By Brendan Nordstrom
The message was clear following last night’s game:
The Firebirds lost to the Hyannis Harbor Hawks by a devastating 15-5 score in a contest that saw two position players pitch for Orleans and three home runs given up.
Unfortunately, missed opportunities at the plate and pitches barrelled up caused the Firebirds (16-16) to compound losses, falling 6-3 in seven innings to the Chatham Anglers in game one of the doubleheader.
“We’d love to win game one and have momentum,” assistant coach Cole Cook said, “but now the focus is on game two.”
Using the momentum from a three-run ninth inning in the loss to Hyannis, the Firebirds carved the game’s first tally. Second baseman Jo Oyama took the first inning’s second pitch to right field for a lead-off single. Since entering the lead-off slot on June 23, Oyama has hit .450 in the first inning.
A couple of flyouts threatened to ruin the early fun, but Oyama stole his fifth bag and earned third on an errant throw.
From there, all left fielder Eddie Micheletti Jr. needed to do was what he does best — hit RBIs, slicing a ball into right field for a 1-0 Firebirds lead.
Orleans starting pitcher Evan Truitt, who had been dealing early, began the third inning on a pitch too inside, hitting Jayden Melendez. Then, a cheap contact bloop to right field mixed with miscommunication placed runners at first and second, each advancing on a groundout. One swing of the bat by Tyler Wulfert into right field gave Chatham a 2-1 lead.
When the team is down, Oyama will make sure they’re not out. With the second-highest batting average in the league and the most triples, the only thing missing from his resume was a home run. Oyama checked that box on the first pitch he saw, sending it over the right-field wall.
“I’ve been waiting for it for a long time,” Oyama said. “Finally I got it, so I’m just happy about it.”
Then, the parade started as three straight singles — with two bunts — loaded the bases. Designated hitter Brandon Stahlman grounded out to score another.
A pitch hit catcher Henry Hunter to reload the bases, but three were left stranded — the second day in a row it’s happened.
“You know, it’s baseball. We never know what’s going to happen,” Oyama said. “We just need to stick to the approach, trying to control what we can control.”
Now down 3-2, the Anglers had to respond. And they were helped by Truitt starting the fourth like he did the third — a hit-by-pitch on Zach MacDonald. MacDonald took second on a wild pitch and scored on an Aidan Meola single. Then, Deric Fabian launched a ball center fielder Jake Casey fruitlessly tried to bring back, as Chatham owned a 5-3 advantage.
“I don’t mind a long ball,” Cook said. “When I look at home runs, I’m more interested in how a pitcher reacts.”
Orleans right-handed reliever Nate Ward took the mound for the first time since July 3 as he had been battling an injury. In his inning of work, Ward allowed one hit, struck out another and gave away no runs in a near-spotless outing.
“It was great having him come out and have that success today,” Cook said. “He’s one of the core members of our leadership of this team. He’s deeply important to what we’re doing here this summer.”
The Anglers weren’t done in the sixth, tacking on a solo home run by Melendez drifting over the wall next to the left-field pole. That would be all either team could do as Chatham took game one in 6-3 fashion.
“Now it’s the first inning, it’s a brand new baseball game at 0-0,” Cook said. “That’s what’s lovely about baseball.”