By Jack Loder
Donye Evans was dominating as usual through three innings on Saturday night. He retired the first nine Hyannis batters he faced, striking out four and precipitously lowering his already impressive 0.56 ERA. Then, he lost it. Evans retired the first batter he faced in the top of the fourth, making it 10 straight to start the game. It would be the last out the UNC Charlotte right hander recorded. A hit by pitch, a home run, a hit by pitch, a walk, an error and a two RBI base hit later, Kelly Nicholson took the walk to the mound to get the ball from Evans.
The nightmare fourth inning set the tone for the rest of the evening. Hyannis stepped on the neck of Orleans, scoring four more times in the fifth to cruise to a xx-xx victory over Orleans at Eldredge Park. The loss snaps a three game winning streak for the Birds, dropping them to 13-15-3 on the summer.
“I don’t think this was anything mechanical or mental, things just really didn’t go his way there in the fourth,” Kelly Nicholson said. He was cruising and then after that homer and the botched play at third he lost it a little bit. He still showed a lot of good today.”
As is often the case in baseball, the team that won Saturday night’s game scored more runs in an inning than the opposing team did all game long. Orleans has been victimized by the big inning in most of its losses this season, a trend that Nicholson says needs to change.
It’s huge, it’s everything,” he said, referencing the importance of minimizing big innings. “The team that has the big inning usually wins the game. If they score five there and we score four they still probably win. That’s just what the numbers say. So yes it is su;er important to minimize those big innings. We have to stay out of the big inning.”
Cole Reynolds relieved Evans in the fourth and got the Firebirds out of the five run fourth inning without further damage. That was the end of his success, as he was tagged for four runs in the top half of the fifth. Three singles, an RBI fielder’s choice, and a mammoth two run homer made it clear that the result of this contest would not be in question after nightfall.
“I just haven’t been getting into my legs. I’ve hung a few change ups and I’ve paid the price,” Reynolds said. “I’ve gotten unlucky a few times and I feel a lot better with my slider. Just have to think about the next pitch and getting ahead of the next batter, that's all you can do as a pitcher.”
Following Reynolds, Gray Harrison and Shane Telfer both turned in scoreless relief outings. Harrison is a new arm, and should bolster a pen that has been weathering the departures of Cooper McKeehan and AJ Blubaugh. The duo of Harrison and Ryan Bourassa has done a good job of filling those big shoes. Their presence down the stretch will be huge for Orleans as the Birds make a playoff push.
“They’ve been throwing the ball well haven’t they,” Nicholson said with a knowing grin. “Those are definitely big shoes to fill but they’ve done a really nice job with that. Harrison threw the ball well tonight.”
Orleans once again scored far fewer runs than their hit total should dictate. An indication that the lack of a clutch hit continues to plague the offense. It likely wouldn’t have mattered on a night like tonight, but missed opportunities in the early innings certainly helped heap the momentum into the Hyannis dugout.
In the second inning, the Firebirds were only able to score one run in a second and third nobody out situation. An inning later, Orleans was somehow blanked when presented with the same situation. Until they correct that, there is a distinct ceiling on this team’s ability to beat good teams.