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Jordan Hillyer (Kennesaw State) wasn’t coming out of the game. The baseball that had just struck his leg could have been a boulder. Instead of bruising his calf it could have flattened him into a pancake in front of the mound. He still would have found a rationale for Chatham manager John Schiffner to keep him in the game — but it didn’t have to come to that.
“I don’t know if you saw him walking away from the mound as I walked over,” Schiffner said. “He said to me, ‘I ain’t coming out.’”
He didn’t, not yet, and went on to strike out the next two hitters he faced before letting in the only run on his otherwise spotless line. Hillyer’s strong outing — his fifth in as many starts this season — was supported by a three-run home run by A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) in the fifth, and Chatham (14-16-1) beat Brewster (11-20) 4-2 at Stony Brook Field on Friday evening. The win comes at a pivotal time in the Eastern Division playoff race, as it stretched the Anglers’ lead over the last-place Whitecaps to seven points.
Hillyer improved to 4-0 with six innings of one-run baseball, and his lead was preserved by Lou Distasio (Rhode Island) and Kyle Davis (Southern California) out of the pen. Davis worked through a turbulent ninth to earn the save and officially hand Brewster starter Kenneth Oakley the loss.
“I feel good and I felt like I could locate my fastball,” Hillyer said. “I feel like I was down in the zone for the most part and was able to get in on the righties. I also got groundballs, I feel like most of their hits were just groundballs that got through.”
For four innings, Hillyer and Oakley were locked in a pitchers duel. Hillyer had allowed five runners to reach base but Brewster had nothing to show for it. Oakley struck out five and only one runner reached third base. It was the kind of battle Hillyer has pitched and succeeded in before this season, and it took a drastic turn in the top of the fifth.
Landon Cray (Seattle) reached on an error to start the inning and Ty Moore (UCLA) singled to left a batter later. Then Murray laid into a 3-2 slider — the same pitch Oakley struck him out on in the third — and put his league-leading fifth home run over the left-field wall. Murray finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored, no contribution more important than the stain he left on the right-hander’s night.
“I just tried to get something in the air to get the run home from third,” Murray said. “Or I was just trying to have a good at-bat to give Chris (Shaw) a chance with the bases loaded. But it worked out well.”
The game-breaking hit came on Oakley’s last pitch and the Anglers put up four runs in the inning, proving that Whitecaps manager John Altobelli left him in just a tad too long. Then Hillyer followed with a decisive shutdown inning, striking out Zach Gibbons and LaMonte Wade before getting Brandon Bishop to hit into an inning-ending infield fly. And while the balls parabolic path took a turn toward Kal Simmons’ (Kennesaw State) awaiting glove, Hillyer had already turned his back to the field and started walking toward the dugout. When the ball nestled into the webbing of Simmons’ mitt he had already stepped over the first-base line chalk, his eyes fixated on the next inning and next pitch.
Hillyer’s outing, as a whole, was just another mile marker in what has been a dominant season. He has four wins in five starts and has thrown at least five innings in every appearance. His ERA, which somehow went up in the game, now sits at an even 1.00. His deft fastball-slider combination adds to his brewing reputation with every prisoner at it takes.
After the game he stood with one leg up on the bullpen bench and his pant leg pulled up, exposing what had already become a noticeable bump — the only mark Brewster has made on his season to date.
“It’s going to be pretty bad tomorrow,” he said.
But does the win make it feel better'
“Yeah, always does.”