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CHATHAM — For the first eight innings of Wednesday’s Fourth of July matchup between the Chatham Anglers and Orleans Firebirds, neither team was able to break through and score a run.
In the ninth, the visitors broke the deadlock. The Firebirds (7-12-1) scored three runs in the frame, then shutdown Chatham (9-8-2) in the bottom half to secure a 3-0 win at Veterans Field.
To start the ninth, JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt) roped a double to the bottom of the wall in center field off of Tristin English (Georgia Tech), who entered the game for his first appearance on the mound this season after playing as the designated hitter for the first eight innings.
“When you think about how few balls were squared up tonight, someone was due to hit one,” Anglers manager Tom Holliday said.
The next batter, Spencer Steer (Oregon), hit a grounder to Ben Ramirez (Southern California) at third, but Ramirez’s throw sailed beyond Michael Busch’s (North Carolina) reach at first.
Nick Scheidler (UCLA) then came into the game and threw a wild pitch that allowed Bleday to score. Steer then scored when Nick Osborne (Tennessee Tech) singled into right field. Orleans added another run on a sacrifice fly from Carter Aldrete (Arizona State).
Chatham had a runner reach base to lead off the inning three times during the game. Each time the runner was off the base paths within a few pitches. In the first, Greg Jones (UNC-Wilmington) and John Rave (Illinois State) attempted a hit-and-run. However, Rave’s line-drive was caught and Jones was caught in in between bags and was doubled off at first. In the second, Adam Fogel (Hawaii) was forced out at second on a Rankin Woley (Auburn) grounder. Then, English grounded into a double play in the seventh.
In his second start of the summer, Davis Daniel (Auburn) was untouchable. After allowing only one hit in his first start of the season on June 20 against Brewster, Daniel was even better Wednesday. In four innings, Daniel did not allow a hit and only allowed one baserunner via a walk. He got five of his outs by groundout and another four by strikeout.
Daniel — who declined an offer from Milwaukee Brewers and announced that he was returning to Auburn yesterday — said fastball command was the key to his success.
“I was able to really get glove side and arm side today, get in on some hitters,” Daniel said. “When you are able to get in and pitch in on these guys, it plays up your off speed a lot.”
The Anglers showed off the leather multiple times throughout the game. Branden Fryman (Samford) made a swift play on a grounder in the third inning. Rave made a diving catch deep in the left-center field gap that took away an extra base hit from Steer. Michael Busch also made a high-quality scoop on a low throw in the seventh.
In relief of Daniel, Hunter Gaddis (Georgia State) allowed only two hits in his four innings, but dealt with a few threats for the Orleans offence. In the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, a baserunner advanced to second base, but Gaddis managed to stifle each rally.
Gaddis said his arm felt the best it has all summer during Wednesday's game.
“I really focused on preparing this week,” Gaddis said. “I had a pretty had bad outing last time so definitely wanted to make up for it.”
Andrew Abbott (Virginia), Daniel’s counterpart, was stellar for the visitors. The southpaw pitched five innings and allowed two hits, both singles in the second inning. Kevin Kelly (James Madison), Carlisle Koestler (Southeastern Louisiana), Osborne and Aaron Ochsenbein (Eastern Kentucky) each threw an scoreless inning in relief.
The shutout loss marks the first time Chatham failed to score a run this season. Holliday said it is hard to lose the game when the pitchers throw so well.
“We really ruined an outstanding pitching performance from two guys,” Holliday said. “Gaddis and Daniel were awesome. That's what hurts, to let a well pitched game get away.”