By Jack Loder
Luke Keaschall dropped his bat and broke into a dead sprint up the first base line. Head down, legs churning, he looked like a runner determined to beat out an infield single. Instead he ripped around first and finally slowed into a jog as the ball landed nearly 100 feet beyond the left field fence. You wouldn’t know it from his facial expression, but Keaschall’s two run bomb had just given Orleans a 2-0 lead that it would not give back. The bomb was Keaschall’s second of the season.
“When you hit a bomb, you run it out like it’s a double,” Keaschall said. “That’s the right way to do it. He threw me an inside fastball and I was chasing a slider away, I wanted to be on time and I put a good swing on it.”
Keaschall’s bomb was the only run scoring knock in the Birds’ fourth straight victory. They were largely shut down by Y-D pitching all night, but as has been the case for Bird pitchers in each of the team’s five victories, the pitching staff was phenomenal. Alex Amalfi, Cole Reynolds, Bryce Warrecker, Cooper McKeehan and AJ Blubaugh combined for the shutout. The staff surrendered just three hits.
“We didn’t give up any runs, which is kind of unheard of in this ballpark,” Nicholson said. “Baseball is a crazy game, you come to Y-D and you think there are gonna be some runs scored nd it turns into a pitcher’s duel
Alex Amalfi has flirted with complete dominance in each of his first three starts of the summer. Wednesday night was no different for the Umass Boston right-hander, as he worked his way through three scoreless innings, escaping with traffic on the bases in each frame. Amalfi mostly pitched to two outcomes in his first outing against Y-D. He puzzled Red Sox hitters with his healthy four seam fastball and induced flailing swings and misses with a tight slider. On the other side of the coin, he struggled with command, especially with two outs. Three walks and two hit by pitches accounted for five of the six Y-D baserunners Amalfi surrendered.
“He didn’t pitch great but he threw up three zeroes. There was a lot of traffic out there but he competed like he does,” Nicholson said of Amalfi. “We played pretty well defensively, booted one ball but played really clean overall.”
The new and improved Firebirds of the past half week or so have made their money on offensive execution. They’ve moved runners over when need be, and driven them in in clutch spots, something that seemed to be a foreign concept to the group early on. Y-D starter Eric Yost made the Birds look like the same team Y-D saw on opening night and a few days later. A team that seemed allergic to producing the aforementioned results. In the first five innings, they left four runners on base and went down in order. A yard that usually yields big power numbers facilitated a two-sided shutout through five innings.
Pitching kept them close, and the Birds finally broke through in the sixth to chase Yost from the game. His final pitch hit Kevin Sim in the forearm, forcing Y-D to go to the pen for Arizona’s Kris Bow. Keaschall, following Sim, wasn’t very polite in his welcome.
“It was pretty cool, I’m just happy I could help the team win today,” Keaschall said.
During the four game winning streak, Orleans has replicated a tried and true recipe for victory. Dominant pitching, clean defense, and just a little bit of timely hitting. When they do those things, they’ll win.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the world,” Nicholson said. “But I know you’re going to win most of the games you don’t allow any runs.”