CHATHAM, NJ - Sam Blanchard showed how ready he was for the start of the Chatham baseball season when he opened the game by striking out the first three batters he faced.

Blanchard set the tone for the 2017 season on Monday with six scoreless innings against Jefferson, igniting a streak of scoreless innings that Cougar pitchers have extended to 19 innings through the first three games.

Sam Blanchard is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.

Sign Up for E-News

Blanchard, a senior right-hander, allowed only three hits over his six innings, striking out eight and walking none.

“They were a pretty good team last year,” Blanchard said. “We knew we just had to hit spots, and that’s what we’ve been preaching all season.”

Blanchard opened up the game by striking out three straight batters, fooling all of them with breaking balls. From then on, Blanchard’s plan was to keep going to the curve.

“We always start off with fastballs on the outside corner, because it gets a lot of guys,” Blanchard said. “We can always come back with a curveball or a changeup, and I always come back with the curveball.”

Blanchard got himself into a jam just once in in his six innings of work. With one out in the top of the second, Justin Randzio doubled off of Blanchard and advanced to third base on a groundout. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Blanchard managed to strike out Antonio Favata and escape danger.

Blanchard felt especially comfortable on the mound thanks to Chatham’s strong hitting performance. The Cougars put up seven runs on Jefferson, providing plenty of insurance for him.

“Pitching with a lead is definitely a lot easier than pitching from behind,” Blanchard said. “I know I can throw a strike, and if someone rocks one off of me, I still have a lead to work with.”

Chatham baseball coach Todd Leathers praised Blanchard following the game, saying that his performance was not out of the ordinary.

“That’s who Sammy is, and that’s what we expected,” Leathers said. “It sounds kind of crazy to expect six innings and no runs, but that’s who he is. He’s got great control, he’s going to locate, and pound the zone.”

Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at  973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website