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Chatham pitchers issue 10 walks as Anglers fall to Orleans, 8-3

by Allie Kaylor , 07-04-2021

Chatham pitchers issue 10 walks as Anglers fall to Orleans, 8-3

ORLEANS — Zach Maxwell entered in the sixth to limit the damage. The previous pitcher, Cy Nielson, had walked the first two batters of the inning — bringing Chatham’s total up to eight for the game. Maxwell induced two fouls from Orleans’ Benjamin Blackwell before striking him out, the first out of the inning. But when Justin Miknis walked for the third time in the game, he loaded the bases with just one out and the Firebirds clinging onto a 4-3 lead.

It turned the Orleans order over, bringing up leadoff hitter Peyton Chatagnier who’d hit a deep home run in the third. Instead of hitting the ball to a similar spot, Chatagnier popped a foul ball down the first-base line. David Mendham sprinted into the open space between the base and the netting, making the catch just feet away from crashing into the fence.

The runner on third sprinted home, Mendam made the throw, and the ball popped out of catcher Maxwell Romero’s glove as he swung around to make the tag. Maxwell needed a strikeout, a ground ball, a pop up, anything that could get the final out of the inning and leave the runners stranded. Instead, Rhylan Thomas hit a full-count double down the left field line to score both runners. All three batters that had walked that inning ended up scoring, and five of the eight Orleans batters that received a free pass crossed the plate. The Anglers tied the Firebirds in hits with six, but the 10 walks built up and sunk Chatham in its 8-3 loss at Eldredge Field.

“You’re not gonna beat anybody at any level walking (10) people,” manager Tom Holliday said.

The first walk came in the third inning off 6-foot-7 Austin Vernon. Vernon allowed a double to Thomas in the second at bat of the game, then retired five-straight on two strikeouts to keep the game scoreless. The third inning started with a strikeout, then a five-pitch walk to Miknis where he never lifted his bat.

Chatagnier’s next plate appearance seemed like it might go down the same path. Vernon quickly fell behind on a 2-0 count, but it wasn’t a spot he was uncomfortable with — he’d come back from a 3-1 count in the first and later a 3-0 count in the fourth. But Vernon had no chance to come back as Chatagnier laced a laser that soared far over the head of left fielder Logan Britt, landing far beyond the outfield fence.

Usually, Cy Nielson would come out in the fourth in relief of Vernon, but for the first time this season, Vernon jogged out to the mound at the bottom of the inning. For a moment, it looked like the third inning was a fluke, just a few missed spots that wouldn’t happen again for the right-hander with pro aspirations. A flyout directly to Jake DeLeo was followed by a strikeout by Tyler Locklear.

Then a walk followed. And another. Pitching coach Dennis Cook went to the mound to calm down his pitcher, then pulled him for Nielson when he walked another batter to load the bases with two outs. The visiting crowd clapped for Vernon as the two-time Angler exited what may have been his final start before the July 10 MLB draft.

Nielsen walked in a run to start his appearance, then gave up a single to start the fifth after a fly ball by Chatagnier ended the fourth. Nielson sat back, took a breath and fired three strikes to Marcano for the first out of the inning. A groundout advanced the runner, but another walk kept him there.

After two strikes to Jaren McKenzie, Romero realized Locklear was taking a bit too much of a leadoff at first and threw to Josh Rivera, who was covering second. Locklear was caught in a rundown, with Rivera throwing to Michael Brown and Brown throwing to Matt Garcia as the run crossed the plate.

“I was keeping my eye on him at third base, and I knew there was a chance he would’ve ran,” Rivera said. “So I was prepared to throw home... and once I gave the ball up, he got a good jump.”

The error in judgement gave the Firebirds a 4-3 lead, erasing the progress Chatham’s offense had made to stay in the game early on. Garcia hit a standing double and scored on two consecutive wild pitches in the third inning to give the Anglers an early lead, the first time they scored before their opponent since Andrew Benefield hit a grand slam in the top of the first inning on June 27.

When Orleans answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning, Rivera started the inning with a double, his first extra base hit of the season and first hit in July. The Anglers have doubled 12 times this season, and three came on Sunday against the Firebirds. Rivera clapped and pointed toward the dugout before removing his gloves.

A walk by Garcia was followed by a chopper down the third baseline by DeLeo. Rivera sprinted home on contact, and once Locklear made the throw to first, Garcia shuffled and broke for third. Lyle Miller-Green followed DeLeo’s single with a nearly identical batted ball that was bobbled by Locklear, and Garcia advanced home to retie the game for the Anglers.

Unlike the Firebirds, who had only just begun their night on offense, the Anglers stopped — they got on base three more times for the rest of the game, all walks, all in different innings. Orleans followed its three-run sixth inning with a Chase DeLauter home run, his fourth in three games, to cap off a five run win for the Firebirds. What was once a close game had blown out of proportion due to pitching collapses and defensive misplays, and when asked how to fix the defensive errors, the small mental mistakes, Holliday had a simple answer.

“You don’t."