The Chatham Anglers came up short against the Orleans Firebirds on Tuesday night, falling 5-4 in a nail-biter at Veterans Field. Leading 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning, the Anglers (8-8) could not hold a lead against an Orleans team that kept chipping away in the final frame.
"We played eight great innings," said manager John Schiffner
. "In the ninth inning, the wheels fell off the wagon. We had defensive mistakes and pitching mistakes that hurt us late. We should have won, but we handed the game to Orleans."
Box Score Game 16: Orleans 5, Chatham 4
North Carolina's Tate Parrish
(1-1, 2.45 ERA) suffered the loss for the Anglers. The Smithfield, NC native gave up one unearned run in one third of an inning, entering the game for High Point's Jamie Schultz
(0-0, 2.35 ERA), who threw four scoreless innings of relief to go along with five strikeouts.
"Schultzy came in and did a great job," said Schiffner. "Parrish did a good job too. He got us an out that we really needed."
While Parrish was given the loss for Chatham, Virginia Tech right-hander Jake Joyce
(1-0, 5.69 ERA) erased the Anglers' lead. With the score 4-3 Chatham, Joyce gave up a two-run single with runners on second and third and two outs in the inning. Joyce has two blown saves in a row and has allowed a base runner in all six of his appearances this season.
Although the Angler bullpen did not close the game out well against Orleans, Chatham received a major boost from San Diego southpaw Louie Lechich
(0-0, 3.12 ERA), who was given a no-decision. Lechich surrendered two runs in four and a third innings and struck out four batters.
"Louie was outstanding," said Schiffner. "That was the most innings he's thrown in over a year. He was fantastic. We did not want to overthrow him, so we took him out early."
Oregon State's Matt Boyd
(1-0, 5.40 ERA) earned the win for the Firebirds (13-3). Boyd struck out the side in one scoreless inning of work. Firedbird closer Kyle Crockett
(0-1, 0.71 ERA) (Virginia) got his first save of the season and fanned two batters. Boyd and Crockett led an Orleans bullpen that allowed only one run in four innings of work and helped Kentucky right-hander Jerad Grundy avoid a loss. Grundy conceded three runs on four hits in five innings.
At the plate, Tuesday night was the first time the Anglers out-hit an opponent since a 6-5 win against Brewster on June 30. Chatham struck first in the third inning after catcher Chad Morgan
(Virginia Tech) hit a triple to center field and scored on an overthrow, putting the Anglers up 1-0. In the bottom of the fourth, right fielder John Martinez
(Michigan) State rocked a solo home run to right field, giving Chatham a 2-0 lead. Martinez finished the night 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and now has two home runs in his last three games.
"I've been having much better at-bats lately," said Martinez. "Coach McGee is doing a lot with my swing and helping me get better as a player. I think it's showing up with the home runs and the hits I've been getting in general."
Chatham tacked on two more runs and gave itself a chance to win the game after an RBI groundout by center fielder Adam Engel
(Louisville) in the bottom of the fifth and an RBI single by Martinez in the bottom of the sixth.
Yet, despite the quality at-bats by the Anglers, the Firebirds managed to stay within striking distance. In the top of the fifth inning, Orleans tied the game after catcher Jake Hernandez
(Southern California) hammered a two-run home run to left field. The Firebirds then saved their best rally for the final frame and scored three runs in the top of the ninth after an RBI groundout by left fielder Kevin Brown
(Bryant) and a two-run single by Hernandez, who finished the game with four RBI.
Although Tuesday's loss was disappointing for John Schiffner, he spent the majority of his postgame team meeting providing encouragement for his players and telling them not to lose heart.
"I told our guys that we punched one of the best teams in the league in the mouth tonight. Even though Orleans took it tonight, they're not perfect. I told our kids to go out and get them tomorrow night."
On Wednesday, the Anglers will march in Chatham's annual Fourth of July parade before traveling to Orleans to face the Firebirds at 7 p.m. In his twenty seasons in Chatham, the prospect of the event never gets old for Schiffner.
"The parade is fantastic," he said. "Thousands of people show up and they're cheering like heck for the A's when we come out. It's a great experience. Hopefully the kids will appreciate it because it's a lot of fun. I love doing it."
For live coverage of Wednesday's game, tune into the Anglers Extra Pregame Show at 6:40 p.m. with broadcasters Chris Fitzgerald and Brandon Liebhaber at TRZ Teamline