By: Matt McHugh
June 19th, 2017
CHATHAM – The Kettleers were cruising through four innings, but eight hits and eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings did them in, and they dropped their first game of the season on Monday, 8-4 in Chatham. The Chatham Anglers improved to 4-1 with the win.
Seth Shuman (Georgia Southern) got things off to an excellent start for the Kettleers (4-1), retiring the first eight batters he faced. He worked through four scoreless innings in his first appearance of the season, before a pair of infield singles with nobody out gave him his first jam of the evening. With two outs, Bobby Brennan drove in both runners with a single to center, ending Shuman’s shutout and tying the game up at 2-2.
John Cresto (Santa Clara), broke the tie in the 6th with a solo home run, the second for the Kettleers in the 2017 season, but things would spiral out of control in the bottom half of the sixth.
Austin Kitchen (Coastal Carolina), was supposed to start the Kettleers’ scheduled game in Chatham on Friday, did not even make it through an inning before that game was postponed due to rain. On Monday, he came in for his first official appearance of the season, and gave up a solo home run to Jacob Olson (South Carolina) and back-to-back doubles to Nick Patten (Delaware) and Shea Langalears (Baylor).
“Shuman did a great job. A real professional job from Seth Shuman,” Coach Mike Roberts said. “With Austin, coming in and facing eight right-handed hitters, I think he needs to change speeds a lot better than he did this evening.”
With the score sitting at 4-3, head coach Mike Roberts went to his big right-hander Luke Shilling (Illinois) for the first time this season. Shilling showed great life on his fastball, but after striking out his first batter, he gave up a fly ball to right field off the bat of Jeremy Peña (Maine) that dropped in the gap for an RBI double.
Veteran’s Field is known for its shallow right field fence, and on a windy night like Monday with the wind blowing out towards right field, any fly ball hit in the area carried exceptionally well.
“This field plays pretty small,” Shilling said. “I felt like I got the ball in enough on that pitch, but [Peña] was able to inside out it up the right-center gap. It was a good piece of hitting, and unfortunately it was able to find some grass.”
Roberts was well aware of the conditions as well, and supported Shilling’s plan of attacking hitters inside. “If you want to keep the ball out of right field you pitch inside to right-handed hitters and away from left-handed hitters,” Roberts said. “If you have the control that you should have at this level, the wind and the short porch is not a problem.”
Shilling stayed in the game and by the end of the sixth inning, the Kettleers trailed 8-3. Shilling’s last appearance for the Illini came back on April 2, so Monday’s game was his first high-level appearance in over two months.
“Honestly, I probably felt a little rusty out there, but at the end of the day I need to make pitches when I had to make them,” Shilling said. “They say that’s the way the game goes sometimes. But I have to a better job of coming back and making pitches after those things happen. I can’t let it unravel on us like that.”
At the plate, Griffin Conine had another solid day for the Kettleers, going 2-5 with a double and a run scored. This was Conine’s first game in the leadoff spot, as he has bounced around between the top three spots in the lineup to start the season. Conine is now hitting .450 and has five extra base hits, tied for 2nd in the league.
The Kettleers return home to host the Bourne Braves at 5 p.m. on Tuesday June 20th.