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Chatham defeats Bourne 5-1 in Sheets’ 1st home victory

by Zak Wolf
Monday, June 17, 2024

Chatham defeats Bourne 5-1 in Sheets’ 1st home victory
During Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger’s first week as Chatham’s manager, one of the main messages that’s constantly echoed in the dugout is to be prepared for anything. Sheetinger always tells his players that when you come to the ballpark everyday, you’re going to “see things you’ve never seen before.”

So when asked if he’d ever won a game with just two hits, Sheetinger’s grin widened and ironically answered yes, yet that wasn’t the sentiment among most of his team. Players like John Bay (Austin Peay) noted that it was a first, but despite the low hit output, it was the team’s patient approach at the plate that was cause for celebration.

Patience has been the mantra under Sheetinger so far. Things might not always be conventional, but he said his teams find creative ways to win games — Monday night was no different.

Hitless until the bottom of the sixth inning, Chatham (2-1, East) stuck to Sheetinger’s core tenets of staying composed to defeat Bourne (1-2, West) 5-1 for the manager’s first-ever win at Veterans Field. While striking out on nearly 50% of their at-bats, the A’s drew a season-high 10 walks and forced the Braves’ pitchers into prolonged at-bats and it paid off in the end.

For more than half the game, Chatham seemingly couldn’t put the ball in play, yet held a 2-1 lead. The A’s failed to produce a hit until the top of the sixth inning when Bay walked into the batter's box. Luke Cantwell (Pittsburgh) drew a leadoff walk and Bay came up two batters later.

Sheetinger said Bay has had really good at-bats thus far in Chatham, but not much to show for it. The first-year manager knew Bay was due to break out, and he did in a big way.

Instead of creating a drawn-out at-bat, Bay attacked the first pitch he saw, blasting a ball deep over the center field fence off Zach Crotchfelt to extend Chatham's lead to 4-1.

“When you get a good pitch, (you just need to) put a good swing on it. There's nothing else you need to do or focus on. Just be on time,” Bay said of his home run.

Throughout what little time Sheetinger has spent with Chatham so far, he’s tried to make sure his guys get to a place where they see the moment, are ready for it and have a plan once they get into the box. Bay’s homer was exactly how he wanted that mindset to be executed.

Though against Bourne’s starting pitcher Donovan Zsak, the A’s were dominated. Zsak constantly fooled Chatham hitters with his fastball which sat in the mid-to-high 90s. The Rutgers product sat down eight batters in just 3.1 innings of work, including striking out Chatham’s top three batters in the third inning.

Zsak walked three batters heading into the fourth, but the free passes didn’t come back to bite him until the fourth. Aiva Arquette (Washington) drew a leadoff walk, forcing manager Scott Landers to visit the mound. Landers was ready to take Zsak out, but he seemingly convinced his coach to give him another go. But a walk to Cantwell was the final straw, as Brayden Risedorph entered.

Kyle Lodise (Georgia Tech) drew the third straight walk before Bay was hit by a pitch as Chatham leveled the game at 1-1. Austin Overn (USC) then drew a two-out walk to put the A’s in front 2-1 despite not having a hit.

“When you start putting traffic on the bases, things tend to fall your way,” Sheetinger said.

For Sheetinger, everything boils down to getting on base. He doesn’t want players walking up to the plate with the mentality of getting a hit, something he had to remind his team of in the early innings against Bourne.

Even if a player strikes out, if they force the pitcher to throw more than they want to, that’s fine by Sheetinger. In his mind, they’re doing their job and things will “tend to tip over,” which happened once Bay blasted the ball to deep center field in the sixth inning.

The A’s patience at the plate eventually paid dividends, but they also got a boost from their pitching staff. Kyson Witherspoon (Oklahoma) allowed a runner in scoring position in his first two innings on the mound, but got himself out of trouble each time.

Bourne opened the scoring in the third when Marek Houston poked a ball into center field to score Davis Gillespie who had gotten on base previously with a double.

But the rest of the way, the A’s pitchers had the Braves fooled. Witherspoon bounced back with a one-two-three inning in the top of the fourth before exiting with six K’s. Once Chatham took the lead in the bottom half of the frame, its bullpen took over.

Hayden Murphy (Auburn) tossed three scoreless innings in relief, mowing down six of the 10 batters he faced. His only base runner was due to a catcher’s interference by Ike Irish (Auburn).

Once Murphy’s night was done, Karson Ligon (Mississippi state) took over. Ligon cruised through the eighth while Chatham added another insurance run, once again without producing a hit. Three straight A’s reached base prior to Landon Stripling (Florida) walking to extend Chatham’s lead to four late on.

While two softly hit infield singles put runners with one out in the ninth, back-to-back strikeouts from Ligon secured the win for Chatham.

Though it was a slow grind for the offense, the A’s did what they needed to do to get over the line. Their pesky approach at the plate worked in their favor, even without the lack of contact.

Through three games, Chatham has earned 17 walks, second in the CCBL only to its opponent Tuesday — Hyannis.

For Sheetinger, it comes down to one thing and that’s staying consistent. If his team accomplishes that, then they’ll be primed for success.

“Whoever shows up at their field, we'll be ready to play,” Sheetinger said. “Whoever they throw against us, we’ll be ready to take great at-bats and for us. We’re just trying to be consistent. That’s what matters to me more than anything.”