CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham baseball coach Todd Leathers predicted before the season started that pitching would be the strong point for the 2017 Cougars.
Matt Stamford became the latest Chatham pitcher to back up the coach's words, tossing a five-hit shutout gem for the Cougars in a 1-0 win over Morristown on Wednesday at Chatham High.
The junior left-hander extended the Chatham pitching staff's streak to 19 straight scoreless innings to start the season for the 3-0 Cougars.
"Before the season, we talked about how pitching was going to be our thing and it kind of shows," Leathers said. "Matt Stamford stepped up big today, going out there, hitting spots and throwing the ball by people. He's doing a great job and we expect that out of him. We expect that out of all our guys."
Matt Nodoro led off the game with a single for Morristown (1-1), but he was erased trying to steal on a strong throw by Chatham catcher Chris Delsandro to shortstop Jimmy Cunningham, who applied the tag. Stamford followed with two strikeouts to end the first.
Despite problems controlling his curveball early on, Stamford struck out six batters over the first three innings, but did not pick up another strikeout the rest of the way. He walked one batter.
"I had a little bit of everything," Stamford said. "I had some trouble controlling my curveball at the beginning, but I remembered to 'do simple better' and threw my fastball for strikes and it was good. I threw my curveball like a fastball and kept the same arm speed. I threw it when I needed to and threw it for strikes. The changeup was working, too."
Matt Stamford talks about his five-hit shutout against Morristown
The fifth inning turned out to be pivotal for both teams and Stamford, who has committed to Lehigh, was the one with luck on his side in this one. With a runner on second and two outs, Jake Fisher hit a slow roller toward second for base hit, but the Morristown runner rounding third was called out after inadvertently being touched by the Morristown third-base coach. That ended the threat.
"It was a weird play," Leathers said. "It looked like he kind of ran into him when he was rounding third."
Chatham delivered the run that Stamford needed to win in the bottom of the fifth. Matt Devlin led off with a single to center and moved to second on Sam Browning's infield single. Devlin then stole third base and scored when Tyler Brock hit a grounder that was mishandled at third base.
Matt Devlin scores from third for Chatham on this shot to third by Tyler Brock in the fifth inning
In the sixth, Stamford gave up a leadoff single, but picked off the baserunner. In the seventh, shortstop Cunningham made a backhand stab of a sharp-hit ball in the hole and gunned the runner down at first for the defensive play of the game.
"There were only a couple hard hit balls the whole game and he made it easy for us," Cunningham said. "He earned that win. I needed to make that play for him and luckily I did. We haven't given up a run yet. It's been fun. It hasn't been too difficult in the field because there haven't been many runners on base."
Stamford, who threw 96 pitches in his shutout, never thought about the streak of scoreless innings that has reached 19 innings to start the season.
"No reason I should be scared or nervous out there," Stamford said. "I think we're going to go far. This is the best team we've had in a long time. We have five kids who are going to play in college, so we should have a great year."
Chatham junior Matt Stamford shows his shutout form vs. Morristown