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Chatham falls 4-3 to Falmouth despite weathering early pitcher’s duel

by Cooper Andrews
Saturday, July 06, 2024

Chatham falls 4-3 to Falmouth despite weathering early pitcher’s duel
Liam Paddack let out a fiery scream after Scott Mudler’s bat came nowhere close to scraping the lefty’s 2-2 breaking ball. It was only the third inning, yet Paddack already had six Ks. He was dialed in.

By the beginning of the fifth, Paddack’s (Gonzaga) strikeout total rested at eight, just one fewer than Falmouth starter Gage Wood. Each starter was scoreless through four while combining for 15 strikeouts and five hits allowed — the epitome of a pitcher’s duel.

Wood tacked on another pair of Ks in the fifth to end his night with a shutout. In the bottom half, however, the Commodores figured Paddack out. They put runners on second and third with one out to force Anglers’ pitching coach Eric Beattie’s hand.

Right-hander Garrett Payne kept the shutout alive in the fifth. But it didn’t last much longer. Gavin Turley took Payne 430 feet to center field for a sixth-inning grand slam. From there, the Anglers couldn’t find their footing.

“It’s funny,” Beattie said postgame, “there’s 300 pitches that were thrown in this game and it comes down to one.”

Excellent pitching for the majority of the contest wasn’t enough as Chatham (9-9, East) fell on the road to Falmouth (6-12, West) 4-3, ending a four-game winning streak. Paddack steadied the Anglers for 4.1 scoreless innings to nearly match Wood’s five-inning, nine-K shutout start. Chatham's offense didn’t provide much relief, though. It failed to score past the sixth inning.

Paddack’s ability to fire a high-quality start and go toe-to-toe with Wood allowed the Anglers to keep the Commodores level for much of the game. It was all the more impressive considering that his last start went awry. He only went 1.1 innings and let in three earned runs on June 27 versus Wareham.

Yet Saturday, his command improved by leaps and bounds. Beattie said that was what made the difference. Paddack found success with locating his curveball and slider out of the gate in at-bats, and his movement on those same pitches induced throngs of empty swings — totaling eight strikeouts.

“He did a good job of throwing it in the strike zone early and then throwing it out of the strike zone late in the count whenever he got ahead,” Beattie said of Paddack. “The overall stat line at the end reflects that his command was great today.”

Strikeouts were a prerequisite Saturday. Both starting pitchers combined for 12 of them across the opening three innings. Chatham and Falmouth’s pitching staffs had 25 Ks in total.

Wood, who entered Saturday with a whopping 14 strikeouts in just over eight innings, punched out six of his first 11 batters. Paddack’s total sat at six after powering a fastball past Jayson Jones’s bat and getting Scott Mulder to swing at a breaking ball to end the third.

Neither hurler issued a base on balls until the fifth frame. Wood walked Lodise with one out. Lodise attempted to steal second base, exhibiting some much-needed aggressiveness with his squad continuously faltering at the plate. But he was gunned out by Mudler behind the plate.

Promptly, Eli Paton (Grand Canyon) whiffed at the next pitch — Wood’s ninth, and final, strikeout.

That’s when Paddack faced his first adverse situation of the night. He issued a walk to Turley, then allowed a double to Jones. Paddack managed to force Mudler into an unassisted groundout to first base. Yet, that proved to be it.

Chatham manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger was pleased with Paddack’s performance, echoing Beattie's sentiment.

John Bay rounds third base in the sixth inning of Chatham's 4-3 loss to Wareham Saturday night / Photograph by Ella Tovey

“He came back and responded,” Sheetinger said of Paddack. “This game isn’t about who you are in that moment. Even if it doesn’t go well it doesn't make you less than your talent level.”

Payne, a lanky right-handed reliever, was subbed in and made easy work of Falmouth’s nine- and one-hole hitters. He induced a weak pop-up from Jimmy Nati and struck out Jaxon Willits swinging. Payne set the A’s up for a productive sixth frame, where they faced McKee.

It started with Campbell Smithwick (Ole Miss), who swatted a belt-high fastball into right-center field for a standing lead-off double. He advanced to third off an Austin Overn (USC) groundout. Ike Irish (Auburn) then got hit by a pitch to place runners on the corners.

With two outs, John Bay (Austin Peay) bounced a grounder to Falmouth third baseman Trent Caraway. He moved near foul territory to snare the ground ball, and his throw to first sailed high above Dylan Carey. Bay earned an RBI for Cantwell’s score, while Irish reached home from first to score off the error.

Aiva Arquette capped off the sixth by throttling a single into left field that drove Bay in. Heading into the bottom half of the inning, Chatham led 3-0.

One swing of the bat sent the Anglers back down, though.

Three consecutive singles from Luke Gaffney, Carey and Caraway loaded the bases for Falmouth with just one out. Then, Payne made a grave mistake. A delivery floated in the heart of the plate was crushed by Turley into dead center field for a towering grand slam as the Commodores took a 4-3 advantage.

“Those (bad) moments happen, we’re not going to go scoreless all summer,” Sheetinger said, expressing utmost confidence in his pitching staff — whose 3.41 ERA ranks first in the CCBL. “All we can ask for is them staying true to who they are and keep attacking the zone.”

Chatham is a resilient bunch. It’s come through in crunch time before, such as a comeback win over Brewster on July 2 or delivering a go-ahead ninth-inning RBI to defeat Orleans on June 20. But Saturday seemed different. It suffered against right-hander Tom Chmielewski through the seventh and eighth innings.

Still, the Anglers wouldn’t go away without a little drama.

Chmielewski hit Bay with a pitch, and did the same to Arquette following a 13-pitch at-bat. Falmouth replaced Chmielewski with Edward Hart as Cantwell stepped into the left-handed batter’s box.

The first baseman worked a 3-0 count, took a strike, then laid down a bunt. It trickled back to Hart, who fired to third base and got Bay out on the force. Lodise was up next and laced a line drive to center field, but Turley didn’t move an inch to make the grab.

Jayden Davis (Vanderbilt) pinch-hit for Chatham’s last gasp. He hit another hard liner, too, though it was easily gloved by Jones to end the Anglers’ winning streak.

“We put ourselves in a position to be a base hit away from tying it and maybe even winning it,” Sheetinger said. “That’s all you can ask for.”