By Jack Loder
Sometimes during a big skid, a manager will go to great lengths to fire up his team. Be it a biblical locker room rant, a silent treatment, or a forced ejection, the change of tide can spark a group that’s down. That third option may have been Kelly Nicholson’s plan on Friday, as he was tossed and got his money’s worth in the bottom of the third inning.
His performance didn’t yield the results it was intended to if that was the case, though. Orleans trailed early and came apart late in a 9-4 division loss at Harwich.
Nicholson charged out of the dugout at a pace that he hasn’t reached all summer. After a long and spirited chat with the second base umpire, Nicholson was given the hook he was probably seeking from the start. The 17th year skipper did everything short of dusting blue’s shoes with dirt, continuing his barking until he was leaving Whitehouse Field all together.
As much as he tried, the bats didn’t respond. Although they put up four runs, the Firebirds struck out an unbelievable 14 times. Three from Logan Beard continued an awful summer for the Louisville infielder. A pair from Connor Burns meant the same for him, at the plate at least.
Even during this recent bad stretch, Orleans has been able to turn the lineup over and put up improved offensive numbers. Friday night was no different, as the Birds found some thump in the middle innings. Cam Jones stayed hot with a pair of knocks, while Garret Guillemette drove in a run with a double. Orleans shrunk a 6-2 Harwich lead to 6-4 in the sixth. But that was as close as it would get.
Josh Allen got his first start of the summer and immediately got himself into trouble in the home half of the first. The Duke left hander walked the first three batters he faced before being bailed out by a 2-0 run scoring sac fly to the fourth Mariner. Jim Lawler and Phil Cebuhar split managerial duties in Nicholson’s surprising absence. Lawler, the pitching coach, attributed the poor energy to the start on the bump.
“You start the game with three walks and it hurts the whole atmosphere,” Lawler said. “At this point in the summer it’s hard to get it back. Not Josh’s fault but if you start the game like that it puts things in a tailspin.”
Harwich added another run in the second off of Allen, which proved to be his last inning of work. He was replaced by Chris Clark, who also didn’t turn in his most impressive outing of the summer. The Mariners were able to work deep counts and take advantage of some shoddy defense from the Birds to expand their lead in the middle innings. A solid effort from Ryan Rissas and Ryan Bourassa stopped the bleeding when the damage had already been done.
Looking ahead, the Birds are off for the next two days for the All Star game. Luke Keaschall, Bryce Warrecker and Travis Honeyman will head to Wareham to be honored at the game. The fourth all star, Nate Furman, was drafted last week and won’t participate. Orleans is back home on Monday as the season turns down the final stretch.