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Firebirds complete season sweep of Brewster with 10-6 victory

By Brendan Nordstrom

The Whitecaps had not recorded an out.

Jo Oyama led off the game with a single to center field — his twelfth time leading off a game with a hit.

Orleans then sent Oyama to second base on an attempted hit-and-run, which Justin Rubin successfully completed with a single to center field

Jack Penney then hit a ground ball to first baseman Brock Tibbitts. Tibbits was stuck trying to decide whether to flip it to first or stop the run at home — his indecision won as he ate it to keep everyone safe.

Moving in from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box — Matt Halbach.

“I wasn't seeing the ball that well, honestly. I took two strikes, and I was a little unhappy with it,” Halbach said. “He hung the slider and I got a good swing on it.”

Thanks to Halbach’s three-run shot, the Firebirds crossed four runs, and the Whitecaps still had not recorded an out.

“That’s just who Matt Halbach is,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “He’s slowly gotten better every day he’s been up here this summer, and he’s playing really well at the right time.”

The Firebirds (21-19) swept the season series against the Brewster Whitecaps with a 10-6 victory that seemed out of hand as early as the first inning.

The Whitecaps actually outhit Orleans 12 hits to nine, but their pitching miscues — seven walks, for example — cost them.

“It shows good plate discipline,” Halbach said. “You’re not doing too much, just taking what the pitchers give us.”

The Whitecaps looked poised to come out swinging after a demoralizing 21-5 loss to Harwich last night. With two outs in the first, Josh Pearson took Orleans starting pitcher Sam Hliboki deep into the trees past the right-field fence for a solo home run.

Then, the Firebirds had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it offense, scoring four runs on the back of a Halbach three-run home run.

“That just shows the character of this team,” Nicholson said. “They’re super gritty. They respond. They don’t react … That’s who these guys are, man.”

Brewster responded in the third with Hunter D’Amato’s lead-off double up the middle that Penney couldn’t handle. He advanced to third on a passed ball, scoring on a ground out. The Whitecaps loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk, but a double play helped Orleans escape without further damage.

The Firebirds tacked on another four-run frame in the third while barely lifting their bats. Halbach led off the frame with his second hit of the day, and then eight straight balls loaded the bases, causing a Brewster pitching change.

Left-handed pitcher Brennen Oxford didn’t help the situation, walking Eddie King Jr. for one run and hitting Oyama on the back for another. Rubin earned an RBI on a misplayed glove flip up the middle, and Penney walked to score yet another run, giving Orleans an 8-2 advantage.

Brewster’s Jared Jones hit a one-run moon shot over the left-field wall, emphasizing it with a comically large bat flip to the ire of many, including the umpires.

Orleans lefty Ryan Rissas was successful in his two innings of relief, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with three strikeouts. Rissas is proving himself as a reliable arm in a bullpen that’s experienced a lot of turnover.

“I need every guy on this staff to help win this thing,” Nicholson said. “Every guy is going to have to contribute.”

Penney led off the sixth inning with a five-pitch walk before Halbach kept up his hot day at the plate with another home run — this time 380 feet over the left-field wall.

“It was the same exact pitch, slider down and in, and I just rolled it out, got out in front,” Halbach said. “It felt good to show some power.”

The Whitecaps didn’t give up, scoring three in the eighth inning. First, Davis Diaz hit Brewster’s third solo home run of the game in the first at-bat against Orleans reliever Chase Hungate.

The Firebirds pitching staff allows the most home runs in the league, however, they rarely give up more than a run or two.

“Guys are gonna hit home runs in this league … We’re kind of in a little ballpark,” Nicholson said. “Solo shots usually don’t beat you.”

Brewster then scratched a couple more runs across after a walk and a pair of singles made the game 10-6. But, All-Star closer Sean Matson entered the ninth inning, snatching away any hope the Whitecaps had left.

The Firebirds will head to McKeon Park for the first time since Opening Day on June 10 where they will face the Hyannis Harbor Hawks for the final time at 6:00 p.m.

“Hyannis has been hot, but I think we’re playing well too,” Halbach said. “We’re just gonna go in there with the same gameplan.”

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