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ORLEANS — It was a game Chatham Anglers manager Tom Holliday wanted to finish as quickly as possible. Naturally, Thursday’s contest — the final regular season game of the summer — between Chatham and the Orleans Firebirds went to extra innings.
The A’s looked to be in the driver’s seat when John Rave (Illinois State) smacked a single over third baseman Justin Lavey’s head to score Blake Sabol (Southern California) in the top of the tenth to give Chatham (22-19-3) an 8-7 lead.
“I was thinking hard groundball, little line drive,” Rave said. “I was just hunting a fastball. Got an outside fastball and went with it the other way.”
But Orleans (14-29-1) responded, scoring two runs in the bottom of the tenth with Matt Frazier (Arizona) hitting a walk-off single to propel the Firebirds to a 8-7 victory over the Anglers at Eldredge Park.
Before the extra-inning heroics, Chatham and Orleans traded leads all game long.
“They had a lot of pride and they had a plan,” Holliday said. “If this game would have got them into the playoffs, they were well stocked. Their kids gutted it out.”
Chatham got on the board first in the top of the first inning. Rave knocked a single up the middle with one out, and Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) immediately capitalized on the situation. On the first pitch from Enzo Stefanoni (Harvard), Torkelson lofted the baseball high and far, sending it into the parking lot beyond the visitors bullpen in left field.
In the next four innings, Chatham was able to get runners to third base but could only get one to cross the plate. In the third, two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Ben Ramirez (Southern California), who hit a one-out grounder to Carter Aldrete — who was playing at double play depth — to drive in Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State).
Against Brock Riley (Salem State) in the third and fourth, Orleans was able to take the lead.
In Riley’s first frame, he got the first two outs of the inning but allowed Pat DeMarco (Vanderbilt) to hit a single. McCabe — taking his first hacks in a CCBL game after being activated earlier in the day — blasted an RBI triple to put the Firebirds on the scoreboard. JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt) hit a grounder to Blake Sabol (Southern California) at third base. Sabol misplayed the baseball, allowing Bleday to reach and McCabe to score.
An inning later, back-to-back hits from James Free II (Pacific) and Justin Lavey (Louisville) put runners on the corners for Alex Gamache (Georgetown). Riley forced Gamache to poke a grounder about halfway between the mound and the plate. Riley charged the ball and turned to throw to second. However, Free broke for the plate and the right-hander jumped and turned 180 degrees. He tossed the ball to Jake Taylor (Oklahoma State) behind the dish, who tagged Free out at home for the second out.
Pat DeMarco (Vanderbilt) would not let the Firebirds leave the inning empty-handed. He torched a 3-1 pitch deep over the head of Rave in center to score Lavey and Gamache and give Orleans a 4-3 lead.
Joseph Lowder (Appalachian State) replaced Riley and got the final out of the inning. The right-hander returned to the mound in the fifth, and ran into issues. He allowed a single to Bleday and a double to Kenyon Yovan (Oregon) to put two runners in scoring position. Both runners scored with Bleday crossing home on a wild pitch and Yovan scoring on a groundout.
“I liked the way Lowder competed except he’s behind in the count to everybody,” Holliday said. “That's not good because that means the hitter always get a chance to hit a fastball.”
Chatham tied the game in the seventh. The first five batters of the inning — Rave, Torkelson, Simpson, Michael Busch (North Carolina), Drew Mendoza (Florida State) — all reached base with the first three all coming around to score. Rave scored on an error by Yovan, Torkelson crossed home on a Mendoza single and Simpson scored on a Taylor single.
After Simpson gave the Anglers a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth with an opposite-field homer, the Firebirds tied the game in the bottom of the frame with an Eddie McCabe (Georgetown) single.
“Tank had a great night again,” Holliday said. “He goes oppo, hits a line drive down in the corner for a double. He's a really good hitter right now.”
The losing pitcher for the A’s was infielder Jorge Arenas (Stetson). Arenas — who struck out the only batter he faced on the mound before Thursday — pitched two innings and picked up three strikeouts while reaching 90 miles-per-hour on the radar gun.
Including Arenas, six different pitchers threw for Chatham including CJ Dandeneau (Connecticut) and Colby Morris (Middlebury). Both pitchers made their CCBL debuts during the game. Dandeneau threw a scoreless inning and Morris allowed one run over two innings.
“It was a good baseball game for a game that had no meaning whatsoever,” Holliday said.