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CHATHAM, Mass. – There are few scenes in all of baseball as goosebump-inducing as a humble Cape League field filling to capacity for a playoff affair between two rivals. Such was the sight Monday night when the Chatham Anglers and Orleans Firebirds began their playoff quests in a valley between two mountains of blankets and lawn chairs formally referred to as Eldredge Park.
Chatham jumped out to a one-run lead in the top of the first, but the Firebird offense was able to dial upon all its strength to reverse the deficit and ultimately record a 4-1 Orleans win. The victory gives the Firebirds a 1-0 series lead.
“Top to bottom [Orleans] is a very good team,” said Manager John Schiffner. “There are no holes in that team.”
The Anglers called on Zac Gallen (North Carolina) to throw in the first postseason affair of the summer, and he threw in a fashion worthy of receiving the honor. The right-hander contained the record-setting Orleans offense despite the Angler infield committing three errors behind him. Gallen struck out three and relinquished two earned runs over four and a third innings.
“The curveball and changeup felt alright tonight, and the cutter was decent early,” said Gallen. “I was just trying to stay low in the zone.”
As the game progressed the Chatham defense settled in, and the pitching staff continued to deal. Garrett Williams (Oklahoma State) came on to throw one and two-thirds inning, Cameron Stone (Stony Brook) contributed one, and Andre Scrubb (High Point) added one more. The three combined for four strikeouts and did not allow a run over the span.
On the other side the Angler offense had the task of combating the Cape Cod Baseball League Pitcher of the Year, Mitchell Jordan (Stetson). Jordan only allowed one earned run during the entirety of the regular season and gave up more than three hits in only one outing—both coming on July 18 against the same Chatham Anglers.
It was hardly an outburst, but the Angler offense did again manage to take an earned run from the ace on six hits and two walks.
The one earned run Chatham stole off Jordan came in the top of the game’s opening inning. After Trenton Brooks (Nevada) knocked the second pitch of the game to right field for a single, Garret Hampson (Long Beach State) reached base on a drag bunt. Brooks would be retired on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat, but Hampson’s one-out steal of third would set up a 4-3 RBI groundout from Will Craig (Wake Forest).
“We squared up on a good number of balls tonight,” said Hampson. “We got some good at-bats in, and I don’t think anything really changes tomorrow. We just have to take it one game at a time and win game two before we worry about game three.”
The Anglers next return home for game two of the best-of-three. Chatham is expected to hand the ball to Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), who was one of two pitchers this summer to receive the Ed Baird Outstanding Pitcher of the Year Award given to exceptional Chatham pitchers. The 2015 Cape League All-Star brings a 2.16 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of 27:8 into play. The Firebirds will likely counter with Eric Lauer (Kent State), who struck out more batters (50) than any other pitcher in the Cape League this summer.