By Greg Joyce
The amazing 2011 summer for the Orleans Firebirds came to a crashing halt on Saturday night in Yarmouth, as the Red Sox knocked them out of the playoffs with a 11-10 defeat. The Firebirds came back once from a 4-0 deficit, but lost the lead in the bottom of the ninth, as they were sent packing by Y-D’s big bats.
The Firebirds took a 10-7 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Red Sox jumped on Trevor Gott (Kentucky) for four runs to win the game. The always-dependable Gott finally seemed human after going 12-for-12 in save opportunities during the regular season.
Connor Harrell (Vanderbilt) won the game for the Red Sox on a walk-off single to right field that scored Tyler Hanover (LSU). Hanover had reached on a two-run, game-tying single that got past Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) at shortstop.
“You’ve gotta give Y-D credit,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said. “They battled right down to the end. I thought that ball that got hit to Gomez was gonna get caught. I think the base runner got in the way and it kind of knuckled away from him. But hey, it’s baseball man. Stuff happens.”
Early on, it was not looking promising for the Firebirds as they fell behind 4-0. But their luck began to change in the fifth inning, when they got on the scoreboard for the first time in the series. Gomez slapped a double to right field that brought home Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine) to begin the chipping away at the lead.
The Red Sox made it 5-1 in the bottom of the inning, but Orleans had a big sixth inning in return. Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) led off with a single, and moved to third on a double from Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook). They both came in to score on a three-run shot by Jayce Boyd (Florida State) over the center field fence.
Now only trailing by one, the Firebirds continued their rally. Rudy Flores (Florida International) and Shaeffer hit back-to-back singles., and were moved over on a sac-bunt from Matt Lowenstein (Loyola Marymount). After Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) walked, Gomez hit a hard ground ball to the third baseman that was misplayed and allowed two runs to score, as Orleans took the 6-5 lead.
In the seventh inning, the Firebirds added to their lead, with all of the runs coming with two outs. Flores started the rally by slamming a double to deep center field off the fence. He came home to score when Shaeffer hit a fly ball to left field that was dropped, putting Shaeffer at second.
Lowenstein kept the rally going with a single, allowing Aplin to step into the batters box. He came through with a RBI single to right field that made it 8-5 Orleans.
The Red Sox then began to chip away at the lead, and it was a one-run game heading into the ninth. Aplin added some insurance runs when he lifted a home run over the right field fence for a 10-7 lead.
Matt Boyd (Oregon State) got the start on the mound for the Firebirds, recording the no decision. Boyd threw five innings, allowing five runs, nine hits, three home runs, and had five strikeouts.
Every batter in the starting lineup for Orleans recorded a hit, with six players racking up more than one.
Despite the tough ending to an incredible summer, Nicholson was able to identify what he would remember from his 2011 team.
“They did a good job,” he said. “Obviously this loss is gonna hurt, but the thing I’m going to remember about this team is that they won 11 out of 12 and won the East. I think anytime you can play well at the end and at least win your division on the Cape, you’ve had a good summer.”