, a moonshot during the final game of Chatham’s centennial season was a necessity. It was his one goal all summer.
So, when Fabian boomed a solo shot past the left field fence for a 14–8 Anglers lead, his gushing smile bore unparalleled excitement.
“He ended up hanging a slider and I got it,” Fabian said. “It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”
Chatham entered Eldredge Park with nothing to lose. Four days ago, the A’s were eliminated from playoff contention but had won every game since. Fabian credited the recent success with a collective eagerness to stay loose and have fun – the same mentality displayed in the Anglers’ (15–27–2 East) 14–12 win over East Division rivals Orleans (24–20–0 East).
Riding a seven-run third inning, Chatham built up a comfortable enough cushion to see out its fourth consecutive victory. Though Orleans garnered four runs in the bottom of the ninth to draw within two, Anglers’ reliever Alec Ritch eliminated the tying run at the plate, stomping out Orleans’ last hope.
“Our guys wanted to win the last game of the season,” Chatham interim manager Todd Shelton said. “We were on a three-game run and they came out with the right attitude. It was how they wanted to walk away from the Cape.”
Chatham’s Maxx Yehl began his third outing this season against Orleans by pelting leadoff hitter Jo Oyama. In two prior showings facing the Firebirds, Yehl allowed four earned runs and 13 hits in 7 1/3 innings pitched. Throughout the first and second innings, Yehl forced a series of slow groundouts across the infield to escape unscathed.
“He’s been out here all summer and he’s tired,” Shelton said of Yehl. “He pitched with his changeup a little more and located the fastball. He went away from the breaking ball because they’ve [Orleans] seen it.”
The Anglers’ offense came up empty until the third when Fabian knocked in his 18th RBI of the season. Facing Orleans’ reliever Joel Rodriguez, who recorded a 1–2–3 second frame, Chatham catcher Jayden Melendez earned a walk. Zach MacDonald then garnered a single before both advanced 90-feet leftward, following an errant Rodriguez pitch. Equipped with runners on second and third base, Fabian took a single to shallow center field, driving Melendez home.
Tyler Wulfert chopped a practice swing across his body. Stepping up to the plate, an eight-pitch battle with Rodriguez ensued. On the ninth delivery he saw, Wulfert lined a ball to right field, scoring MacDonald and generating a 2–0 Chatham cushion.
By the time Yehl retook the mound in the fourth inning, the Anglers led 7–0.
Orleans’ second reliever, Everett Catlett, was to blame. Two RBI walks, a hit-by-pitch and a passed ball were among a fortunate sequence of unique events to help balloon the Anglers’ commanding lead. Chatham enjoyed an obscure 10 turns at the plate shared among nine different players. Melendez got to bat twice.
Yehl finished with four shutout innings and stepped off for Liam Paddack entering the fifth. Paddack walked Colin Tuft and Oyama to begin his eighth Anglers appearance. He relinquished a sacrifice fly to right-center field from Fenwick Trimble, which made things 7–1 in the bottom of the frame, before walking another two Firebirds to gift the home team with juiced bases.
Then, Eddie Micheletti Jr. laced a one-run single destined for right field. To Paddack’s disappointment, Shelton called for Sam Simmons in replacement. Paddack lasted just 2/3 innings.
“I was really planning on him [Paddack] pushing to at least three innings,” Shelton said.
Chatham reliever Alec Ritch (Middlebury) and catcher Jayden Melendez (Pittsburgh) share an embrace after the Anglers' season finale against Orleans. Ritch garnered the game-winning strike out to clinch a 14–12 victory on Aug. 2, 2023, at Eldredge Park Emma Connelly / Chatham Anglers
Eleven combined runs were scored in the sixth inning. Orleans’ fifth and sixth arms delivered five walks. The Anglers’ bats benefited from another round of lawless mishaps to jump out to a 13–3 advantage. Simmons started his first full frame allowing a home run off Tuft’s barrel and continued to toss a costly slew of wild pitches to make things 13–8.
“Sam threw strikes and they swung the bat,” Shelton said. “I don’t think that Sam pitched bad, he didn’t throw bad. You gotta give them [Orleans] credit.”
Fabian’s homer seemingly put Chatham out of reach but Orleans kept applying pressure. In the Firebirds’ final rotation at the plate, a two-run moonshot from Jack Penney narrowed Chatham’s lead to just three.
Amid a practically empty bullpen, Ritch was Shelton’s last option. He was thrust onto the mound and induced a high-flying pop up, bound to clinch victory for Chatham. But, Fabian lost track of the ball which dropped in left-center field. Orleans inched closer.
“You’ve got two outs, Shelton said. “You want your pitcher to do one thing, throw strikes.”
Ritch leapt ahead against Eddie King Jr., 1–2. Two straight balls generated a full-count. On Ritch’s final pitch, King hurled his bat toward the home dugout, anticipating a walk. Ritch strode off the mound, expecting a strike.
Home plate umpire James Fonseca pumped his first and Ritch let out a celebratory shout.
“I appreciate their work,” Shelton said. “Μy big feeling about baseball is that every team you’re with, you’re building relationships that last forever.”