CHATHAM, NJ - Maybe a good night's sleep and a new day will change the outlook for the Chatham baseball team.
The Cougars have been frustrated of late by the lack of a clutch hit and the trend reached a near breaking point on Wednesday during their Morris County Tournament game against Mountain Lakes at Chatham High.
Chatham stranded 15 men on base through its 10-inning battle with Mountain Lakes before the 4-4 game was suspended by darkness and will resume 4 p.m. Thursday with the Lakers batting in the top of the 11th inning.
"Listen, we can't come up with the big hit," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said. "We're getting ourselves opportunities and we've hit the ball hard, it just doesn't seem to be falling for us right now. No matter what we do, it seems like it's the wrong call. So maybe we'll start to do a George Costanza and do the opposite and it will work better."
Leathers' joke refers to the Seinfeld TV episode where the Costanza character complains that every decision he's made in his life turns out wrong and decides to do the opposite of what his instincts tell him to do - with great success.
Leathers pointed to the ninth inning as an example of the way things are going for his club.
"We steal with two outs and Ryan Krill hits a ball up the middle that normally would be a hit, but the shortstop is covering and it goes right to him," the coach said. "What can you say to that?
"The silver lining is that we can get a fresh start (Thursday). This is going to be a one-inning game and it's something we practice to win. It comes down to who wants it more."
Mountain Lakes made a bid to win the game in the top of the eighth inning when it pushed across a run to take a 4-3 edge, but Sean Lee led off the Chatham eighth by reaching on an error, stealing second and scoring on Andrew Bergman's one-out single to right (see the video below).
The Cougars had taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Lee walked and Bergman was hit by a pitch. Lee scored on Owen Walewander's sacrifice fly and Bergman crossed on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Ryan Drum.
Senior right-hander Tyler Tornberg allowed a run to Mountain Lakes in the second, but took a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning. But Tornberg, who struck out seven and allowed four hits, walked the Lakers leadoff man in the fifth and that prompted Leathers to call on shortstop Ben Gorski to pitch in relief.
The first pitch Gorski threw was hit for an RBI double by Jason Luzzi, tying the game at 2-2, before Tyler Murphy's RBI single gave Mountain Lakes a 3-2 edge.
From that point on Gorski was on his game, pitching six strong innings of relief that took the Cougars into the 11th inning. Gorski gave up four hits and struck out seven.
"I was trying to pound the zone and pick up Tyler (Tornberg)," Gorski said. "He pitched really well. My curveball was working really well. I was getting first-pitch strikes with the curveball and then spotting the fastball.
"We have to find that one guy who can get that clutch hit. We're getting on base, that's not a problem but we have to find a way to get them in."
Chatham tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth when Gorski doubled to center and scored on Walewander's one-out single to left. The Cougars then received walks to Logan Rooney and Drum to load the bases before Mountain Lakes turned a double play to escape the jam.
The Cougars also loaded the bases in the sixth inning and came up empty.
"Ultimately, we have to find a way when the chips are on the line to get the big hit," Leathers said. "We haven't been able to do that since the first couple of games."