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Orleans, Mass. — It cut the air. A raw energy, a grit that made every movement harsh, resolute.
As a gold sunset fell over Eldredge Park, the Anglers (21-24) battled to keep pace with the Orleans Firebirds (30-15).
When right fielder Josh Stowers (Louisville) swirled his bat above the plate in the second inning, he saw a chance. And he took it.
The ball soared smoothly over the edge of the left field fence, as Stowers and Aiello rounded the diamond to a greeting of cheers from the dugout.
It felt automatic. The home run easily matched an early Orleans lead, but soon the ends would fray for the Anglers.
Chatham fell victim to an Orleans groove in the bottom of the second, when Jimmy Herron (Duke) and Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt) knocked in runs for the Firebirds.
Timely hitting slipped out of reach as the Anglers were unable to capitalize in the remaining innings.
“We have not hit very well, and we’re not getting clutch hits — that’s pretty much what we have to do,” manager John Schiffner said. “We need to hit with men on base and we’re not doing that right now.”
On the mound, reliever Rodney Hutchison Jr. (North Carolina) stabilized the team, striking out seven over 4.2 innings.
“I’m a five pitch guy, and I used them all effectively,” Hutchison said. “They all felt good coming out.”
A series of fielding wrinkles from the Anglers plated Jeff Houghtby (San Diego) and Herron unearned in the seventh, before Hutchison left the mound to a round of applause from the audience.
“Rodney threw very, very well, that last inning was not his fault at all — only one ball got out of the infield the whole time and they scored four runs,” Schiffner said. “That’s tough.”
Dan Metzdorf (Boston College) and RJ Freure (Pittsburgh) kept a blank slate in the final innings.
Hutchison stepped in for starter Jack Perkins (Stetson), who handed Orleans four earned runs in the opening pair of frames.
“They’re playing, it’s just they’ve got to produce,” Schiffner said. “That’s the whole thing — production.”
“Especially with Schiff’s last year, we want to win it for him, so it starts one game at a time,” Hutchison said. “Tonight didn’t go our way, we’ll be back tomorrow and hopefully we’ll string a few wins together and win it all for Schiff.”
The Anglers host the Firebirds in game two of the series at Veterans Field Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Chatham must win to stay alive in the series.