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Firebirds struggle on both sides of the ball in 12-2 defeat

By Brendan Nordstrom

It was the story of Harwich pitcher Sam Armstrong.

The Old Dominion University righty started his first game of the Cape season against Y-D on June 10, going four innings with six strikeouts and no hits. He brought much of the same and more to Eldredge Park on Sunday.

Going six full innings against the Firebirds, Armstrong put up a Cy Young award-winning-esque performance with seven punchouts and no earned runs, allowing only one hit and one walk.

The Firebirds (2-5) fell 12-2 to a Harwich Mariners team that had both strong performances on the mound and more than ample support from the bats, extending the Orleans skid to four.

“That was an old-fashioned butt-kicking,” manager Kelly Nicholson said, adjusting his sentence to be fit to print. “They played better, they pitched better, they swung the bat better.”

Despite Orleans pitchers dealing out 11 strikeouts, a combined nine walks ailed the Firebirds as a Mariner reached base in every inning outside of the ninth.

“We can’t walk [9] guys and expect to compete in the Cape Cod Baseball League,” Nicholson said.

The walks especially hurt the Firebirds early.

Orleans starting pitcher Cam Leiter earned a groundout to start the second inning but then gave away back-to-back free passes. Right fielder Lorenzo Carrier, who was making his Cape debut, ingratiated himself to Harwich with a bang, flaring a line drive over the left field wall.

Leiter’s day ended in the middle of the third inning after delivering two more walks to the Mariners, lifting his daily total to five. Nicholson mentioned how Leiter was better than he showed tonight, pointing to his lack of “control.”

Reliever Derek Clark entered the game and gave up an RBI single to first baseman Matt Scannell. Clark struck out two to escape the inning without further harm.

The Mariners tacked on a run in the fourth on a Seaver King flyout, and they added another tally in the sixth to improve their lead to 6-0.

Orleans threatened to close the gap in the fifth when shortstop Andy Blake smoked a ball over the left field fence for what would have been a two-run shot, but Harwich center fielder Jacob Humphrey lept and robbed Blake at the wall.

The Firebirds finally scratched the zero off the board in the sixth when third baseman Jack Penney recorded Orleans’ first hit on an infield single.

“Jack’s a good hitter,” Nicholson said. “He’s got really good bat-to-ball skills. He rarely swings and misses. And when you put the ball in play, good things are going to happen.”

And good things did happen. Center fielder Eddie King Jr. reached base on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a failed back pick from Harwich catcher Bryan Arendt. A passed ball then scored King to bring the score to 6-1.

Harwich added two more runs in the seventh inning, while putting an exclamation mark on the victory in the eighth with a walk and a pair of singles off of left-handed reliever Eric Orloff. Left fielder Kennedy Jones then hit an emphatic grand slam for a 12-1 lead.

The Firebirds added momentum going into tomorrow’s contest as center fielder Austin Overn, who was subbed in for King, hit a single to center. A wild pitch moved Overn to second as first baseman Matt Halbach stepped into the batter’s box. Halbach, making his first appearance in the Orleans lineup tonight, hit an RBI single.

“I was pretty nervous coming in,” Halbach said. “After the first at-bat, it was just baseball.”

Halbach — a bright spot for Orleans — reached base in each of his four appearances at the plate. Unfortunately, three of those were due to being hit by a pitch.

“I’ve never been hit three times before,” Halbach said about his welcome to the Cape. “I got on base three times, so I’ll take that.”

Another bright spot was reliever Danny Carrion, who entered the game for Orleans in the ninth. Carrion started the inning with a three-pitch and a four-pitch strikeout, closing it out with a flyout. Nicholson said he was impressed with the outing, noting how the righty throws with “conviction.”

After rain cancelled every game in the league Saturday, the Firebirds will endure a streak of 11-straight games. The next game on that stretch comes against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox tomorrow at Eldredge Park with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.

“This one, we gotta flush it,” Halbach said. “Put it behind us and get after it tomorrow.”

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