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Anglers fall to Whitecaps 7-4 despite season-best 11 hits

by Cooper Andrews
Friday, June 21, 2024

Anglers fall to Whitecaps 7-4 despite season-best 11 hits
Fog is synonymous with Chatham. When it rolls in, it means summer has arrived. The typically illuminated Veterans Field becomes engulfed in an eerie sea of cloudy gray, which also means impending baseball games are put in doubt.

This summer’s first fog appearance at Veterans Field came early in the evening Friday. Just after Chatham and Brewster finished up batting practice, though, the sun made a cameo, the fog went away and the setting was clear once again.

Whitecaps’ designated hitter Nolan Schubart is well-aware of fog scares in Chatham. He was an Angler just last season. And in his first at-bat as a visitor against the A’s, Schubart appeared to be right at home.

He rocketed a towering home run into right field to put the Whitecaps up 2-0 in the top of the first inning. The Oklahoma State product barrelled an Evan Chrest (Florida State) fastball 106 MPH off the bat — setting the tone for the Anglers’ eventual defeat.

“The Brewster lineup is really good, they got a lot of pop,” Anglers’ catcher Campbell Smithwick (Ole Miss) said postgame. “From behind the plate, everything looked good.(Chrest) was hitting his spots. That’s just the game, sometimes they’re going to hit pitches they’re not supposed to hit.”

Chatham (3-3, East) fell behind early once again versus Brewster (3-3, East) and while it generated a fierce comeback with a season-high 11 hits, it ultimately lost 7-4. Chrest was knocked around from the get-go, allowing five earned runs in four innings. Yet the A’s offense slowly creeped back in, spurred by a home run from Kyle Lodise (Georgia Tech) to make it a one-run game in the fifth frame.

By the end, missed opportunities with runners on base and the Whitecaps’ unabating offense stymied Chatham’s retaliation.

“In a ballgame like that when you leave (11) guys on (base), that’s a separator,” Chatham manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger said postgame. “Any time in a close game, you go back to runners left on base. We had some serious moments that were positive for us but we didn’t come through.”

Sheetinger said the message to his guys postgame was that cleaner at-bats and patience to take your pitch and drive it will lead to heightened success. The Anglers improved in plenty of areas at the dish Friday, yet Sheetinger implores his team to keep the same mentality when there’s runners in scoring position. There’s no time to play hero ball.

“This just isn’t a league where you’re going to string out five or six doubles in a row,” Sheetinger said. “Find unique ways to get on base, find unique ways to get good at-bats. That’s all it is.”

The A’s first capitalized in the second inning when Smithwick slashed an RBI single into right field to score Arquette and trim Chatham’s deficit to two. Yet the Anglers squandered a chance at plating multiple runs in the frame, which instantly came back to bite them.

Schubart got things started in the top of the third with a hard single into right. Then, Chrest made another grave mistake. He left a changeup over the heart of the plate for Daniel Cuvet, who belted it onto the slope of the center-field hill. Chrest’s second home run allowed made the score 5-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

Chatham pitcher Karson Ligon warms up pregame as fog starts to flood Veterans Field for the first time in the 2024 season / Photograph by Ella Tovey

Chatham couldn’t answer Cuvet’s blast. Lodise, Ike Irish (Auburn) and John Bay (Austin Peay) were sat down in order to cap off the third frame.

“When (Chrest) missed a spot, they made him pay,” Sheetinger said of Brewster. “That’s what really good teams figure out how to do, and that’s where we’re trying to work our hitters toward.”

Another opportunity materialized in the fourth inning for the Anglers while facing Brewster’s Will Ray. Arquette and Cantwell roped a single and took a walk, respectively. Stripling then got hit by a pitch and all of a sudden, Chatham had the bases juiced.

The Anglers seized the chance this time, with Arquette scoring off a Ty Dalley (Mercer) 4-6-3 double play and Smithwick knocking in a two-out RBI single — his second of the night. By that point, Chrest’s start was over as Tyler Kozera (UCF) entered in relief with Brewster up 5-3.

“When you put barrels on the ball, good things happen,” Smithwick said.

Kozera registered a scoreless fifth frame, leaving the A’s offense to go back to work.

Lodise led off the bottom half and though he came into Friday with just one extra-base hit on the season, he delivered in a major way. The infielder hammered a deep shot into left field for a solo home run to bring Chatham within one run of Brewster at 5-4.

“He was hunting that moment to jump on a pitch that he liked,” Sheetinger said of Lodise. “In the previous at-bat, they had thrown him a lot of sliders so he was going up (to the plate) wanting a slider and he made sure he didn’t miss it.”

Rain began to aggressively pour down upon Veterans Field heading into the seventh inning. Fans began to leave the seating area behind home plate, but the Anglers still made some noise in the bottom half.

With one out, Irish was issued a four-pitch walk by Primeaux. Bay stepped up to the dish next and laid down a picturesque drag bunt, drawing Brewster first baseman Cooper Vest far off the bag, unable to tag Bay or throw Irish out at second.

Before the contest, the Anglers were practicing that exact scenario. Sheetinger said Bay isn’t someone who was asked to bunt much this spring with Austin Peay, but the outfielder has shown in practice that he’s comfortable doing so.

Coaches in the dugout encouraged Bay to lay down a bunt, Sheetinger said, with a caveat that Bay would earn a free lunch if he registered a base hit off it. Now, it’s time for Sheetinger and Co. to pay up.

“It’s a knock, and it looks like a laser in the book,” Sheetinger said.

Bay’s bunt set up a prime chance for Chatham to tie the game at 5-5. Primeaux escaped unscathed, however, forcing Arquette into a fielder’s choice and eliciting a swinging strikeout from Cantwell. And in the eighth, the Whitecaps placed the finishing touches on their win with a two-RBI single from Ryder Helfrick to make it 7-4.

The loss wasn’t about the Whitecaps’ night at the dish nor the Anglers’ inability to complete an improbable ninth-inning rally. For Sheetinger, it’s all about producing careful at-bats — with the right amount of aggressiveness — when Chatham has ducks on the pond.

“Good hitters believe when they’re in the box, no matter what the situation is, they’re supposed to come through,” Sheetinger said. “But you have to be smart.”