By Jack Loder
Tuesday night’s game at Harwich had all the makings of a feel good, get back on track win for Orleans. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Connor Burns belted his second home run of the year to deep left field, a three run shot that gave the Birds a 4-0 lead. If the game ended after four and half innings, it would have been just that feel good win. Instead, it was all Harwich the rest of the way. The Mariners scored three in the fourth, three more in the fifth, and one in the seventh to notch the 7-5 comeback win at Whitehouse field.
The loss is Orleans’ third straight and fourth in its last five games.
“We threw the ball away from first we threw the ball away from third base and we gave away a few runs,” Kelly Nicholson said. “A two out walk led to a three run homer. Can’t play like that.”
Alex Amalfi was dejected as he walked off the mound with two outs in the home half of the fourth. Despite spinning three dominant innings to begin the game, the Umass Boston right hander was tagged for three runs in the fourth frame. The punctuating blow came on Amalfi’s last pitch, as Harwich’s Tommy Saidl sat on a hanging breaking ball and punished it. By the time the towering blast landed well beyond the left field fence, the Mariners had cut a 4-0 Orleans lead to 4-3. Amalfi entered the fourth without having allowed a hit, he exited with three knocks and as many runs attached to his record.
“I thought he was really good for those three and two thirds. And then he gives up a hit and a ball four and then hangs a breaking ball and a good hitter hit it out,” Nicholson said. “Can’t do that. Winds blowing to left and you can’t allow a guy to pull that.”
If the three run homer in the fourth symbolized ominous storm clouds, the home half of the fifth was the rain. Harwich grabbed the lead from Orleans with their second straight three run inning. Kelly Nicholson doesn’t mince words when it comes to errors. When the Firebirds kick the ball around, they normally lose.
Harwich seized momentum and the lead for good by stringing together base hits and executing on the little things. It took a permanent lead on a gorgeous hit and run in the bottom of the fifth.
“They played a little better tonight. That can be true too,” Nicholson said.
Although it isn’t the headline in a loss, Burns’ fourth inning bomb was the definitive highlight of the night for Orleans. The Long Beach State catcher has made his defensive prowess known this summer, but the bat hasn’t been carrying It’s end of the bargain. His last few starts, however, have indicated a turning over of a new leaf. Burns is starting to string knocks together, and is showcasing the pop that makes coaches and scouts believe he can supplement his elite defense with at least passable offensive production at the next level.
“That felt good, that felt really good,” Burns said of his three run homer. “Ive been working on just getting some mechanical things in order, I’ve felt like my timing has been there and I just needed to make a few adjustments.”
The big fly puts Burns in some good company among his teammates. He joins Travis Honeyman, Luke Keaschall and Kevin Sim as the only birds to hit multiple home runs this summer.
Orleans is back at it against Harwich on Wednesday, hosting the Mariners at Eldredge Park at 6:30 p.m.