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Firebirds escape Bourne with a 5-3 victory, win season series

By Brendan Nordstrom


Just under three weeks ago, Konner Eaton came out of the bullpen in the eighth inning at Doran Park with a 4-2 lead.


When he left the game, the Bourne Braves held a 6-4 advantage — a game the Firebirds fell 6-5 with Eaton walking away with the loss.


Tonight, Eaton came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning at Doran Park with his team losing 2-1.


By the time Eaton exited the game — the end of the ninth inning — he had only one run given up with six strikeouts, one walk and a win.


Revenge.


“Strikes, conviction, fastball, changeup,” manager Kelly Nicholson said, turning to Eaton and congratulating him. “It worked out.”


Eaton worked his longest outing of the summer, stretching five complete innings, to give the Firebirds (16-14) a 5-3 victory over the Braves on Wednesday evening. Orleans completed their season series against the reigning champions with three wins to Bourne’s one.


“We put together really good at-bats. They ran some good arms, but we stuck with our approach and saw the ball well,” designated hitter Brandon Stahlman said. “This team is very fun to be a part of.”


Stahlman mentioned situational hitting as a big strength of the team today, and it began with the North Carolina Charlotte DH. Leading off the third inning, Stahlman hit into the shift, but he hit it hard enough to get through for his first hit of the summer.


It is just Stahlman’s second game in the starting nine, and he had quite the day at the plate. Stahlman went three for three with a trio of singles, as well as a sacrifice bunt.


“We talked about just slowing it down, seeing some more pitches, so I was really looking to work counts today, and when I got my pitch, dropped the ball hard,” Stahlman said.


Center fielder Jake Casey then blooped a ball into right field for a double that pushed Stahlman to third. The pitch from Bourne starting pitcher Bryce Cunningham got past catcher Caden Bodine, scoring Casey for the game's first run.


The Braves answered in the next half frame thanks to a lead-off double to the left field wall by DH Cameron Foster. An RBI by third baseman Bryce Eblin and first baseman Derek Bender helped Bourne take a 2-1 lead.


After four solid innings from Orleans starting pitcher Ivran Romero, Eaton took the team to the finish line.


The only damage against Eaton came in the seventh inning when right fielder Kendall Diggs led off the inning with a double to the left-field corner. Diggs moved over on a sacrifice bunt, before Foster ripped a run-scoring double down the line.


Other than that, Eaton remained clean for his best outing of the summer.


The Firebirds scratched a couple runs in the sixth inning after second baseman Jo Oyama led off the inning with a bunt single. Drew Faurot, who entered the starting lineup 30 minutes before the game when shortstop Justin Rubin was scratched, dug out a low pitch to center field for a single.


“Anytime you can put Drew Faurot into the two hole,” Nicholson said, “you’re in good shape.”


First baseman Matt Halbach hit a ball deep into the five-hole, beating out the throw — a throw that went out of play, scoring Oyama and putting Faurot on second. Left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. hit a sacrifice fly for the Firebirds’ third run of the game.


In the eighth inning, third baseman Jack Penney hit a one-out single to center field before a wild pitch put him on second. Halbach hit a single to put Penney on third, eventually scoring the lead run on a wild pitch.


“We’re always looking to reach the next one, and so when we had that third passed ball, we took advantage of it,” Stahlman said. “So [we] get some runs on for our pitchers to get some of the weight off their shoulders.”


With a 4-3 advantage heading into the final inning, Stahlman hit his third single of the game, scoring an insurance run on Oyama’s looping gap double to left field.


Eaton shut down the Braves in his fifth inning of work with his sixth strikeout for a 5-3 win.


The Firebirds will take the field at 6:30 p.m. at Eldredge Park for the third contest against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.


“This team has a ton of talent, but they’re really good people too,” Stahlman said. “Just going to work with them every day is fun. It’s very fun to be a part of.”

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