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CHATHAM — John McMillon (Texas Tech) had just fanned the Orleans Firebirds’ best hitter JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt), and was one out away from stranding runners on second and third to keep the Chatham Anglers within one. But the right-hander lost control.
McMillon pelted consecutive batters, handing Orleans its fourth run. Then, a wild pitch allowed DeMarco to stroll home to give the Firebirds a 5-2 lead. After coming within a pitch of escaping the inning, the A’s newfound three-run deficit left deafened the Veterans Field crowd.
“McMillon's got a great arm and sometimes he tends to overthrow,” A’s manager Tom Holliday said. “We need to have a bullpen session with him to where we can try to slow him down just a little bit because his arm is electric.”
Chatham (10-11-2) pitchers hit five batters and allowed four home runs en route to a 9-3 loss to Orleans (10-13-1) on Monday night. The defeat marks the Anglers’ fourth loss in their last five games, their worst stretch of the season.
In the first two innings, Chatham’s leadoff batter reached base but never advanced to second. In the first, Jorge Arenas’ (Stetson) fly ball dropped in between three Orleans fielders but he was picked off at first base three pitches later by college teammate Mitchell Senger (Stetson). In the second, Adam Fogel (Hawaii) was hit by a pitch but was forced out at second on a ground ball.
“I mean statistically if you get the first runner on base, it's going to lead to good things,” John Rave (Illinois State) said. “That's that's the goal. You want to get them on, get them over, then get them in.”
While the Anglers failed to capitalize on their early baserunners, the Firebirds were advantageous. With the bases loaded, Pat DeMarco’s (Vanderbilt) fly ball to right narrowly escaped the outstretched arm of Adam Fogel (Hawaii) as James Free II (Pacific) scored.
In the top of the third, Carter Aldrete (Arizona State) launched a two-out home run over the right-center field fence to extend the Firebirds’ lead to three.
After failing to score in its first 21 innings of the summer against the Firebirds, Chatham finally mustered a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth frame.
With nobody out, Rave was hit by a pitch to give Chatham a baserunner. The rising junior advanced to third on a Tristin English (Georgia Tech) single then scored on a Michael Busch (North Carolina) grounded out. Blake Sabol’s (Southern California) infield single two batters later brought English home, reducing the deficit to one.
Belge, who ranked third in the league with 24 strikeouts coming into Monday, struggled with his command before eventually settling in. The left-hander walked five and hit two batters in five innings of work while striking out three. After a seven-pitch inning in the fifth, Belge was replaced by McMillon eight pitches into the sixth.
“You just forget the past,” Belge said about his struggles with command. “I kind of just got to wipe the slate and stick to my routine.”
After conceding two runs in the sixth, the floodgates opened as Orleans put on a hitting clinic. Aldrete smoked a solo-shot, his second of the game, to put the Firebirds up by four. In the eighth, Bleday sent a McMillon fastball onto Depot Road long beyond the confines of Veterans Field.
“It got a little bit ugly again,” Holliday said.
In the eighth, Rave got in on the round-tripper action, blasting a Nick Osborne (Tennessee Tech) pitch on Depot Road. Free II tacked on Orleans’ ninth and final run of the game with a solo-home run of his own in the top of the ninth.
The loss marked Chatham’s third of the season against the Firebirds as it falls to below .500 for the first time since June 15.
“We're putting a lot of really good really good bats on balls,” Rave said. “I mean, it's just not swaying our way right now.”