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John Schiffner thought the Anglers had a “flat” batting practice.
Sometimes, the Chatham manager said, you can have a relatively poor batting practice and end up hitting well in the ensuing game. But then he recognized that Saturday just wasn’t one of those nights.
“We didn’t compete at the plate, we didn’t compete at the mound, we made errors we shouldn’t have made,” Schiffner said. “We just had a bad game.”
Chatham (1-2) fell 9-0 to the Firebirds (1-2) at Veterans Field, failing to match the offense firepower that came out of the dugout across the field. Orleans finished with 16 hits to the Anglers’ three, and scored in the first two innings before breaking the game wide open with a four-run fifth.
Nathan Bannister earned the win for the Firebirds after coming on in the second and throwing four scoreless. P.J. Conlon (San Diego), who started for Chatham, was hooked for the loss after giving up seven earned in 4.1 innings of work — three of which came on a bases-clearing double that Bryan Goossens (Siena) yielded after replacing Conlon in the fifth.
A two-run home run by Christin Stewart in the top of the first brought home the game’s winning runs, but Orleans' offensive effort bookended the contest by tallying in three of the last five frames.
“It was just one of those off nights,” said right fielder Chris Shaw (Boston College), who collected his first hit of the season in the loss. “A lot of props to their pitchers. They did a real good job of being in the zone and getting ahead of hitters.”
Conlon ran into trouble in the first two innings, saying after the game that he had trouble locating his breaking pitches. But after the Firebirds squeezed out a 3-0 lead, Conlon started to command his curveball and thus settled into a groove.
He struck out three of the six hitters that he set down in order in the third and fourth innings, but wasn’t able to carry that success into the following frame.
“I started to get my breaking ball over and that allowed me to get ahead of guys,” Conlon said. “But I ran into some bad luck in the fifth and that’s just how it went.”
After striking out Stewart with the bases loaded, Goossens replaced Conlon and retired one more before allowing Edwin Rios to clear the bases with a two-out, two-strike double. And as Orleans jumped out to a 7-0 lead, the Chatham lineup was unable to figure Bannister out.
Trevor Megill started the game for the Firebirds but was taken out after an inning as he continues to ease back in following Tommy John surgery. He was relieved by Bannister, who worked ahead of a majority of the 14 hitters he faced in four innings before giving way to Kolton Mahoney — who earned the save — for the final four frames.
It took until the bottom of the fourth for Shaw to collect the Anglers' first hit, and only singles by Garrett Hampson (Long Beach State) and A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) would join his in the final box score.
“They were filling up the zone and they were working down,” said catcher Patrick Mazeika (Stetson). “They had all their pitches working for them and they were working down in the zone consistently and they kept us off balance a little bit too.”
The lopsided loss is the second in a row for the Anglers at home, after falling to Wareham 13-3 on Thursday night. Schiffner said that an unscheduled off day, which came Friday after rain washed away a date with Harwich, proved to do more bad than good for his team.
Mitchell Gunsolus (Gonzaga) also felt like something was off with the Anglers, and steered the cause of the two-game skid onto his own squad.
“We just have to bear down and maybe regroup a little bit,” he said. “It’s not really things that other teams are doing. I think it’s just us really.”