By Brendan Nordstrom
Manager Kelly Nicholson trusts Daniel Avitia.
It goes without saying. Yet, he said it on June 16 after the right-handed pitcher’s second outing of the season. Nicholson said he would give Avitia 80-85 pitches throughout the summer.
Well, the Grand Canyon starting pitcher only needed 70 on Friday.
“Danny pitched an outstanding game,” first baseman Johnny Olmstead said. “Makes it easy for an offense to get going after an outing like that, so props to him.”
Working the longest outing of the summer for the Orleans Firebirds, Avitia pitched six full innings, giving up only one hit and shutting out the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in his fourth appearance of the summer. Avitia said he wanted to go eight or nine, but lefty Jonathan Gonzalez came out of the bullpen in the seventh.
Gonzalez worked a nine-out save against the East-division leaders as the offense provided more than enough support in the 10-1 victory in front of a packed 2083-person crowd at Eldredge Park.
“It starts on the mound,” Nicholson said. “Anytime you can hold Y-D, or anybody in the Cape League, to one run, you have a good chance of winning.”
These two teams faced off just five days ago in a thrilling 5-4 extra innings victory at Red Wilson Field. The Red Sox shut out Bourne 4-0 yesterday, while Orleans (8-9) had an off day.
“It definitely helped the team out a lot,” Avitia said. “We’ve all been a little banged up, so got a nice little off day at the beach.”
The offense hung a crooked 11 hits on the day, scoring in the double-digits for the second time this season. The team also stayed patient at the plate, working 10 walks.
“It takes a while,” Nicholson said about the offense. “[This is] about the time the offense starts to begin to catch up, and I think our offense obviously caught up a little bit.”
Y-D starter Smith Pinson used his looping curveball and blew his high fastball past Orleans batters in the first three innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three.
Olmstead said the batters were trying to “get the heater down” and trust their eyes, adjusting to the right-handed pitcher the second time through the order.
With one out in the third, Pinson’s curve dropped onto center fielder Eddie King Jr.’s elbow guard to flip to the top of the lineup. Using his speed, King took off for second, inducing an errant throw from catcher Will King to put him on third. Shortstop Andy Blake skied a ball to right field, tagging King for the game's first run.
The offense poured it on in the fourth when third baseman Jack Penney, who wasn’t retired all night, earned a one-out walk. Olmstead took a high fastball off the poster in right field for a double. Catcher Owen Carapellotti walked to load the bases when designated hitter Jake Hyde hit a gap double for a couple of RBIs and a 3-0 lead.
“As a group, we’re maturing and understanding who we are. We’re gaining a little bit of an identity,” Olmstead said. “Hopefully the scoreboard says a little bit more like it did tonight all the time.”
The Red Sox called for Connor O’Hara out of the bullpen, who has had previous success against the Firebirds in the past with four innings of one-hit baseball last Sunday. O’Hara shut down Orleans in the fourth and escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth. The walls cracked in the sixth, however, when Hyde’s leadoff walk was brought around by Blake’s right-field single.
A two-out double by Y-D’s Brady Day led to the visiting team scratching the zero off of the board. Center fielder Enzo Apodaca hit a bloop single past the diving middle infielders for the Red Sox offensive output of the evening.
Penney led the seventh inning off with a walk to make way for Olmstead, who hit a ball that disappeared into the haze and dropped over the left field wall for a couple more tallies.
“I was just looking for something over the heart of the zone,” Olmstead said about his second home run of the season. “I happened to get it, put a good swing on it and got the result you always want.”
Both Olmstead and Hyde both entered the contest batting below the Mendoza line, but caught fire for a combined five hits and five RBIs. Olmstead was a triple away from the cycle, earning player of the game honors.
“I think it gives them a lot of confidence moving forward,” Nicholson said.
Three walks loaded the bases after the Olmstead homerun. Blake hit another sac fly to score Carapellotti, advancing everyone. Then, a wild pitch that got past King scored another.
Penney’s one-out triple in the eighth would lead to two more runs to highlight a 10-1 win.
The Firebirds take their first trip out to Doran Park tomorrow for their second matchup against the Bourne Braves at 6:00 p.m.
Kelly, jokingly, said he didn’t know that.
“We play against the game every night,” Nicholson said. “You’re not playing against an individual even though it’s a pitcher that’s delivering the baseball, you’re always playing against the ball.”