By Brendan Nordstrom
The Firebirds showed fight.
They showed fight in game one of the doubleheader when they were down 7-6 to the Chatham Anglers going into the game’s final frame. Eddie Micheletti Jr. hit an RBI single and Matt Halbach scored on a wild pitch to take the lead in what would be an 8-7 victory.
They showed fight — and won.
“There’s no deficit where they feel they can’t battle their way back, which is huge,” Orleans mental performance coordinator Jay Banfield said. “I think it speaks to the grit and the confidence in each other.”
In game two, the Firebirds were down 5-2 going into the eighth inning. Then, back-to-back walks by Micheletti and Eddie King Jr. and back-to-back hits by Brandon Stahlman and Halbach brought the game within one.
They showed fight — and, this time, it wasn’t enough.
The Firebirds (20-19) could not mount two comebacks in one day, splitting the twin bill with the Anglers on Friday evening. The game snapped a three-game win streak for Orleans.
“It was close,” first baseman Brandon Stahlman said. “Both teams had their opportunities, and [Chatham] capitalized on it when it mattered more.”
Orleans left nine runners on base and failed to capitalize as early as the first inning when Chatham starting pitcher Zander Sechrist was struggling.
But first, Jo Oyama did what he does best — put runs on the board. He took the third pitch of the game over the right-field fence for his fifth home run of the season.
Justin Rubin worked a walk before Jack Penney roped a single into right field. Despite no outs and two on, that was all Orleans could do.
“If we were able to push a run or two more across early in the game, I think it would’ve helped us,” Banfield said. “[Sechrist] settled in after that.”
And Sechrist settled in. He retired 12 straight Orleans batters to keep their bats quiet until the fifth inning.
“Once we have runners on, we need to capitalize more and get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in,” Stahlman said. “It’s easier said than done, but that would have certainly dictated the score a little differently.”
Stahlman hit his first of two singles to lead off the frame, which was followed up by a Halbach single. An Oyama fielder’s choice moved Stahlman to third before Rubin ripped an RBI double to the left-field gap.
On the other side of the ball, the Anglers struck in the first inning with lead-off center fielder Brennan Holt hitting a double to left field. A single moved Holt to third, and a double play scored Chatham’s first run. Then, Kyson Donahue cleared the right field berm with a 405-foot monster shot.
Chatham poured it on in the sixth inning when they batted through the order. Donahue led off the inning with yet another home run. Reliever Cole Glassburn ran into trouble walking Lane Forsythe, allowing a hit to Zach MacDonald and hitting Jayden Melendez with a pitch.
The Firebirds went to the bullpen, electing for right-hander Mauricio Rodriguez. Rodriguez threw a wild pitch to score Forsythe and walked in another run for a 5-2 lead.
Curran Jacobs also entered the game for Orleans, throwing an inning of scoreless baseball.
“It was nice to get some of the news guys more innings,” Banfield said. “Certainly going into the playoffs, that’s good for them to get their feet wet in this environment.”
The Firebirds loaded the bases in the eighth inning causing now-acting Chatham manager Todd Shelton to bring in a new arm from the bullpen — right-hander Trey Gibson. Orleans also made a change, putting Halbach in as a pinch hitter, who lined a two-RBI single to bring the game within one.
Gibson, however, struck out the side in the top of the ninth to secure a 5-4 Chatham victory.
The Firebirds will be at Eldredge Park tomorrow for the final contest against Brewster at 6:30 p.m. Orleans has yet to lose to the Whitecaps this season.
“I’m sure they got us circled on their calendar,” Banfield said. “So we should be ready for their best shot tomorrow.”