By Greg Joyce
Temperatures of 50 degrees with a relentless wind that would not give up all night does not seem like the ideal weather for baseball. Especially when over half of your starting roster is from California or Georgia. But that didn’t stop any baseball from being played in Cape Cod Tuesday night. On a cold, frigid night at “Red” Wilson field in Yarmouth, the Orleans Firebirds (1-0-1) battled back to gain a point on the road against the Y-D Red Sox, with a 2-2 tie in 11 innings.
“Any time you can come out with a point on the road, it’s a good thing, especially to be down by a run and battle and come back and tie that thing,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said.”
The Firebirds took the lead early in the first inning before eventually having to tie the game. In the first inning, Matt Lowenstein (Loyola Marymount) reached base with one out on an infield single up the middle. Steve Selsky (Arizona) then came up to the plate with two outs, and hit a deep drive to left field onto the warning track, good for a double and scoring Lowenstein.
Kyle Hunter (Darmouth) started the game for Orleans, going 4.2 innings and allowing just one run. He was helped out by three double plays. The first came on a highlight-reel play by Alex Sherrod (USC) in the first inning. With a runner on, Y-D’s Mason Katz (LSU) hit a long fly ball to right field, but it was tracked down by Sherrod, who caught it over his right shoulder. He then fired the ball into first, getting the runner out in plenty of time for the 9-3 double play.
The Red Sox would get their first run across the plate in the bottom of the second. After quickly recording the first two outs, Hunter walked a batter who then stole a base. The next batter hit a slow roller to second base, and Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook) made a nice barehanded snag on it, but his throw went in the dirt and out of play, allowing for the run to score.
A Firebird error also allowed for Y-D’s second run to score. John Brebbia (Elon) came into the game in relief of Hunter, and in the sixth inning, the first batter he faced reached on an error by third baseman Steve Nyisztor (Rutgers). Anthony Melchionda (Boston College) then came up for Y-D and it looked like he had grounded into a double play, but the home plate umpire called a catcher interference on Mike Marjama (Long Beach State), putting runners on first and second. The Red Sox then used a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, and then had Jordan Smith (St. Cloud State) steal home while John Adornetto (Stony Brook) laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line, allowing Smith to score.
“Defensively, we broke down a little bit,” Nicholson said. “We made an error at third base, and then there was a catcher’s interference, and then [Tissenbaum] threw that ball away. They took advantage of our miscues, and that’s a credit to them.”
The Firebirds were unable to score again until the eighth inning. After the first two batters were retired in order, Tissenbaum drew a walk, and Selsky was hit by a pitch. Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) then came up and battled through a nice at-bat before smacking a pitch to center field to drive in Tissenbaum.
“We had a really nice at-bat by Waldrip, he had that good RBI,” Nicholson said.
From that point on, both bullpens were able to shut down any offensive threats, leading to the game being called after 11 innings due to darkness.
Marcus Stroman (Duke) made his first appearance of the season for Orleans, and came in firing, striking out five batters in three innings. Trevor Gott (Kentucky) then pitched the 10th and 11th innings, getting out of trouble in the final inning by striking out the last two batters.
“I’m really, really proud of the way everybody pitched,” Nicholson said. “Kyle Hunter was not particularly sharp, but got out of there only giving up a run. Brebbia came in and did a good job. And you saw why Stroman is going to Team USA.
“Trevor Gott’s going to be our closer, so we were in the dugout tonight, and we were like ‘Hey Joe Girardi’s not going to take out Mariano Rivera,’ so this was Trevor Gott’s game to either hold that thing or lose it, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He’s a good young arm and has a lot of poise up there.”
With the cold conditions, Nicholson said he did have to adjust his game plan at least a little.
“I thought about that, and I just wanted to let the guys that were out there tonight play,” he said. “I think it’s really kind of hard to bring in a guy off the bench in this kind of weather, even though we have really good players on the bench. But we have a doubleheader [Wednesday], and they’re all going to play [Wednesday]. So [the cold] does factor into it, believe it or not.”
The Firebirds return to action today with a doubleheader at Hyannis, before coming home to Eldredge Park Thursday night for a 7:00 pm game against Wareham.