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After 23 days, Firebirds defeat Anglers 8-7 in clutch ninth

By Brendan Nordstrom

Veterans Field on Friday afternoon and Veterans Field on July 5 looked a lot different.

For one, there was far less fog.

The game on July 5 was postponed due to fog after Orleans right fielder Jake Casey completely lost a foul ball in the haze.

“I saw it off the bat, and I was just trying to … I don’t even know,” Casey said. “I just lost it. Maybe it seemed like I had it, but I never had it.”

Another difference: the rosters.

While Orleans only has one change — Brandon Stahlman replacing Johnny Olmstead, who had been drafted to the Marlins since then — the Chatham Anglers are on their third manager of the season and had six new players in the lineup.

While the roster cards and weather may be different, one similarity remains — the scoreboard that showed two outs and a full count in the bottom of the fourth.

It was a successful three-run frame for the Anglers as they battled back to tie the game at five. With runners on first and second, Orleans reliever Greysen Carter was unable to throw the pay-off pitch. Until now.

“Everyone in the whole stadium knew that I was gonna throw a fastball,” Carter said. “The hitter assumed he was probably going to take it … but I just threw my fastball down the middle.”

The result: strike three looking.

After four innings of back-and-forth baseball (Check out the recap here), the two teams picked up where they left off on Friday in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The Firebirds (20-18) kept up their winning ways with a comeback 8-7 victory for the team’s third-straight win.

After a big strike three to escape the initial jam, the Firebirds kept riding the momentum. In the top of the sixth, center fielder Eddie King Jr., who already had a home run in the contest, hit a lead-off single into the right field gap. Owen Carapellotti put down a successful sacrifice bunt to move King to second.

Then, Chatham pitcher Maxx Yehl briefly lost control hitting shortstop Drew Faurot and Jake Casey back to back to load the bases. Second baseman Jo Oyama grounded an infield single in the five-hole to score King, taking a 6-5 lead.

Unfortunately for Orleans, a strikeout and a flyout ended the threat to leave the bases loaded.

Carter, who is notorious for his high 90s fastball that can clip triple digits, worked his longest outing of the summer. The Vanderbilt right-hander went 4.2 innings, striking out two.

“I treat it just like I was starting the game,” Carter said. “I don’t really worry about the runners at all … I just prepared like it was any other game.”

Carter’s best attribute on Friday, however, was his ability to induce ground balls and weak contact, trusting the seven teammates behind him. However, that ailed the Firebirds in the sixth inning.

Chatham’s Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek hit a soft ground ball to Faurot, but the shortstop misfired on the throw to put the lead-off man aboard. Lane Forsythe hit a bloop single into shallow center field.

Zach MacDonald then hit a shallow chop to shortstop, earning an infield single. However, Faurot misfired again, and the ball got past first baseman Brandon Stahlman to score Martin-Grudzielanek, tying the game. A wild pitch from Carter scored Forsythe — it’s Carter’s first earned run of the season.

“It was definitely tough, especially with a couple of errors that could have been outs,” Carter said. “I just have to control my controllables, and if we make a couple errors, I just got to keep doing my part and getting those weak contact hits.”

Facing down the barrel of a 7-6 loss, the Firebirds did all they could to answer in the top of the ninth. Jack Penney led off the frame with a pop fly to left field that was taken by the wind, dropping in front of MacDonald for a double. Matt Halbach grounded a single through the left side to put runners on the corners to set up the team’s RBI leader, Eddie Micheletti Jr., for a game tying single.

King put down a successful sacrifice bunt to move Halbach and Micheletti into scoring position. Then, all it took was a wild pitch to score the game-winning run.

“We scored runs when it counted,” Carter said. “The top of the ninth was a really good inning on our part, and we made good hits when we needed to, so the hitters definitely battled.”

Orleans closer Sean Matson entered the game in the bottom of the ninth — doing what he does best — earning his fifth save of the summer by striking out the side.

Game two of the doubleheader will begin at 7:00 p.m. with Evan Truitt projected to start for the Firebirds.

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