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Firebirds fail to cash in on opportunities, fall 8-2 to Y-D

By Brendan Nordstrom

A marquee matchup.

No. 1 versus No. 2.

A potential East Division Championship preview.

The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, the division’s top team, entered Eldredge Park to face off against the team on their tail by just five points.

The Firebirds (17-17) could not gain any ground, losing 8-2 to Y-D on Sunday evening as they failed to cash in on multiple scoring opportunities.

“I don’t think any game’s more important than any other,” hitting coach Max Fecske said. “That’s the beauty of baseball, we get to see these guys again tomorrow.”

The game was a make-up from earlier in the season and followed the All-Star Break on Saturday, making it the only show in town.

“With the off day yesterday, it typically takes us a little bit to get going,” Fecske said. “They came out, put some pressure on us early and we don’t respond immediately, it becomes tougher and tougher to get back into it.”

In the first, Orleans starter Sam Hliboki mowed through the top of the powerful Y-D order, striking out two and recording a flyout for a 1-2-3 frame. But, when the dam shows cracks, it’s only a matter of time before the flood comes.

Hliboki allowed the first batter to reach in the second, and then the flood came. Third baseman Zander Darby cracked a shot over the right-field wall to strike first, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

That wouldn’t be all the damage in the frame as right fielder Casey Cook hit a single to left, advancing to second on an error. He quickly scored on a sacrifice fly.

A lead-off walk given out in the fourth proved costly as Darby hit a single and an error loaded the bases. A couple of fielder’s choices put Orleans in an even deeper 5-0 hole.

On the other end, the Firebirds were an embodiment of missed opportunities. Shortstop Jack Penney and first baseman Matt Halbach worked back-to-back hits in the first as left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. walked to load the bases. Then, a strikeout stranded three — the fifth time in four games the bases have been left loaded.

“We need to value when we have guys in those situations. We need to do our best to cash those runs,” Fecske said. “I don’t know if it’s change in approach as much you hope those fall tomorrow.”

And it was déjà vu, as the Firebirds did it again in the fourth. Luckily, they crossed a run first. Third baseman Brandon Stahlman roped a single over the second baseman’s head, coming around on a Henry Hunter two-out single against Y-D’s omnipresent shift.

“It doesn’t really affect me that much,” Halbach, who had two hits today, said about the shift. “But when I had two strikes in the first at-bat, I saw their shift and I was like, ‘I can just poke it in the hole.’ And I ended up doing that.”

Second baseman — and East Division All-Star Game MVP — Jo Oyama walked. This brought in Y-D reliever Ryan Delgado. He hit DH Justin Rubin to load the bases once again, but yet another strikeout ended the threat. It was one of six times the Firebirds have abandoned a runner in scoring position, and the fourth inning in a row.

“The guy out of the pen had an unbelievable outing,” Fecske said about Delgado. “He was using all three pitches for strikes. If a guy’s doing that, and you’re down … it’s tougher, backs against the wall.”

The Red Sox stayed consistent, putting their lead-off batter on in every single inning outside of the first. They did this against five Firebirds pitchers, including three debuting arms — Mauricio Rodriguez, Nate Scott and Cole Glassburn.

Y-D’s lead-off man in the seventh inning did more than just get on — Ryan Jackson cracked a home run to deep left field for a 6-1 lead. They poured it on in the ninth inning thanks to an RBI single and a walked-in run.

The Firebirds scored a run in the bottom of the frame off of an error, which they can use as momentum into tomorrow’s rematch against the Red Sox at Red Wilson Field for a 4:30 p.m. first pitch.

“We just go to come out there and do what we do,” Halbach said. “I don’t think we got to change that much, just be us, and hopefully be a little bit better.”

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