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Orleans, Mass. — It was a duel. A clash of two forces, a vigorous drama of call and response.
As night fell over Eldredge Park, the Anglers (21-22) entered the ninth inning at a deficit of one to the Orleans Firebirds (28-15).
Slowly, they surged. Right fielder Kyle Baker (Delaware) and center fielder Mason Koppens (Northeastern) walked consecutively at the hands of Orleans reliever Josh Hiatt (North Carolina) to gasps from the Orleans spectators.
When left fielder Jake Palomaki (Boston College) stepped up to the plate, he saw a chance to redeem the Anglers. And he grasped it.
The ball roared through the gap to right field like a spark, as Baker completed the journey home to a frenzy of cheers from the dugout.
“I was just trying to find a ball I could drive, and find a hole for us to get that tying run,” Palomaki said.
But the Firebirds answered back. Orleans second baseman Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt) stepped out all the more determined after center fielder Jimmy Herron (Duke) made a slow trip to first on an intentional walk from Chatham reliever Adam Wolf (Louisville).
Paul swung on the first offering. The crack rung in the air, a noise that signalled the shattered hope of a Chatham victory. Firebirds first baseman Lars Nootbar (Southern California) crossed the plate on the hit.
“We need to get more men on base,” manager John Schiffner said. “We did pretty well considering the pitchers we saw, but we need to get more base runners.”
The Anglers’ offense buckled at the hands of six aggressive Orleans pitchers, generating just four hits across the full nine.
“They [the Orleans pitching staff] had great stuff — they were able to mix all their pitches in for strikes,” Palomaki said. “You can mix two, three, four pitches in for strikes, it’s really hard ... on the hitters because you never know what’s coming at what count.”
Shortstop Jeremy Pena (Maine) sent the ball soaring over the right field fence in the third, giving Chatham an early edge.
On the mound, starter Jacob Stevens (Boston College) kept the Firebirds at bay, striking out two over four scoreless frames.
Rodney Hutchison Jr. (North Carolina) also kept a blank slate over two innings, stepping in for Dan Metzdorf (Boston College) in the sixth.
Wolf took the field in the final stanza.
The Chatham loss allowed the Firebirds to clinch the East Division title and the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the highest number of points in the regular season. The Anglers remain tied for third in the East with the Brewster Whitecaps (20-21-2).
“[We’re] just trying to do it for Schiff, he’s been so great,” Palomaki said. “We’re going to try to put one more run together for him, and see if we can put him out on a high note.”
The Anglers close out regular season play against the Firebirds at Veterans Field Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.