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Chatham comes back from 7-run deficit, shocks Harwich 13-12 in 10 innings

by Zak Wolf
Sunday, July 07, 2024

Chatham comes back from 7-run deficit, shocks Harwich 13-12 in 10 innings
Campbell Smithwick had the chance to end Chatham’s marathon against Harwich with one swing of the bat, a notion which seemed inconceivable just three innings prior.

The Anglers once trailed by seven runs in the fifth inning, seemingly dead and buried. But the A’s scratched and clawed their way back. Four runs in the eighth put Chatham within striking distance. Two more in the ninth forced extras.

Austin Overn (USC) stood at first while Eli Paton (Grand Canyon) was 90 feet away from bringing home the winning run. Five Harwich players planted themselves at the edge of the infield in a last-ditch effort to salvage a result for the Mariners.

But none of them mattered as Smithwick (Ole Miss) drove the second pitch he saw deep to the wall in right field. As soon as he made contact, the result was already decided. Cam Maldonado tracked down the fly ball, but he was left with no shot to throw out Paton, who easily jogged home to score the winning run.

Euphoria hit the entire Chatham dugout as players streamed onto the field. A mob of Anglers serenaded Smithwick at first base as the celebrations bled into shallow right field.

Smithwick’s RBI sacrifice fly was the conclusion to a more than four-hour extravaganza at Veterans Field Sunday night. Chatham (10-9, East) scored eight runs across the final three innings to complete a miraculous comeback against Harwich (9-10, East), defeating the Mariners 13-12. The Anglers had just eight hits while their pitchers surrendered a season-high 13 walks. Yet Chatham came up with the perfect storm late on to turn the game on its head.

“That was one of the ugliest baseball games I've ever been a part of. And also at the same time one of the most beautiful games I've ever been a part of,” said Chatham manager Jeremy “Sheets” Sheetinger postgame.

Everything started to go wrong for Chatham in the third inning. Solo home runs from Overn and Aiva Arquette had the Anglers in front 2-1, providing starter Karson Ligon (Mississippi State) with a slight cushion. Ligon had allowed just one run in 4.1 innings during his first start against Brewster on July 2, but struggled against Harwich.

Three straight two-out walks from Ligon allowed the tying run to come home, ending his night. Malachi Witherspoon (Oklahoma) entered from the bullpen, but didn’t fare better. Maldonado hit a single into left field, scoring two runs to put Harwich in front before Matt Scannell recorded an infield single to bring home another run. A couple batters later, Daniel Dickinson drilled a bases-clearing triple to extend Harwich’s lead to 8-2.

A disastrous inning gave Chatham a mountain to climb, yet Sheetinger remained steadfast that his team could pull off an unlikely comeback.

“When we say ‘play ball’, you got nine innings and you don't know what can happen inside of nine innings,” Sheetinger said.

Chatham players and coaches celebrate in right field after Campbell Smithwick (pictured, middle, shirtless) hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to defeat Harwich / Photograph by Ella Tovey

It didn’t look likely at first. Whenever Chatham made minor inroads, Harwich halted the Anglers' progress. Ike Irish (Auburn) hammered a two-run home run in the fifth inning, cutting Chatham’s deficit to 10-5. But Scannell’s sacrifice fly increased Harwich’s advantage to six.

Chatham’s deficit remained the same heading into the eighth inning. Chance Cox (Austin Peay) kept the Anglers respectable, allowing just two hits across three innings. But a comeback didn’t seem to be on the cards, considering the Anglers hadn’t produced a hit since Irish’s fifth-inning bomb. Kyle Lodise (Georgia Tech) was the lone player to reach base in the 10 ensuing at-bats.

Though the Anglers quickly put ducks on the pond in the eighth. Harwich reliever Michael Benzo hit John Bay (Austin Peay) before Arquette and Luke Cantwell (Pittsburgh) drew walks to load the bases.

As soon as Chatham put runners on with nobody out, Sheetinger felt the pendulum swinging. So did the rest of his players. A dugout that was once uncharacteristically quiet started to find its voice again.

“Sometimes guys are looking for something to believe in, especially when the score is that lopsided, but (they saw) it start to formulate in front of them,” Sheetinger said.

Peter Haas replaced Benzo, but walked Lodise and threw a wild pitch, scoring two runs for Chatham. Jett Johnston (Auburn) grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, but it brought the Anglers closer. Another wild pitch meant Chatham scored four runs without a hit and trailed 11-9.

“With us, you never know,” Bay said. “Baseball is such a strange game you just keep fighting, you believe in one another and anything can happen.”

Following a shutdown inning from Hayden Murphy (Auburn) in the ninth, the Anglers were afforded one last chance. The odds of a comeback increased as Ashton Larson (LSU) and Smithwick reached to start the frame.

Closer Colton Shaw was inserted into the game for Harwich to stop the bleeding. Bay, one of Chatham’s best power hitters, came to the plate. Bay said he was patiently waiting for a ball high in the zone the entire at-bat. He knew Shaw possessed a good sinking fastball and changeup, so he focused on his timing and breathing.

On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Bay swatted a ball into right-center field, easily scoring two runs and bringing Chatham level for the first time since the third inning.

The Anglers did spoil their chance to finish the job. Arquette, Lodise and Jayden Davis (Vanderbilt) all were retired, leaving Bay stranded at third.

Harwich struck first in extras, scoring its first run since the top of the sixth inning. With Cade Kurland as the ghost runner at second, the Mariners elected to bunt, advancing him to third. Maldonado chopped a grounder to Arquette at shortstop on the ensuing at-bat.

Arquette set his feet but fired an errant throw to Smithwick at the plate as Harwich re-took the lead. Murphy recorded two straight outs, setting up another do-or-die situation for Chatham.

Chatham copied Harwich, by having Paton bunt to start the 10th. The bunt was placed so perfectly down the third base line that he beat out the throw to first.

“He executed that bunt as perfect as any bump we've had this summer,” Sheetinger said of Paton.

Overn wasted no time, ripping a ball into right field, tying the game at 12-12. Once again Chatham was on the brink of pulling off the unthinkable. Larson popped up before Smithwick stepped to the plate. And the rest is history.

Smithwick drove the ball plenty deep, ensuring Chatham didn’t fail at the final hurdle of a momentous comeback.

“You can do great things when you have guys that want to fight and win for each other,” Sheetinger said. “When they're playing for themselves, those things don't happen, games like that don't turn when they're playing for each other, that's when big moments like that happen.”