By Greg Joyce
Orleans ran into some stellar pitching on Friday night in their first playoff game, and the offense went missing. Y-D’s Mark Appel (Stanford) stifled the Firebirds for eight innings of scoreless baseball, and the Red Sox took Game One, 4-0 at Eldredge Park.
Appel nearly went the distance for Y-D, throwing 110 pitches over eight innings of work, allowing just five hits, two walks, and striking out 10 batters.
“He was really good,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of Aplin. “I think early he was touching sixes and sevens and throwing that nasty changeup and dropping that slider in there for strikes. Hey, good pitching is going to beat good hitting, we’ve talked about that all summer. You gotta give him a lot of credit.
“He was probably gonna beat most teams that he pitched against tonight. I think he’s probably one of the top ten picks in the draft next summer I would think, based on the summer he’s had. He has to have an off night for a team to have a chance to win against him. ”
All five hits the offense mustered off Appel were singles, and they could not manufacture any runs throughout the game.
The Firebirds’ best chance came in the bottom of the second, when they loaded the bases with two outs. But Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) was fooled by Appel and struck out, leaving the three runners stranded.
“We had a chance with Aplin with the bases loaded, but [Appel] threw a dirty changeup and got Aplin to swing and miss,” Nicholson said.
John Brebbia (Elon) got the start for Orleans, and lasted eight innings, allowing four runs, three of them earned. He left a few pitches up, but saved the bullpen for the rest of the series by toughing out eight innings of work.
“I think that’s going to be big going into Sunday, if we get to Sunday,” Nicholson said. “He picked us up big time. I think it’s the first time all summer that we’ve had a starter go eight innings and it was on 89 pitches. Breb did a pretty good job tonight. Not an A game, but B, B-.”
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the third inning off Brebbia, which started when Tyler Hanover (LSU) doubled for his first of four hits on the night. Hanover came around to score when an attempted sac-bunt turned into an infield hit and an error by Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) on a muffed catch on the throw.
Y-D’s Cody Keefer (UCLA) added to the lead in the fifth inning, when he hit a two-run home run to right field to make it a four-run lead.
In relief of Brebbia, Tyler Gebler (Rutgers) threw a scoreless ninth for the Firebirds.
Orleans will be back in action in Yarmouth tomorrow for Game Two of the series, and Nicholson has faith in his team.
“We’re gonna go with the same lineup and see what we can do over there,” he said. “Our guys are gonna be ready to go. They’ve competed all summer. Y-D knows that if they have to come back to our park for game three, they’re in a little bit of trouble.”