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Orleans, Mass. — They fell like the rain. Softly, gracefully in a quiet rhythm.
As night fell over Eldredge Park, the Anglers battled for one last chance at survival before a packed audience.
Orleans threatened early, when center fielder Jimmy Herron (Duke) hit a soaring triple out to the warning track in the bottom of the first. Second baseman Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt) capitalized, plating Herron with room to spare on a routine groundout.
Inning after inning, Chatham’s offense buckled at the hands of Orleans starting pitcher Ryan Rolison (Mississippi), as seven Anglers made the journey back to the dugout from the plate. Designated hitter Fabian Pena (Manhattan) sent the ball roaring to center field for a standup double in the fifth, recording Chatham’s first hit of the evening.
Orleans designated hitter Jaxx Groshans (Kansas) and first baseman Lars Nootbar (Southern California) knocked in runs to a frenzy of applause from the audience in the fourth, moving the finish line ever-further away from Chatham.
Although the Anglers remained quiet, their confidence never wavered. When left fielder Jake Palomaki (Boston College) and second baseman Josh Shaw (St. John’s) mounted back-to-back two-out singles in the eighth, the team reared with a spark of life. Center fielder Josh Stowers (Louisville) swung and sent the ball smoothly out to center field, driving in Palomaki to a sea of cheers from the dugout. But victory lay too far ahead, with too little time.
“Their pitchers outpitched our hitters — it was that simple,” manager John Schiffner said. “I’m proud of our kids to hang in there, take this to a three game series and we lose 3-1 and we have the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth inning.”
On the mound, relievers Andre Pallante (California Irvine) and Josiah Gray (Le Moyne) paralysed the Firebirds over four scoreless frames. The pair stepped in for Jeff Belge (St. John’s), who allowed three earned runs in five innings.
“My slider was working well, my fastball was good, so I could get ahead of hitters with my fastball and then put them away with my slider,” Belge said. “That worked well for me today.”
Belge struck out six in his outing.
While the loss was this season’s swan song, it brought a far longer chapter to a close. After the final strike was thrown, John Schiffner stepped out to an ovation from the audience, removing his cap in acknowledgment. Schiffner was honored by Orleans for his 25 years of service in his position at the helm of the Anglers program.
“I didn’t like to lose, but I couldn’t have been around a better group of guys,” Schiffner said. “It was one big family for two months — it was really special.”
“It was great being able to play for Schiff, obviously he’s a legend,” Belge said. “It was great to learn from him, and he’s a true professional.”
Schiffner finished his career as the winningest manager in the Cape League, leading Chatham to two league championships and six division titles. He has coached over 1,000 players, including over 120 major leaguers and 26 first round draft picks.
“It’s just been a great ride,” Schiffner said. “Oh my god, what a great ride. 25 years in Chatham Massachusetts, that’s pretty good. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”