By Brendan Nordstrom
It’s just one word. But it’s what manager Kelly Nicholson said the team needed to be after nearly every game across the five-game losing streak.
Across that span, the offense had its struggles, scoring an average of 1.2 runs per game. The Firebirds had opportunities but rarely seemed able to capitalize on them.
That changed tonight.
“It’s been kind of a long stretch there of not so much good baseball, and that’s mentally tough on us,” right fielder Fenwick Trimble said. “We stay the course and keep working, and that worked out for us.”
The Orleans Firebirds (3-6) ended a five-game drought on Tuesday evening with a 5-4 nailbiter against the Falmouth Commodores that came down to the final pitch.
“A heck of a good win for the guys,” Nicholson said. “They know they’re good. We’re going to get on the right track and we’re going to get this train rolling in the right direction.”
The offense, which had been flat across the last week of games, came alive. Kelly credits swing selection and the early work the players are doing for the improvement.
The offense was hot from the first inning when center fielder Austin Overn worked a leadoff walk. A balk gifted Overn second, and the speedy USC product, who is tied for second in the league in stolen bags, took third. Trimble stepped in and laced a single up the middle for an RBI.
“Just not trying to do too much,” Trimble said. “It’s just getting back on top of the ball and hitting hard wherever I could and hitting the right pitches.”
The Commodores nearly mirrored Orleans in the bottom half of the frame, beginning with a throwing error to put lead-off center fielder John Spikerman on base. A groundout put Spikerman on second, and he also stole third, beating the throw. First baseman Charlie Condon hit a deep sac fly to cut the lead in half.
Orleans starting pitcher Dylan Jacobs led off the second inning with a four-pitch walk to Joseph Redfield, who eventually stole second. Falmouth second baseman Kyle DeBarge struck a single through the 5-6 hole to even the game at two apiece.
Jacobs had an “outstanding” outing, Nicholson said, finishing 4.2 innings with three strikeouts and just one earned run.
Orleans reliever Riley Frey got the first two outs of the sixth inning and nearly escaped unharmed. Frey, with a 2-2 count, induced a check swing on third baseman Ethan Gourson. Unfortunately, the umpire didn’t rule in the Firebirds’ favor, and Gourson took the next pitch deep over the right field wall.
“I thought he probably struck Gourson out on that check swing,” Nicholson said. “But, nevertheless, you tip your cap.”
The Firebirds weren’t going to lay down. Catcher Owen Carapellotti recorded his first hit of the summer on an infield single. Eddie King Jr. pinch hit and earned a pick-off attempt that sailed over the first baseman’s head, giving King third. Overn worked his second walk of the night to put two of the Firebirds’ fastest runners on base. Overn stole second before Commodores reliever Parker Coil balked to tie the game and put Overn on third.
This brought up Trimble with a runner-in-scoring position again.
“I don’t really look at it as pressure,” Trimble said about his second RBI of the night. “I’ve always been if you think it’s pressure, it’s gonna add pressure.”
Last night in the ninth inning, left fielder Jake Casey had a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat, but struck out. Casey led off the ninth inning in tonight’s contest with a moonshot over the right field fence for what would end up being the game-winning run.
Falmouth threatened to make noise in the final frame when the Commodores worked back-to-back walks, putting the winning run at home. Sean Matson entered the game for Orleans to close. Spikerman squared to bunt as the ball popped off his bat toward Matson, who laid out to make a Superman-esque first out.
Falmouth ran a double steal with no throw, placing the tying run 180 feet from home. A groundout cut the lead down to one, and Matson worked a flyout in foul territory to give the Firebirds their first win since last Monday.
“Keep it going,” Trimble said on the goal for tomorrow. “Just keep playing good ball.”
The Firebirds will makeup Saturday’s postponed game against the Brewster Whitecaps tomorrow at Stony Brook Elementary with first pitch scheduled for 5:00 p.m.
“Do the same thing we did today,” Nicholson said. “Good at-bats, play good defense, throw strikes, mindfully run the bases.”