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It was, in all ways it could have been, Ryan Kellogg’s night.
Zander Wiel hit a screaming grand slam. Richie Martin bumped his on-base streak to 34 games. Chatham starter Zac Gallen (North Carolina) was, in his own right, as impressive in five innings of work. But it all belonged to Kellogg. That’s the kind of ownership a one-hitter will grant you.
"No matter how many times you're going to do it you're still going to have the same butterflies," Kellogg said of coming one out away from a no-hitter. "Just trying to close it out, but it is what it is. No complaints here."
Kellogg went nine innings, faced 28 hitters — one over the game minimum — and yielded a lone hit. In turn, his Braves (26-15-1) padded their league-leading record with a 5-0 win over the Anglers (17-24-1) at Veterans Field on Friday. The game was scoreless until Blake Davey singled in Mark Laird in the top of the sixth, then Wiel’s slam provided all the support Kellogg would need. The lefty tossed 11 strikeouts and was superb in his seventh start of the season, and made a losing pitcher out of Gallen who only gave up one run in five frames.
While Kellogg’s gem handcuffed the Anglers, Brewster beat Orleans, 7-2, to pull within one point of Chatham in the playoff race. The Anglers hold the East Division’s fourth and final playoff spot, but that could change with two regular-season games to go.
“You just have to tip your cap to him, he was incredible,” Gallen said. “That was the best game I’ve ever seen someone throw in nine innings.”
They were murkily familiar waters for Kellogg. As a freshman with Arizona State, he threw the ninth no-hitter in program history against Oregon State on March 23, 2013. He came two fielding errors short of a perfect game in that one, and had the stuff and rhythm to duplicate it on Friday.
Until Kellogg walked Nick Sciortino (Boston College) to start the bottom of the sixth, he had faced a minimum 15 hitters. But a faulty double play — when Landon Cray (Seattle) didn’t know his swinging bunt was in play and was thrown out for a double play without leaving the batter’s box — allowed him to face a minimum 27 hitters in the contest. Yet Cray’s mental error was just foreshadowing for the mark he’d leave on the game.
An inning later the Braves scratched onto the scoreboard and then Wiel’s slam softened the cushion to five in the seventh.
“I didn’t feel like we were embarrassed or even really dominated,” Chatham manager John Schiffner said. “We were taking good swings and good at-bats. He was just very very good. He had his stuff and was in complete control of the game.”
Heading into the ninth, Kellogg had faced a minimum 24 hitters and struck out eight of them — no-hitter intact. Sciortino, who had broken up the perfect game with a walk, threatened to foil the no-hitter with a sinking line drive to center before Mark Laird glided under it and made a diving catch.
With the Chatham crowd now standing and everyone at Veterans Field hanging on his every pitch, Kellogg used a breaking ball — one of his many deftly placed breaking balls on the night — to strike out Robert Baldwin (Yale).
And with the no-hitter as close as it could have been Cray, the Anglers’ 27th hitter, poked a bleeder to the left side. Kellogg lunged for it but it nicked off the top of his glove and slowly rolled to third baseman Blake Allemand, who broke for the ball but had no play. Everything stopped. The game’s official scorer put his hands on his head, Allemand stood with the ball and stared at Kellogg and Anglers fans, yes Anglers fans, screamed for an error from the bleachers. But it wasn’t an error at all.
With the smallest smudge now on his line, Kellogg received a standing ovation from the crowd and both benches. After he struck out Mitchell Gunsolus (Gonzaga) and put the final period on his performance, the teams shook hands and no one left the field. Bourne didn’t rush to its bus for a trip that would near an hour down Route 6. Trays of pasta and meatballs waited for the Anglers at 400 East but room temperature food suddenly didn’t sound so bad.
It was a game worth holding onto — winners and losers alike. One hit for 28 hitters. Imperfect perfection if anything ever could be.