By Brendan Nordstrom
After a massive victory to start the week, the Firebirds (10-10) had thrilling, back-and-forth matches with fireworks fitting for the Fourth of July. Orleans officially went 3-1 on the week as both games of the home-and-home series against Chatham needed to be rescheduled — one due to rain and another due to fog in the fourth inning.
The Firebirds were faced with a tough start to the week, taking on the East-division leading Y-D Red Sox and the red-hot Bourne Braves back to back. The hometown Firebirds more than lived up to the challenge against Y-D with a 10-1 victory on five extra-base hits and their second-largest margin of victory of the summer. It was the second time the Birds had toppled Goliath in the span of five days.
Then came the Bourne Braves. On the first trip to Doran Park at the edge of the Cape, the Firebirds started out hot. Second baseman Jo Oyama and shortstop Andy Blake reached by way of single and walk, respectively, eventually scoring on wild pitches. Grabbing a 4-2 lead with a run in the fifth and eighth, the Firebirds crumbled. A few unlucky bounces, past balls and four hits gave Bourne a two-run advantage. Right fielder Fenwick Trimble tried to rally with a solo home run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough in the 6-5 loss.
It was the definition of a ping-pong match against the Wareham Gatemen on Sunday as the largest crowd of the summer at Eldredge Park was treated to a thrilling finish. Orleans grabbed an early 4-0 lead thanks in part to Blake’s two-run shot in the first. But, the Gatemen had flashes themselves, scoring six runs across the fifth through the seventh inning to tie the game at six. Then, with the bases loaded, first baseman Johnny Olmstead ripped an RBI single up the middle for a walk-off 7-6 finish.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, maybe Tuesday’s contest against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks will do the trick. The Firebirds found themselves in a 6-4 hole in the seventh inning. Catcher Henry Hunter’s first home run of the summer contributed to the scoring, but the offense fell silent past the third. Three lead-off singles by Blake, designated hitter Matt Halbach and Trimble loaded the bases as a balk, throwing error and sac fly gave Orleans an 8-6 lead. The team would hold on to win the game, but it wasn’t just any game — it was manager Kelly Nicholson’s 400th Cape Cod League victory, becoming one of seven skippers to reach the milestone in the league’s history.
“That is a team achievement,” Nicholson said, turning his attention to the team’s current record. “It feels good to get number 10 in all honesty.”
Peaks and Valleys
Peak: The Offense
While the offense has had its low points throughout the season, there is no denying the team has been explosive as of late, averaging over seven runs and 12 hits every game across the past week. The offense has come from all parts of the order as well. Oyama has led off and done his job perfectly, reaching base in 15-straight games. Olmstead, who had been struggling at the plate to start the season, has moved into the two spot and thrived with clutch hit after clutch hit. Blake has been as consistent as death and taxes to round out the top of the lineup. Henry had a big two-hit day against Hyannis including his first home run of the season. New addition Justin Rubin has had limited at-bats so far, but he has recorded three hits. Eddie King Jr. has refound his swing with two huge RBIs against Hyannis and used his speed to flip the lineup.
The Firebirds stayed completely clean in the game against the Y-D Red Sox, but errors proved costly in the next two games. An E6 to lead off the second inning against Bourne came across to score on back-to-back singles. While the scorebook ruled no errors against Orleans in the eighth inning of that game, the ball bounced out of the Firebirds’ favor.
The following day against Wareham, a throwing error scored the Gatemen’s first run. Another E6 to lead off the seventh inning was followed by back-to-back walks to load the bases. With two outs, a fly ball that everyone lost in the lights fell in no man’s land to give Wareham a lead. While most of the miscues could be chalked up to unlucky bounces or mental lapses, errors can hold back a team on the brink of breaking out.
Players of the Week
Johnny Olmstead: Who else deserves the top spot of the week but Johnny Olmstead. The USC first baseman flipped a switch in the past week, batting .474 across the last three days. A four-hit day against Y-D kickstarted a three-game, multi-hit stretch. In that game against the Red Sox, Olmstead hit a two-run home run and was a triple away from the cycle. Two days later, he was the hero, hitting the walk-off single up the middle against Wareham.
“Amazing,” Olmstead said about the walk-off. “It was exactly what we needed to do.”
Daniel Avitia: If you look at Avitia’s game log, it’s no surprise he’s on this list. In fact, it’s hard to not include him every week. The Grand Canyon righty had arguably the best Orleans pitching performance of the summer against Y-D, with the longest outing of the summer in 6 innings. He issued three walks, but those are pale in comparison to his four strikeouts and one — yes, one — hit allowed to the third-best hitting team in the league.
“All of my pitches felt really good,” Avitia said. “I’m just throwing strikes a lot, challenging the hitters. This is a good team, good hitters, so I was just out there giving it my all.”
Andy Blake: Blake is as consistent as consistent can be. The Duke transfer is on an eight-game hitting streak, recording back-to-back three-hit performances this week. This included a day where Blake was only a triple away from the cycle as well, hitting his first home run of the summer over the left field wall. Playing in left field for one of the first times in his life, Blake also robbed the Gatemen of a home run later in the game.
“I was just seeing the ball really well,” Blake said about the home run. “I can’t really control the results, but I’m happy I hit it hard, and I’m happy it went over the fence.”
After a long homestand last week, the Firebirds will spend the majority of the next week on the road, looking to finally best Harwich on Friday and keeping up their dominance against Brewster on Tuesday. Sandwiched in between on Sunday, Orleans will go to Cotuit for the final time this season.
Looking to catch Firebirds baseball at Eldredge Park? The Firebirds will take on Falmouth on Saturday for the third time with the series split a one apiece. On Monday, it will surely be another thriller as Orleans looks to take down the powerful Y-D Red Sox for the third time in a row.