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Anglers beat Firebirds 4-1 for 2nd win over Orleans in 2 days

by Cooper Andrews
Thursday, July 04, 2024

Anglers beat Firebirds 4-1 for 2nd win over Orleans in 2 days
Scenes from Chatham’s late-night 12-1 win over Orleans Wednesday are already among manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger’s favorite memories of his debut season.

Passion and energy careened around the Anglers’ dugout in the ninth inning of their previous game versus the Firebirds amid a saga of umpire tension. Emotions catapulted once Luke Cantwell (Pittsburgh) pulverized a two-run homer while up by nine runs — the game was all but over — sending Chatham’s roster into pandemonium.

It was the Anglers’ biggest win of the year. Both run-differential wise and momentum wise. Chatham’s rhythm persisted the following night, and Cantwell was front and center. Just like the day before.

Up 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the expressive first baseman nailed a towering fly ball that carried the right-field fence for a two-run homer. Cantwell appeared to jaw at Orleans first baseman Jack Gurevitch while rounding first, almost marking his territory.

Cantwell briefly celebrated in the dugout, then sprinted toward the Anglers’ left-field bullpen to share a moment of jubilation with his pitchers, too.

“We preach showing love to everyone on the team,” Cantwell said, smiling ear-to-ear, postgame. “Seeing your guys in the bullpen and actually physically going up to them and showing love is important. Puts a smile on their face, puts a smile on mine.”

Cantwell’s second loud home run in two nights once again proved the obvious. No team contains an energy level like the Anglers’. It’s unmatched.

The day began with Chatham’s annual Fourth of July Parade, and ended with the city’s flagship team basking in victory. Chatham (8-8, East) defeated Orleans (4-12, East) 4-1 on Independence Day at Veterans Field for the A’s third consecutive win. A two-run fourth inning set up Cantwell’s two-run blast to put the Firebirds away, while Chatham’s pitchers fared as expected against the lowest-scoring offense in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Still, it was Cantwell who stole the show for the second night in a row. Sheetinger glowed postgame about how Cantwell walked into the Chatham clubhouse with a big personality on day one, and he’s grown to help bond the team together. He said Cantwell is the best teammate he’s ever coached.

Sheetinger added that the Anglers “can’t do this without him,” in awe of how Cantwell impacts the dugout even if he’s not playing well. When he is playing well, though, the possibilities are endless.

Still, Sheetinger’s more impressed by Cantwell not hesitating to bask in glory alongside all of his teammates. The first baseman perfectly slots into Chatham’s tight-knit culture.

“It’s a true family. These guys get it,” Sheetinger said of Cantwell’s celebration with the bullpen. “I wanna make sure these guys realize how special the experience they’re having is and the guys that they’re doing it with, and they’ve got to show up to the ballpark wanting to play at their best for the guy next to them. When you can do that, special things can happen.”

Innings 1-3 didn’t bring much offensive action for Chatham. But Ashton Larson (LSU) and Ike Irish (Auburn) wasted no time in the fourth, each slamming hard-hit singles with Larson advancing from first to third base on Irish’s knock. Cleanup hitter John Bay (Austin Peay) was at the dish next, and drove Larson in off a 6-3 fielder’s choice.

Irish tagged up from second base to reach third on an Aiva Arquette (Washington) center-field flyout. On the next at-bat, Irish scored off a fielding error by Foltz Jr. as Chatham took a 2-1 advantage.

Two runs was a magic number of sorts for the Anglers. Orleans poses a limited threat offensively. It entered Thursday with 33 runs scored, the fewest in the Cape. It hadn’t even scored more than one run in each of their last two games versus Chatham.

Micah Ashman unleashes a pitch in Chatham's 4-1 win over Orleans. Ashman tossed 5.1 scorless innings in relief of starter Jacob Weaver. / Photograph by Ella Tovey

The Anglers clearly didn’t need to replicate another ultra-gaudy performance to beat the Firebirds. Regardless, their pitching staff mowed the visitors down. Starter Jacob Weaver (Austin Peay) fired 2.2 solid innings of one-run ball. Yet the burden was carried by Micah Ashman (Utah), who delivered one of Chatham’s best relief appearances of the summer.

The 6-foot-7 Southpaw tossed 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball and struck out five batters. He consistently escaped jams, albeit they were relatively small due to forcing weak contact and making guys swing and miss.

“I did not wanna be the guy to try and pry the ball out of his hand,” Sheetinger said of Ashman’s long outing in relief. “He walked in and said, ‘I got it, boys.’ He’s an elite strike thrower, and we have confidence that when he comes in the ballgame, he’s gonna get people out.”

In the top of the third, he got the A’s out of a jam with runners on first and second base immediately after replacing Weaver. Ashman later induced a 1-6-3 double play to silence the Firebirds in the sixth inning. Another shutout frame in the seventh set the stage for Cantwell’s emphatic home run, which put the Anglers up 4-1.

Cantwell, who’s hit two homers in the last 48 hours, said he doesn’t believe in hot or cold streaks. He knows he could strike out four times next game. He approaches each day, pitch and plate appearance with the same mentality.

“You wake up and find the next pitch,” Cantwell said. “Sometimes (the game) gets you out, sometimes you get yourself out and sometimes you hit homers. So showing up every day with a smile on my face, that’s all I can do.”

There were plenty of reasons to smile at Veterans Field Thursday. Yet it was Titan Hayes (Austin Peay) who got the last laugh.

Ashman exited for the flamethrowing right-hander to start the ninth. Hayes, the Anglers’ established closer, didn’t have an outing as eventful as when he threw up on the mound amid a 1.2-inning save against Brewster two days prior. This time, he faced no trouble.

Hayes struck out the side, eliciting a whiffed strike three on each batter, to seal Chatham’s second win over Orleans in as many days.

Pearl Jam’s 1991 hit “Even Flow” blared around the Veterans Field loudspeakers after Hayes’ forced Evan Griffis into an off-balance strikeout. The song, according to Sheetinger, is the Anglers’ new rally cry. Cantwell and Sheetinger said it grew to be a favorite among the roster when played during batting practice.

Now, “Even Flow” has migrated to Chatham’s victory tune. The reason why is simple. Sheetinger wants the A’s to be the most fun team in the league. With balls of energy like Cantwell leading the charge, it’s not hard to have a good time — even when it’s bonding over something as random as Eddie Vedder lyrics.

“It’s just a song that puts smiles on our faces,” Cantwell said with a chuckle. “There’s no dull moments with this squad. I’m just having fun with it all.”