By Jack Loder
One thing seems to be for sure through three Orleans Firebirds games: This pitching staff is for real.
Alex Amalfi, Samuel Conte, Josh Allen and Ben Shields combined to spin an absolute gem, shutting out Wareham and allowing just four hits to deliver Orleans its first win of the season in 2-0 fashion. A struggling Wareham lineup was baffled all night by the quartet of Firebird arms. The Gatemen tallied just four hits on the evening, and only truly threatened to score in the second inning when they left a man on third. Orleans was also stellar defensively on Tuesday night, supplementing dominant pitching with flawless glove work. It was the team’s most complete effort of the young season.
“We’re developing some great camaraderie, the pitchers are really coming together,” Conte said. “I know It’s still early but we are definitely meshing great together.”
Two runs was enough on Tuesday night, but the low run total doesn’t tell the whole story.
Baseball can be a fickle game, as sometimes the most impressive efforts end up as failures. On the flip side, players can get lucky and end up benefiting from less than ideal contact. While it won’t show up as much as it should in the box score, the bats took a big step forward for Orleans tonight. Luke Keaschall and Jacob Wilson both lined out sharply in the top of the first, showing that the Firebirds were hunting barrels early and often.
“Everyones really getting back into the swing of things,” first baseman Kevin Sim said. There are a ton of good pitchers in this league. We have to stay the course and stick with the routine.”
They were able to break through in the second. Sim played spark plug, legging out an infield single down the third base line. Bennett Lee wasted no time putting Orleans in business, lacing a double down the left field line, advancing Sim to third. Sim then scored when Jacob Stinson laced a sharp groundout to first. A nice play by Wareham first baseman Torrin Montgomery limited the damage and made Stinson’s RBI of the fielder’s choice variety.
“I was looking for something up and out over the plate and that’s kind of what I got,” Lee said, before praising his pitching staff. “
The Firebirds added to their slim lead in the home half of the fifth when Travis Honeyman drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on a Jacob Wilson bloop single into right. Honeyman is the only Firebird who has played every inning of each of the first three games. He came into his own for the first time Tuesday night, on base twice and plating his first run of the summer.
Alex Amalfi, in a word, shoved tonight. Just like Wyatt Loncar and Cole Stallings on Sunday and Monday, the Umass Boston right hander went three innings. Unlike those two, Amalfi turned in three scoreless frames in a nearly spotless two hit outing. After struggling initially with command and walking the leadoff batter, Amalfi was able to settle in and dominate his three innings.
Samuel Conte followed with two scoreless innings, as did Josh Allen and eventually Ben Shields closed the door with a dazzling eighth and ninth inning.
On a night where the Firebird arms stole the show, a Wareham reliever raised scout’s eyebrows. Eriq Swan touched 99 with his fastball for the Gatemen, carving his way through the Orleans lineup in the late innings. While his stuff lit up the radar gun, Orleans pitching coach Jim Lawler was quick to heap praise on his guys.
“Don’t fall in love with the radar gun,” Lawler said before giving Shields his due. “Our last guy has three quality pitches and he throws pretty hard. He’ll win 20 games for someone someday.”
For now, one win will do.