By Brendan Nordstrom
Anglers third baseman Xavier Casserilla stepped into the box against Firebirds pitcher Dillon Jacobs to lead off the third inning.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Casserilla chipped a single down the right-field line. It was the first hit of the game for either team. The Seminole State product advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a 4-3 putout.
Jacobs held onto the next pitch too long as it got past catcher Henry Hunter, scoring Caserilla to take a 1-0 lead. That would be all Chatham would need as Tuesday’s contest was less of a pitching duel and more of a pitching war.
Despite spectacular pitching from the Firebirds (2-2), Orleans’ offensive woes cost them in a 2-0 loss to the Chatham Anglers, giving their East Division rivals their first win of the season at Veterans Field.
“Anytime you give up four hits and a couple of runs, you have a chance to win,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “It happens. Sometimes you get shut out, and we got shut out.”
The Firebirds’ first challenge was the Anglers’ right-handed starter Brody Brecht, a two-sport athlete at the University of Iowa known for his fastball that can reach 104 mph.
Brecht only topped out at 97 Tuesday night, but he was just as effective. He mowed down the first six Firebirds he faced, striking out the side in the second inning. Brecht, who averaged over 12 strikeouts per nine innings at Iowa, sat down five in four full innings.
“It’s a little bit different when it’s coming out of a machine at 95 and it’s coming out of a live arm at 95,” Nicholson said. “Tip your cap to those guys.”
Third baseman Jack Penney started the third inning with a walk, becoming the first base runner to reach for either team. He was later caught stealing as no Firebird would touch second base in the contest. In the following inning, first baseman Jake Hyde recorded a two-out hit under the glove of the first baseman, but a groundout ended the inning.
The good news for Orleans: Brecht was replaced after the fourth inning. The bad news: They had to face Arizona State transfer Matthew “Tugboat” Wilkinson for the rest of the contest.
Wilkinson, who was awarded the win, threw a perfect outing, allowing no baserunners and striking out eight Firebirds across 5.0 innings. Nicholson said he looked “like Derek Clark last night,” alluding to Clark’s shutdown relief in a 6-4 victory over Bourne yesterday.
On the other side of the ball, the Firebirds' pitching was top-notch, beginning with Jacobs. The right-handed pitcher from Stetson sat down the first six Anglers in order. Outside of the Casserilla walk that led to a run, he struck out five, allowing only one hit.
Jacobs said he doesn’t usually throw his changeup often, but relied on it during his outing, helping him “go the distance.”
“I felt better as the game went on,” Jacobs said. “I started off a little slow with three straight balls to start the game off, but once I got comfortable, I felt really good.”
Next, left-handed pitcher Jonathon Gonzalez made his Orleans debut, which included a couple of web gems. The first batter he faced lined a ball straight into his glove, which he turned for a double play. Gonzalez allowed two hits and one walk to three strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
Lefty Konner Eaton entered with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh. A wild pitch from Eaton scored Chatham’s second run for insurance.
“That happens,” Nicholson said about the wild pitches. “But when it’s a tight game like that when we’re not scoring, obviously that’s the way they got their two runs.”
The Firebirds will look to get back to their winning ways on the road tomorrow in Wareham, where they are slated for a 6:00 p.m. first pitch.