By: Cole Bradley
HARWICH, Mass- Playing in fog has been a recurring theme for the Orleans Firebirds this summer, one that has come with a mixed bag of results.
On a murky Wednesday night in Harwich, the chalky white air wisped its way past the infield, limiting many-a-hitter to catch just a glimpse of both Patrick Reilly (Vanderbilt) and Trey Dombroski (Monmouth). The two used it to their advantage, going pitch-for-pitch, out-for-out and inning-for-inning in an epic pitcher’s duel.
After a short delay in the first inning, the weather only got hazier, and with it the outcome.
“I don’t think the fog necessarily obscured the view of the hitter but his 95-mph fastball did,” head coach Kelly Nicholson said. “Pat had good stuff tonight, it was different coming out of his hand. Anytime you can go back-and-forth with the fastball, take a little off and add a little when you need to, it’s effective. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Turns out, all that Orleans needed was for Dombroski to exit, and after six shutout innings, The Birds capitalized. After a Chase DeLauter (James Madison) bloop double dropped in front of the centerfielder Chris Newell (Virginia) to start the seventh, Jack Bulger (Vanderbilt) laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him to third.
Fresh off his first hit of the season in a previous plate appearance, Cory Acton (Florida) came to the plate and did something equally as productive, driving in the first run of the game on a fielder's choice. After starting the season with Harwich, it was sweet revenge for Acton.
“I think there was a little extra motivation from Cory tonight,” Nicholson said. “I told him before the game that I wanted him in the lineup against those guys. I knew he’d perform at a high-level tonight.”
Trae Harmon (Stetson) added another on an RBI single in the ensuing plate appearance to make it 2-0, but after the fog once again put the contest at a stand-still, Harwich shifted the tide.
The near 40-minute stoppage gave the Mariners time to regroup, and they did just that, as Newell came to the plate with a man aboard against left-hander Jake Saum (UCLA) and blasted a game-tying two-run homer. What looked like a sure win for Orleans turned into a spoiled opportunity, with the affair ending in a 2-2 tie.
“I thought it could’ve killed momentum a little bit,” Nicholson said. “We thought we had good matchups with Saum against the lefties. Ties stink but if you look at it from Harwich’s end, we were probably pretty fortunate to tie tonight.”
While Dombroski was in the game, Orleans struggled, as he punched out seven in six innings of work. Reilly’s final line was every bit as impressive, as he went five scoreless allowing three hits with five strikeouts.
It is the first time he has started a game since June 6, and he didn’t disappoint.
“It’s always nice to get out there and prove yourself and show who you are in front of all these guys,” Reilly said. “You don’t think about the fog too much, you just gotta execute quality pitches.”
Over the next three frames before the second delay, Zack Morris (Arkansas), Nathan Florence (Hartford), Saum, Michael Polk (Georgia) and Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State) appeared in relief. Aside from the two earned runs, the Firebird bullpen combined to allow just two hits over the last four innings.
The tie is Orleans third on the season, bringing their overall record to (7-8-3). The Birds have an off-day before they make their second trip to Wareham on Friday, first pitch is scheduled for 6:45 pm.