By Brendan Nordstrom
Manager Kelly Nicholson has been a coach for the Orleans Firebirds for 22 years.
“We’ve never played a game where we haven’t scored and we’ve won,” Nicholson said.
Friday evening’s contest was no different.
The Mariners shut out the Firebirds (10-11) at a fog-filled Whitehouse Field in Harwich thanks to a two-run home run and three scores that came across due to an error. It is the second time the Firebirds have been held to zero this summer, with the other being a 2-0 loss to Chatham.
“The game was a little closer than the score,” Nicholson said. “Every time we played them, they played better than we have. They deserved to beat us.”
This is the fourth meeting between the two teams with the Mariners taking a 4-0 lead in the summer series by a combined 29-6 margin. Harwich snapped a four-game skid with the win over Orleans due in thanks to lockdown pitching performances.
Starting righty Josh Bostick went six full innings, allowing only four hits, while striking out seven and, obviously, allowing no runs. Set-up reliever Zane Probst let up one hit in his two innings on the mound, while closer Cole Roland struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
“Their pitching stalled us,” Nicholson said. “Batson threw the ball really well. That closer was dirty, and their set-up guy was dirty, as well.”
It wasn’t without threat from Orleans, however. Second baseman Jo Oyama led off the game with a double smoked to the left field gap. Oyama moved to third on a groundout but was stranded 90 feet from home.
Catcher Owen Carapellotti chipped a one-out single down the left-field line which was followed by a double cracked off the bat of shortstop Drew Faurot that bounced off the metal of the left-field fence. Oyama worked a two-out walk to load the bases, but the inning ended with another zero scratched across the board.
On the other side of the ball, Firebirds ace Daniel Avitia was on the mound for his fifth start of the summer. The right-handed pitcher from Grand Canyon was dealing for the first two innings with the only baserunners reaching on a fielding error and a walk.
A lead-off single in the third made way for center fielder Jacob Humphrey. The sound of Humphrey’s bat was enough to indicate the ball wouldn’t land in the field of play. It’s the first long ball off of Avitia and the first time he has given up more than one run in an outing.
In the fourth inning, catcher Bryan Arendt walked, while shortstop Ali Camarillo hit a single into shallow right field. A wild pitch advanced the runners, bringing the infield to the grass to prevent further damage.
Avitia got the groundball he wanted from second baseman Danniel Rivera to shortstop, but Faurot rushed the throw home, missing Carapellotti wide to score two on the cavernous backstop. Rivera would score on a Humphrey single to centerfield to push the lead to five.
“Just fundamental catch play is where it starts,” Nicholson said. “You have to play catch defensively, we didn’t play catch defensively tonight, and it hurt us. It cost us runs.”
Right-hander Danny Carrion, who has had both high and low points throughout the summer, entered in relief of Avitia for what would be his final outing of the season. Carrion absolutely did his job, shutting down the Mariners in the final four innings of the game. It wasn’t the plan to keep the UC-Davis product in that long, but only giving up one hit and striking out six, it was hard to deny his dominance.
“That was a terrific way to go out,” Nicholson said. “I think that outing tonight is going to help him moving forward.”
The Firebirds will return to Eldredge Park tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. where they will face off against the Falmouth Commodores for the third time in the season with Sam Hliboki set to take the bump.