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John Schiffner calls it “the last supper.”
After falling to Orleans 12-7 and ending the season in fifth place in the East Division, the Anglers lingered at Eldredge Park before boarding the school bus for the last time. When they got to Veterans Field there was an unusual sight. Lights. All of them on and beating down on the field they had labored on for two months.
Throughout the summer, the team would barrel into the parking lot behind the field and eat a meal in front of the Chatham Community Center. But not tonight, this was the last supper, and it felt as different as it looked.
“We just couldn’t get it done at the end,” Schiffner said with swelled eyes after the game.
And that was how it went. The Anglers (17-26-1) didn’t have enough juice to edge the Firebirds (24-18-) on Monday night, which led to a premature end to their summer. After jumping out to a one-run lead in the top of the first, Chatham couldn’t gather another lead before a four-run bottom of the eighth sealed its fate. Brewster snuck into the playoffs and Orleans secured the second seed, and the Anglers will pack instead of play in the coming days.
Max Tishman (Wake Forest) started for the Anglers and gave up five runs on seven hits in a loss, a bevy of wild pitches and defensive miscues muddying his line. Sam Moore started for Orleans and earned the win, and was relieved by six pitchers in a whole-staff effort.
“This is a great group of guys, a lot of hard and a lot of fighters,” catcher Nick Collins (Georgetown) said. “We didn’t go out on top like we wanted to but we competed our butts off.”
The efforts spread across the final box score indicated that Chatham had no intentions of going home. Ryan Lukach (Hartford), playing only his second game with the team, went 2-for-4 with a run scored and Ty Moore (UCLA) finished 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs. But despite seven runs and a solid effort from Tishman, Kyle Davis (Southern California) and P.J. Conlon (San Diego), the petty mistakes added up.
“From a personal standpoint, I didn’t want to lose and nobody wanted to lose,” Moore said. “I wanted to come out and show that each and every day you have to come out and play hard. You can’t take anything for granted because you never know when the jersey is going to be taken away from you.”
The top of the eighth inning presented an opportunity to salvage a season that was slipping away. Jake Fraley (LSU) started the inning with a pinch-hit single, and Mitchell Gunsolus (Gonzaga) followed with another base knock. Then Moore and A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) before Fraley stole third and pranced home on a wild throw.
But then Hayden Stone struck out Chris Shaw (Boston College) looking to step on the fire. In the top of the third, Shaw pulled the Anglers within one run with a three-run home run to right. Now he stood with his bat on his shoulder and looked toward the dugout, wondering if strike three was high or his fault.
After the Firebirds added four runs in the bottom of the eighth, the task was just a tad too steep — and teases of a comeback were a microcosm of a summer cut short.
After Collins grounded out to close the line, Schiffner shared some words with his teams before allowing his assistants to do the same. Each one stepped up and thanked the players for the summer, for their effort and love of the game. Then they all came together and, after a small group of players counted to three, said “A’s,” as a group, for the very last time.
When they broke, It wasn’t about the game or any one guy. One game suddenly represented 44, and 44 games suddenly felt like a lifetime.