CHILLICOTHE -- Clayton Schulz gave the Paints exactly what they needed Saturday -- in more than one way.
The left-handed pitcher controlled the game for eight innings. He struck out six, gave up four hits and two walks and left the game with his team riding a shutout.
For a minute, never mind that Hannibal came one more weird hit away from changing the game completely, with Jon Long and David Fathalikhani having to team up on the mound in the ninth to button down Chillicothe's 5-4 victory. And never mind that, except for two big innings, the Paints' offense was quiet again.
Because on Saturday, the thing that mattered most to the Paints was Schulz.
"He went out tonight and did what he's done all year," Paints manager Brian Mannino said. "They're a good hitting team, but Clayton showed why he's one of the best in the league with the way he threw against them. And we went into tonight with a depleted bullpen."
That's why the eight long innings by Schulz were so important.
Just a day before, the Paints had to dip into their position players to finish off a 12-inning game, and things weren't much better Saturday. In fact, even Fathalikhani's appearance probably wasn't planned, considering he threw two-thirds of an inning Friday and likely expected to be on the shelf against Hannibal.
"We got (Schulz's) pitch count up a little more than we have with our starters this year, but he was in control of that game," Mannino said. "But with the (all-star) break coming up and some more days off after that, we figured we could stretch him out a little bit. The only trouble he got in was in the eighth, and we went out to check on him, but he wanted to stay in the game. He wanted to go out again in the ninth, but we had to shut him down."
After Schulz threw 108 pitches -- 71 of them for strikes -- Long took over in the top of the ninth and gave up three runs without recording an out. Fathalikhani gave up a run on two hits before finally ending things by striking out Jake Hermsen with the tying run on third.
While what started as an easy night ended up as a nail-biter, it wasn't such a bad situation for the Paints, who have lost three of six games so far in the second half -- all by one run.
"This is the kind of game we've been trying to figure out how to win," Mannino said. "There have been things, one or two things here and there, that just add up in, it seems like, every game. But for us to win a close one when the other team has a rally going, it was a great win for the club. We found a way to hold on."
After three quiet innings, the Paints' offense finally got going in the bottom of the fourth when Ian Nielsen singled home Steve Anderson, then later scored on a single by Bobby Donato.
After that, the Paints went to sleep again -- Chillicothe didn't get its next hit until its three-run eighth.
But that turned out to be huge.
"Yes it did," Mannino said. "That was an important inning because the runs were huge, and because we got some two-out hits."
One really, but it was a big one. An out after Anderson scored the first run of the inning on a grounder by Brian Suerdick, Donato hit a two-run, two-out single past the first baseman to give the Paints the lead they needed to survive Hannibal's push in the ninth.
"We found a way to hold on," Mannino said. "They're a team out of the other division, and they're a team that's had a lot of success. But we found a way to make a lead stand up and make a good start count."