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The wind was unyielding, the outfield grass was slick and the ball just didn’t bounce Chatham’s way.
Jeff Gelinas (Maine) needed two outs to get out of the eighth and preserve a one-run lead, but Mitchell Tolman’s single to right field bounced past Chris Shaw (Boston College), rolled all the way to the wall and three runs crossed the plate for Orleans. The Anglers were five outs away from extending their season-long winning streak to five, but that quickly slipped away.
“I think we played well and could have hit a little more and added to our lead when we had the chance.” Chatham manager John Schiffner said. “It just got away at the end.”
The Anglers (12-10-1) fell to the Firebirds (14-9) 3-1 at Eldredge Park on Monday night, in a six-pitcher dual that saw just 12 hits between the two sides. Andrew Chin (Boston College) started for Chatham and was clinical in 6.1 shutout innings, and Gelinas relieved him in a losing decision. Two scoreless innings earned Orleans reliever Bobby Poyner the win, and Reilly Hovis notched the save. All pitchers in the game were able to work with a persistent win that pushed toward home plate from start to finish.
For a while it seemed like Jake Fraley’s (LSU) fourth-inning RBI double would hold and make a winner out of Chin, but the no-decision didn’t dilute what he did on the mound.
“Chinner was great,” Schiffner said. “It’s tough it didn’t end up in a win for him but he was great.”
The Anglers’ ace made his first start of the season at Orleans on June 11, a 10-2 opening-night win that he threw four scoreless innings in. At that time, there were talks that any start could be his last with contract talks pending after the New York Yankees selected him in the MLB Draft. But Chin took to the Eldredge Park field nearly a month since starting his second Cape League summer on it, and was arguably at his best.
Nothing about the start was perfect — as Chin allowed a Firebird to reach base in every inning but the sixth — but he used a balanced diet of well-commanded fastballs and well-spotted off-speed pitches to keep the hosts off the board.
“I was able to repeat my delivery once I got going,” Chin said. “After a rocky first couple innings I got in a groove and that was why.”
And when Chin got into any semblance of a jam, he used the double play to quickly end it. He got an Orleans hitter to hit into a twin killing to end the third, fourth and fifth innings, which christened third baseman A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) — who is playing the position for the first time since middle school — and kept Kevin Fagan (Stetson) busy at second base.
“It’s fun to have a guy who gets groundball outs,” said Fagan, who was a part of all three inning-ending double plays. “Obviously they weren’t able to score too many runs tonight and that was a big part of it.”
Chin came out for the seventh inning and retired one hitter to make it his longest outing of the season. But he also allowed two base runners that forced Schiffner to pull him for Gelinas, his fiinal line reading 6.1 innings and no runs on four hits, five strikeouts and two walks. Gelinas used a strikeout and groundout to Fagan to get out of the jam and temporarily hold the lead, and a grateful Chin greeted him with a fist bump to the chest at the top step of the dugout.
Then Gelinas created his own jam in the next frame and couldn't get out of it unscathed. Chin was sterling and the Anglers played a near flawless game in the field, but sometimes one play decides a game.
Said Schiffner: “It’s a game of inches and sometimes you just don’t come out on top.”