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Firebirds offense brings ‘energy’ in 11-4 win, take No. 1 seed in the East

By Brendan Nordstrom

There was a constant theme in Eddie Micheletti Jr.’s answers: Energy.

It’s a word that perfectly underscores how the Firebirds played tonight. After the cleat’s toe tapped home plate, after a strike out to escape a bases-loaded jam, after cracking the fifth hit in a row, the Firebirds brought energy.

It’s a concept mental performance coach Jay Banfield, or “Jay Money,” mentions often.

“Jay Money says energy is a choice,” Micheletti said. “And, we took the energy today to the next level, and we really supported our team, and we got the [win] because of it.”

The energy was most visible after the Y-D Red Sox caught up to the Firebirds in the third inning to tie the game at three. The Firebirds responded with a five-run uppercut in a fourth inning that saw 11 batters and six hits.

“Jay Banfield does a really good job with that as far as telling us that energy is a choice,” hitting coach Max Fecske said. “We made a conscious effort as far as that fourth inning rolled around to really pick it back up and just throw the next punch.”

Today was no ordinary game between Orleans and Yarmouth-Dennis, however. It was a game with playoff-seeding implications. With a Red Sox victory, they would clinch the East Division regular season title. With a Firebirds victory, Orleans would overtake the No. 1 seed and control their destiny in terms of the regular season title.

“They’ve had the last couple of days to start thinking about clinching,” Fecske said. “For us, it was just coming in, staying within what we do and playing our game.”

The Firebirds (24-19) won the battle at Red Wilson Field in dominant 11-4 fashion to win their fourth-straight game and take possession of the No. 1 seed in the East.

“We said we’re gonna play our own game. They’re the ones promoting it,” Micheletti said. “We’re just gonna play like it’s another game.”

Just over one week ago, the Firebirds were on the wrong end of an immaculate inning in the top of the first at Red Wilson Field in what would be a 5-0 shutout.

Today, however, the Firebirds experienced quite the opposite, finding their patience. Facing off against starting pitcher Braden Montgomery, Jo Oyama and Jack Penney struck out, while Fenwick Trimble was hit-by-pitch. Matt Halbach poked a single into right field to put runners on the corners, and then it all came crumbling down for Montgomery.

Suddenly losing his control, Micheletti worked a walk to load the bases before the next three batters — Eddie King Jr., Brandon Stahlman and Henry Hunter — all took a free pass for a two-out walk rally and a 3-0 lead.

“[Montgomery’s] a well-known guy and with that being said, we did a really good job not bowing down to him in the name,” Fecske said. “Especially in that first inning, the way we saw the ball early set a tone for us to continue to have relentless at-bats late.”

The Firebirds starter was debuting right-hander Jaden Winter who only allowed one run in his outing. Red Sox lead-off man RJ Austin led off the first inning with an infield single. Montgomery, a two-way player, hit third for Y-D and dropped in a single to move Austin to third. The final piece in the top-heavy lineup is power hitter Hunter Hines, who hit an RBI single off the glove of Oyama.

Y-D kept their foot on the gas in the third inning when Orleans threw reliever Mauricio Rodriguez. Back-to-back doubles from Ryan Stafford and Montgomery scored the Red Sox second run, while Hines drove in yet another RBI to knot the game at three.

“That was kind of a crazy start,” Micheletti said. “They kind of punch back, and I think just keeping the energy up, we punch back again.”

The inning began with a Hunter walk. Then, Jake Casey hit a missile that should have cleared the center-field fence, but Austin leaped up and brought it back. It didn’t matter.

Oyama hit a single to right field to set off a domino chain of six-straight hits highlighted by Halbach’s third hit of the night and a Micheletti two-RBI double down the left-field line. When the dust settled, the Firebirds owned an 8-3 lead.

Montgomery hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the lead to 8-4.

Facing an offense as potent as Y-D, a four-run lead is not comfortable. However, Orleans put reliever Ryan Rissas on the mound for 3.1 innings, allowing three hits and no runs.

“Rissas did an unbelievable job making pitches and throwing a couple breaking balls in two-strike counts that put guys away and ended innings,” Fecske said. “He did a really good job keeping us where we were and not allowing them to gain inches.”

In the eighth inning, the Firebirds tacked on three insurance runs when Micheletti just missed on a home run, hitting the top of the wall for a double. Hunter, who had four walks on the day, hit a two-RBI single into shallow right field to take an 11-4 lead.

Nate Scott threw two innings of scoreless baseball to close the contest, giving Orleans the No. 1 seed in the East Division.

The Firebirds will control their own destiny tomorrow in regard to the regular season title with a 6:30 p.m. contest against Chatham at Eldredge Park.

“I don’t think it gets any bigger than this game other than the playoffs,” Micheletti said. “As long as we bring the energy and play our game, I think we’re gonna win that and win every game.”

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