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'One of the best feelings in the game': Firebirds walk it off against Wareham

By Brendan Nordstrom


Center fielder Eddie King Jr. chopped a ground ball to second base for what should have put the Wareham Gatemen one out closer to extra innings. Then, Dorian Gonzalez overran the routine hop to put the winning run on base.

Wild pitch. Walk. Wild Pitch.

Victory for the Firebirds stood 90 feet away as the Gatemen gathered for a much-needed mound meeting.

North of 3,000 Firebirds faithful were raucous at Eldredge Park, packing every inch on a warm Sunday evening.

Second baseman Jo Oyama was intentionally walked to make way for Johnny Olmstead.

“I knew that with the bases loaded, he was going to try and come after me with a fastball, and I tried to stay short,” the USC first baseman said.

Olmstead took a home run hack on the second pitch, swinging through it for strike one.

The crowd remained amped up, clapping in support while waiting with bated breath.

“I reeled it back in, took a deep breath and reminded myself to stay compact in the middle,” Olmstead said. “[I] put a little barrel on something that he gave to me.”

The ball shot off Olmstead’s bat up the middle, leaving a seamed imprint on the mound. Ricocheting off to the right, Gonzalez dove toward it, but it was futile as he could only watch it trickle into the center field grass.

King jogged home, tapping the dish with his right cleat. The home dugout emptied to mob Olmstead and carry him into the outfield to the loud praises of the hometown crowd.


“That’s one of the best feelings in the game, for sure,” Olmstead said. “It just feels good to come through for the team and pick these guys up a little bit.”

The Firebirds (9-10) completed the most dramatic victory of the summer against the Wareham Gatemen in an action-packed, quirk-filled contest. The game featured elite pitching for Orleans, including winning pitcher Sean Matson’s longest outing, as well as top-level hitting with 13 knocks.

“As a team, we were just putting really good swings on the ball, and we’re hitting the ball all over the place,” left fielder Andy Blake said. “We’re feeling really confident to play right now.”

The game followed a heartbreaker yesterday when an eighth-inning collapse cost Orleans the lead and, eventually, the win in a 6-5 loss to Bourne.

The Firebirds nearly suffered a similar fate tonight, losing a 4-1 lead after giving up a two-run sixth and a three-run seventh, but they were able to stay resilient.

“You just have to get on to the next pitch and the next play, and I thought our guys did a tremendous job with that,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “I had the utmost confidence that we were going to come back and win that game.”

The offense attacked the Wareham pitching staff early. Third baseman Jack Penney earned a two-out walk to set up Blake. The Duke transfer jumped on a hanging breaking ball, putting it over the left field fence for his first home run of the summer and a 2-0 lead.

Blake usually plays shortstop but is a “strong believer in being an athlete and being adjustable.” It paid off when Wareham center fielder Bobby Boser launched a ball to deep left. Blake looked like a natural, leaping at the wall to rob Boser of a home run, which starting pitcher Jake Peppers was more than ecstatic to see, putting his hands up and tipping his cap.

“After hitting a home run in the first, I was like, ‘Alright, now I need to go rob a home run,’” Blake said. “After I caught it, I had a huge smile on my face.”

Orleans tacked on a couple more runs in the second inning when King worked an eight-pitch walk, using his signature speed to steal second. Oyama extended his on-base streak to 14 games with a ball slapped through the left side to score King. Olmstead, who has nine hits and six RBIs in the last three games, came through again with an RBI single cracked up the middle.

Wareham pushed their first run across in the fifth thanks to a one-out double, a throwing error on a misplayed back pick and an RBI groundout. The Gatemen followed it up with two more in the sixth.

The Firebirds responded when — who else — Johnny Olmstead laid a textbook bunt down the left field line the Gatemen could only stare at. Olmstead, proving he can do it all, took second with relative ease for his first stolen bag of the season. Then, all it took was Blake’s RBI single to push the lead back to two.

In a ping-pong match of a game, Wareham responded in the seventh and responded emphatically. With two outs and the bases loaded, Matson entered the game to escape the jam. The Harvard closer sent a pitch to Boser that he sent a mile and a half into the air.

Everyone lost it in the twilight sky and bright lights. Oyama moved into the shallow outfield, but the ball bounced a few feet away in no man’s land, clearing the bases on a unique RBI double.

“No one had any idea where it went, so it was just super unlucky,” Blake said. “I’m glad that we were able to erase that, bounce back and put a few runs on the board.”

Oyama tied the game in the seventh with a deep sac fly to left. Matson shut down Wareham in his next two innings of work, while Olmstead and the offense did the rest, completing a thrilling 7-6 victory.

The Firebirds will look to follow it up at Eldredge Park tomorrow when they face Hyannis at 6:30 p.m. in a make-up game.

“It showed a lot of resilience for us,” Olmstead said about the win. “Just because one thing didn’t go our way on a little weird, wonky play, we were able to bounce back and not let it bother us.”

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