By Brendan Nordstrom
Week two of the Firebirds’ season didn’t start the way they hoped. However, Orleans (4-6) got back on track Tuesday with back-to-back wins to close out the week.
The offense was the largest vulnerability to start the week. The Firebirds scored two or fewer runs in the first three games of the week, outscored by a combined 18 runs. The team heated up to close the week, putting up a five-spot and a four-spot in back-to-back games. This included a season-high nine hits versus the Whitecaps.
Outside of a rough outing against Harwich, the Firebirds’ pitching staff was a bright spot once again. Daniel Avitia, Jake Peppers, Dylan Jacobs and Chad Gartland all had great starts on the mound, while Sean Matson closed out three games, allowing no hits and no runs.
The defense had its hiccups. Orleans recorded a costly four errors in their matchup with Cotuit and made three mistakes in back-to-back games against Y-D and Falmouth. They stayed clean in their win over Brewster, however.
“Hey, it’s game 10. We can improve in every aspect of the game,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “There’s always room for improvement.”
Despite Firebirds’ ace Daniel Avitia allowing only one run, Orleans fell 6-1 to Cotuit after failing to score on multiple opportunities, stranding 11 runners on base. A Kettleers three-run home run in the sixth inning put the nail in the coffin.
In a game Orleans might want to forget, the Harwich Mariners hit a grand slam to complete a 12-2 victory. The Mariners earned their second win in the season series, winning by a combined margin of 22-5.
The home team cleaned it up against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox on Monday, but still fell short in a 4-1 defeat. Orleans had runners in scoring position for five innings but could only cross the plate once. The problem fell in the strikeouts, of which the Firebirds had 12.
Everything finally clicked on Tuesday in Falmouth. The Firebirds, assisted by a two-run first inning and a solo shot by left fielder Jake Casey, reenergized the offense. With pressure turned on in the ninth, closer Sean Matson dove for a huge out en route to a gritty 5-4 win.
The Birds kept it going on Wednesday evening in a make-up game against the Brewster Whitecaps. Orleans scored two in the opening frame again as a home run from right fielder Fenwick Trimble topped off a 4-2 victory against a division rival.
Austin Overn: The USC sophomore is an all-around weapon. The everyday center fielder comes up clutch in the field, uses great plate discipline and has one of the fastest set of wheels east of Brewster. While Overn started out the season slow at the plate, he picked it up across the last week, with hits in three of the last four games, and a three-hit performance in Brewster. Even before his bat heated up, Overn exercised phenomenal plate discipline, reaching base in nine of 10 games and leading the team in on-base percentage. And be careful when Overn reaches base — he is tied for the second-most steals in the Cape. Unfortunately for Firebirds’ fans, he will be leaving the Firebirds for Team USA in the coming days.
As Nicholson said: “Good for him, bad for the Birds.”
Chad Gartland: The pitcher out of George Mason was activated last Friday and made his first appearance that same day. Gartland entered for one inning, giving up a home run but sitting down the side on strikes. With the momentum and without the nerves, Gartland had “everything” working in his start against Brewster. The righty went five full innings, keeping the Whitecaps scoreless and earning the win.
Sean Matson: Orleans’ closer has been as reliable as Firebirds are red. Matson appeared three times throughout the week. The first of which was a clean one-inning outing against Cotuit. Matson then made two huge saves to propel the Firebirds’ win streak. In a tight game in Falmouth, the Harvard righty made a spectacular play on a popped-up bunt, and he struck out two in a save against Brewster the following night.
Orleans and Brewster will become awfully familiar with one another across the next week as the two are scheduled for a rematch on Thursday evening and a third meeting next Tuesday. David will have a chance to slay their Goliath on Friday when Orleans faces Harwich for the third time. Two other key matchups to look out for will be Hyannis on Friday and Falmouth on Wednesday — both teams Orleans has already defeated.