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Firebirds can’t hold lead in 6-5 loss to Bourne

By Brendan Nordstrom

The Firebirds added an insurance run in the top of the eighth.

Despite the Bourne Braves knocking on the door in the past three innings, Orleans held onto a 4-2 lead with six outs to go. But no lead is safe in baseball.

The inning began on a misplayed ground ball, and the mistakes compounded.

An infield single put runners on the corners, before a center field liner scored the inning’s first run — luckily, that’s what the insurance run was for.

Unluckily, a passed ball and two more misplayed ground balls gave the reigning champions a 6-4 advantage.

“It just kinda got away from us,” right fielder Fenwick Trimble said. “A couple tough breaks here and there, and ultimately that led to a big inning for them. It’s tough, but it’s part of the game.”

Trimble would be key in attempting to mount a comeback in the ninth, but the Firebirds (8-10) fell short in the 6-5 defeat at Doran Park.

“We didn’t deserve to win that game,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “We didn’t run the bases well, we didn’t play well defensively, we didn’t pitch well … three of the four things you need to do to win a baseball game, we didn’t do tonight.”

Bourne, despite a 2-7-1 start to the season, has become one of the hottest teams in the league, winning eight of their last ten after snuffing out the Firebirds on Saturday.

Orleans’ loss followed a dominant 10-1 victory against the Y-D Red Sox at Eldredge Park Friday. The offense stayed hot tonight with nine hits, three doubles and nine walks, but if there is any knock, it would be missed opportunities with runners-in-scoring position. The Firebirds left a runner on base in every inning outside of sixth, totaling 12 runners stranded.

“You got to drive guys in,” Nicholson said. “You got to execute. You got to move runners. You got to capitalize on those opportunities.”

No inning emphasized this more than the first. Bourne starter Marcus Morgan struggled with his command, spiking pitches in the grass in front of home plate, walking three batters in a row and throwing four wild pitches. However, the Firebirds were still only able to scratch across two runs, abandoning the bases loaded.

Second baseman Jo Oyama started the day off with a spinning infield single, extending his on-base streak to thirteen-straight games. Oyama recorded two more hits, including a bunt single and a hard-hit ball up the middle to improve his team-leading .354 batting average — the highest in the league of active players.

Despite a bullpen arm getting ready midway through that inning, the Braves brought out Morgan for the second. The Iowa right-hander found the zone, mixing his dangerous changeup and tight slider to freeze the Firebirds in his next three innings of work.

“That’s a kid that has a good arm,” Nicholson said. “He turned it around, and you got to give him credit, he did a nice job.”

Orleans starter Sam Hliboki found himself in trouble during the second inning. Bourne second baseman Joshua Kuroda-Grauer reached on an error, scoring on an RBI single. The hits continued with right fielder Pete Ciuffreda hammering a single through the four-hole. Another hit and another RBI ended Hliboki’s day, as Nicholson said he had “seen better,” but liked to see him in the starting role.

Lefty Derek Clark entered the game with two outs and two on, quickly picking off the runner at first to end the bleeding — his first of two successful checks at first on the night. That was indicative of how Clark’s outing went, stretching three more innings with only two hits and a couple of competitive walks.

The bullpen as a whole was strong for Orleans. Clark escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth while reliever Riley Frey escaped bases loaded in the sixth and two on in the seventh.

Orleans tacked on a run in the fifth after back-to-back walks to start the inning. Left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. worked a five-pitch walk, and Trimble worked his second walk of the summer — his first walk of the summer came four innings prior. “Finally,” he said after the game.

First baseman Johnny Olmstead launched a ball to the warning track for an RBI double and a 3-2 lead. The USC man has been California hot recently with four hits on Friday and two more tonight, collecting four RBIs in that span.

“Johnny’s a good hitter, and he’s seeing the ball well and putting good swings on pitches,” Nicholson said. “He just continues to get better every day he’s up here.”

The Firebirds tacked on another run in the eighth inning thanks to pinch hitter Eddie King Jr.’s one-out walk. Bourne must have read the scouting report as King received three pickoff attempts but stole second with relative ease anyways. Shortstop Andy Blake’s RBI single gave Orleans a two-run cushion.

After the eighth inning derailed plans, the visiting team still had fight in them to start the ninth. Trimble’s leadoff double came around to score on designated hitter Jake Hyde’s single. Unfortunately, the team’s sixth run didn’t cross.

The Firebirds return to Eldredge Park tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. to face off against the Wareham Gatemen for the second time this season.

“Show up to the ballpark everyday ready to win,” Trimble said on how to keep the team’s energy up. “Compete your tail off every day until the final out.”

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