By Brendan Nordstrom
Harwich has had Orleans’ number.
The Mariners dominated the first two matchups of the summer, defeating the Firebirds by a combined 22-5.
The next meeting was competitive in a 2-1 loss.
Then, the Firebirds were shut out 5-0 at Whitehouse Field.
Manager Kelly Nicholson doesn’t even remember if his team scratched a win over the Mariners last summer.
But, baseball is a weird sport.
“It’s always good to win a game in the division in this league,” Nicholson said. “And it’s hard to do. It’s hard to win.”
The Firebirds (12-13) did not just win against the Mariners, they dominated them on both sides of the ball in a 12-0 victory. The bats collected 17 hits with every starter earning at least one hit, while the pitching allowed only one hit in a shutdown performance on the bump.
“We feel like we can beat anybody,” first baseman Matt Halbach said. “We had been losing to Harwich a lot, and we come out and do this. It just shows how talented we are.”
Starting right-handed pitcher Ivran Romero went four shutout innings with no hits and a strikeout. He did allow two walks, but both came with two outs in the inning.
“When you’re pitching and you have a defense making every play for you, and you can just go up there and throw strikeouts, it’s always a good time,” Romero said. “Good pitchers are coming behind you. It builds the confidence.”
As Nicholson said, “pitching is contagious,” and Romero was right — good pitchers were coming in behind him.
Righty reliever Chase Hungate toed the rubber for three frames, allowing no hits, no runs and no walks, striking out one. Righty Sam Hliboki closed it out for the Firebirds allowing the only hit of the game but striking out three in his two innings of work.
On the other side of the ball, the Firebirds bats were hot.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Halbach said. “We’re good hitters. We do what we do: hit balls hard, and they kept dropping.”
After a quiet two frames to start the game, Orleans exploded in the third inning with an 11-batter six-run third inning that created a near-insurmountable lead. Shortstop Drew Faurot led off the frame with a double curled around the third base bag. A single, error and double followed Faurot before the Mariners recorded their first out of the inning.
Left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. took a hanging curveball into right field for an RBI single — one of two on the day for the team’s RBI leader. Center fielder Eddie King Jr. and Faurot each hit a single before a strikeout ended the bleeding — for now.
The first four batters of the fourth inning reached for Orleans with two hits and two walks, including a walk RBI for Micheletti. Catcher Owen Carapellotti, who also hit a double in the contest, hit a sac fly for an 8-0 advantage.
Then in the sixth, Halbach led off the inning on a middle-middle first pitch he took onto the berm over the left field fence for his first home run of the summer.
“It was the first time I pulled the ball, I feel, hard in the air,” Halbach said. “So, I felt good, finally got the barrel head out and get it over the fence.”
King, second baseman Jo Oyama and designated hitter Justin Rubin reached on a walk and two doubles, respectively, for three more insurance runs and a 12-0 lead, ending the offense’s highly productive night at the plate.
The Firebirds had a no-hitter going into the ninth inning with one out before right fielder Devin Obee hit a double to break it up. The next two outs were recorded to close out a dominant victory.
Orleans will return to Eldredge Park tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. to take on the Bourne Braves for the third time of the season with each team taking a win so far.
“Pitchers got to stay hungry. Hitters stay hungry as well,” Romero said. “I think if everybody keeps competing and playing hard, we’ll be in a great spot.”