CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham's goal is to play a perfect baseball game every time it takes the field. The Cougars came pretty darn close on Saturday in their Morris County Tournament Preliminary Round game against Kinnelon.
Peter DeMaria hit a home run and an RBI single during an 11-run rally in the third inning and Jack Hale scattered three singles in pitching five shutout innings as Chatham defeated Kinnelon, 14-0, in a game halted in the fifth inning by the mercy rule.
"I preach to them all the time, just play the perfect game, and I think that’s about as well as we could play," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said.
No. 15 seed Chatham (4-8) brought 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs in a huge third inning to overwhelm No. 18 seed Kinnelon (5-9).
Chatham faced three different pitchers in the third, where 12 batters reached base on eight hits, two walks, and one hit batter. First baseman DeMaria led off the inning by hitting an opposite field home run to right that just got over the wall.
“I think the wind helped me a little bit on the home run, but we’ll take it.” DeMaria said “I didn’t really get full contact on it, but I made the best of it, and the wind helped.”
Six players drove in runs in the inning. Ryan Brennan hit an RBI single, Sam Browning hit a two-run single, Chris Bredahl hit a two RBI double, DeMaria hit an RBI single, Cunningham hit a two RBI single, and Brian Brady hit a two RBI single to push the Chatham lead to 14-0.
“We talk about three different parts of the season, we have the regular season, the county tournament, and states,” Leathers said. “We said that not one of those affects the other, and the guys just came prepared today."
Chatham’s offensive outburst was backed by a great performance by starting pitcher Hale. He allowed only three runners to reach base in the game, all off of singles. Hale racked up four strikeouts, three of which were looking.
Hale also showed off his glove, fielding three ground balls for outs, including consecutive come backers in the top of the second inning.
“Jack does what he does,” Leathers said. “I expect the performance that he had, and if we go out there and score runs like that, we are going to be in every game that he pitches.”
Chatham got rolling in the bottom of the first inning, when third baseman Jake Bevich led off with a hard hit single to left field. Bevich stole second and then stole third. The throw down to third went into left field, and Bevich came into to score, putting Chatham up 1-0. Bevich finished with two hits, one walk, two stolen bases, one RBI, and one run scored.
“Hitting is contagious, it’s crazy like that,” Leathers said. “It starts with the first pitch of the game, with Jake going up there and hitting a rocket to left field."
Chatham scored two more runs in the bottom of the second inning. After an infield single by Jimmy Cunningham, Brady sacrifice bunted him over to second. With two outs, Browning delivered a clutch RBI single to center field. Browning then stole second, and was brought home by another big two-out hit, this time by Bevich. Chatham ended the second inning leading 3-0.
“We just had clutch hits, something that we’ve been struggling with all year,” Leathers said. “Numerous times we had two-out base hits and two-out RBIs. If we can do that, we’re going to finish the season very strong.”
DeMaria finished with a single, double, and home run in three at bats. He drove in two runs and scored two runs. Browning, the number nine hitter, led Chatham with three RBIs.
“Coach always talks about three different seasons, and this one is the county one,” DeMaria said. “Our main goal was to get the bat on the ball and make good contact, get runners on base and score, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Chatham advances to the first round of the MCT where they will take on No. 2 seed Delbarton, Saturday, April 30.