By Brendan Nordstrom
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Or, rather, it was the worst of times and now it is the best of times.
The Firebirds (13-13) were on the verge of catastrophe at the beginning of week 5. They were shut out by the Harwich Mariners in a tough-to-swallow 5-0 game. They lost to the Falmouth Commodores in the fog. Then, another grand slam by Ryan Galanie put Orleans on their second-worst losing streak of the summer.
Last week, Henry Hunter said the team was one win away from “really taking off.”
The Firebirds earned that win against a team they have dominated all summer long — the Brewster Whitecaps. Then, they took off.
Behind Jake Casey’s third home run of the summer and Colin Tuft’s home run robbery, Orleans defeated Brewster 8-4 on Monday evening.
Now with some momentum, the Firebirds faced a tall task in the Harwich Mariners, who had Orleans’ number all season, winning four straight against manager Kelly Nicholson’s crew. But the Orleans pitching staff threw a combined one-hitter, with the offense recording 17 hits in a 12-0 shutout.
They kept at it on Friday evening in a game where it seemed they had full control, defeating the Bourne Braves 4-2 behind Daniel Avitia’s final start of the season and a Henry Hunter two-run shot onto the bandstand past the right field fence.
The team currently sits third in the division ahead of Chatham and Brewster, but behind Harwich by only two points.
Peaks and Valleys
Peak: Productive at-bats
One thing that helped the Firebirds turn three losses into three wins was the return of productive, unselfish appearances at the plate. It doesn’t always take the flash of a home run to put runs on the board. It was extremely evident in the 12-0 win over Harwich. The Firebirds only put one ball over the fence, and even then, it was only a solo shot by Matt Halbach. It’s succeeding with the mindset the team has had all season: pass the baton. Fenwick Trimble has been the epitome of this. Trimble hit three sacrifice flys and walked with the bases loaded for four RBIs — helping the team without putting bat on ball.
Valley: Runners left on base
On the other side of the offense, the Firebirds have found their way on base, but they have failed to capitalize on it — a crux of the three-game losing streak. While Harwich barely allowed any baserunners in their 5-0 shutout of Orleans, the Firebirds went through missed opportunity after missed opportunity in the next two games. Orleans left 12 runners on base against Falmouth and followed it up with 11 against Cotuit. In the 8-4 win over Brewster, they stranded the bases loaded twice but were able to overcome it.
Justin Rubin: Rubin has been an inferno since joining the lineup on July 2. The Pepperdine transfer has recorded a hit in each of his seven games, including a three-hit performance against Harwich, collecting two RBIs in the process. The shortstop has earned four walks, only striking out twice. While it may be a small sample size, his .478 batting average leads the team.
Jo Oyama: Death. Taxes. Jo Oyama. The lead-off man from UC-Irvine second baseman is putting together an MVP-caliber season so far. Over the past week, Oyama had a hit in all but one game, including four extra-base hits. Oyama's two triples helped his league-leading five triples. Up until an 0-4 day at Bourne, Oyama had reached base in 20-straight contests as one of the most valuable pieces on the Orleans roster.
Derek Clark: Clark has been as reliable as reliable can be this week — and every week. The West Virginia transfer had three appearances. The first of which came against Falmouth where he cauterized the wound, throwing four shutout innings, allowing only two hits but striking out four. Then, with two on and a two-run lead against Brewster, Clark entered for one batter, which he struck out in three pitches. Finally, Clark struck out four in 1.1 innings versus Bourne to cap off an impressive week on the bump.
The Firebirds start week 6 of the season with their final trip off the Sagamore Bridge to Spillane Field at Wareham. Then, they face a test in a team that’s been rolling in the Cotuit Kettleers. Orleans will go on another long trip to Bourne on Wednesday. The team will take on the Chatham Anglers in a doubleheader at Eldredge Park on Friday before the All-Star Break.