By Brendan Nordstrom
Just under two weeks ago, the Orleans Firebirds were in the midst of a tied pitcher’s duel against the Cotuit Kettleers. Then, Ryan Galanie happened.
The Cotuit third baseman launched a ball for a grand slam to push the game to a 4-0 contest.
The Firebirds tried to battle back, but couldn’t recover, losing 5-2 to the West Division leaders.
Orleans returned to Lowell Park on Sunday.
The game was knotted at one apiece going into the fifth inning. Firebirds starting pitcher Dylan Jacobs left the game on a ball up the middle that ricocheted off his leg. This brought in reliever Ivran Romero for his 2023 debut. Romero’s first batter reached on a double off the right field chalk before striking out the next batter.
Manager Kelly Nicholson then elected to intentionally walk center fielder Carter Mathison for a favorable righty-righty matchup. The righty: Ryan Galanie.
“I obviously made a bad decision by walking the guy to get to a right hander, and the guy hit a grand slam,” Nicholson said. “So you can hang this one on me.”
The Firebirds showed some bark by battling all the way back to erase the grand slam and tie the game at five. But Orleans squandered its second life in the eighth inning after a lead-off walk scored on a bloop single.
The Firebirds (10-13) dropped their third straight on Sunday evening in a game where they recorded five more hits than the Kettleers but couldn’t make the best of their opportunities, stranding nine more runners than their opponent.
“We beat them everywhere but the scoreboard,” Nicholson said. “You have to play a little bit better than we played tonight, but this is a game that we let slip away.”
The game had the makings of a pitcher’s duel through the first half of action with Jacobs allowing only two hits and striking out three in his 4.1 innings of work.
The only run that was bled by the Firebirds came in the bottom of the second when left fielder Brock Wills hit a routine ground ball to shortstop. Drew Faurot rushed the throw to first, overthrowing Matt Halbach. Catcher Caleb Lomavita then found the left field line for a 1-0 lead.
Orleans then answered by the bat and legs of one man — second baseman Jo Oyama.
Oyama smoked a ball down the line to hustle out a triple before taking the hard turn home after a throwing error. The throw home was competitive, but Oyama slid in for a makeshift inside-the-park home run.
Then, one swing of the bat by Galanie nearly took the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth.
“So what? It happened. What can we do?” center fielder Colin Tuft said. “We gave ourselves a shot. That’s all you can ask for.”
Right fielder Fenwick Trimble led off the sixth with a single lined through the five-hole. Tuft hit a gap double to the fence with another competitive play at the plate, but Trimble slid under the tag.
Faurot hit a shallow single before Oyama hit an RBI groundout. Designated hitter Justin Rubin kept the parade marching with an RBI to right field, making it a 5-4 game.
They grabbed the tying run in the following frame when left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. hit a broken bat single. Tuft hit a routine ball to shortstop, but the throw to third was off line to score Micheletti.
This is Tuft’s third game in the lineup, and he came up big with two doubles in Sunday’s contest, as well as lockdown defense in center.
“I just want to keep things simple,” Tuft said. “[I was able to] just relax, be confident and not try to do too much and take advantage of what the pitcher’s giving me.”
The Firebirds put a runner on in the ninth inning, but they could not capitalize, falling 6-5 to the Cotuit Kettleers.
Orleans will have a chance to right the ship tomorrow at Eldredge Park tomorrow against the Y-D Red Sox. The Firebirds have won the last two contests by a 15-5 run margin, but the Red Sox remain a tall task as the leaders of the East Division.
“The resiliency and fight is there,” Tuft said. “Don’t be shocked if we just go on a tear … We gotta clean up the little things.”