By Brendan Nordstrom
After a five-game losing streak was snapped at the tail end of last week, the Firebirds (7-9) were met with an up-and-down week where they went 3-3. While the first couple of weeks were relatively healthy for the heart, this past week took years off Orleans fans’ life with multiple neck-and-neck games, including the team’s first extra innings game of the summer.
The Firebirds began the week with a bang, as the fog was rolling, so was the team, putting up a heavy-handed 13-2 victory over Brewster. This was highlighted by 19 hits, an Eddie Micheletti Jr. three-run home run and a dynamic five innings of work by Evan Truitt. After fog obscured the field, the game was called in the middle of the seventh inning.
Harwich has had the Firebirds’ number all season and kept up their dominance with their third win of the season. While the Mariners have three-straight wins over Orleans, the game itself was a 2-1 nailbiter. Starter Daniel Avitia allowed only two hits in his four innings of work, but the Harwich pitchers were equally as shutdown. One big swing for the Mariners was the difference.
Orleans jumped back on the win wagon Sunday against the Y-D Red Sox, but it wasn’t without stress. Jack Penney came up huge with a game-tying solo home run in the eighth inning. The game went into the tenth inning with fog rolling in once again. Andy Blake hit a single in the tenth and a miscue on the next play scored what would be the game-winning run after closer Sean Matson shut the door.
The Firebirds were in the midst of a pitcher’s duel in Cotuit on Monday, but a few free bases given and one misplaced ball gave the Kettleers a 4-0 advantage. Orleans didn’t record a baserunner until the sixth inning. They battled back in the eighth with a couple of runs but a close play at the plate ended the momentum. Cotuit added an insurance run in the ninth, giving Orleans the 5-2 loss.
Back in Brewster on Tuesday, Orleans earned their third-straight win over the Whitecaps. This one was much more competitive than the previous one, however. Blake scored twice after a double and a walk, while Penney hit two RBI singles. Starter Chad Gartland, outside of a solo home run, allowed just one other hit in his five innings. The bullpen then put up a no-hitter in the final four frames for a 3-2 win.
On Wednesday, it wasn’t necessarily the Falmouth Commodores winning the game, as it was the Firebirds losing it. Orleans pitchers didn’t earn a run thanks to three costly errors, as the offense wasn’t able to make up for the mistakes, falling 4-3.
Peaks and Valleys
Peak: Starting Pitching
It’s nothing new that the Firebirds have elite starting pitching. But it is even more true this week as the combined ERA of the starters over the last six games was 1.04. Evan Truitt started and ended the week, going a combined eight innings, allowing one earned run. Avitia delivered four innings of scoreless baseball against Harwich, while Dylan Jacobs earned five scoreless innings using only 46 pitches against Cotuit. Jake Peppers and Chad Gartland each gave up a solo home run, but that would be all that crossed in their outings.
“We have a good rotation out there,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “We have good pitching, really good pitching.”
The Firebirds were successful in reaching base throughout the week, but they had their issues while on the basepath. Jo Oyama, despite his ridiculous speed, has been read a little too perfectly by opposing teams. Oyama has been caught stealing three times in the past week and picked off another time, but Nicholson stays determined in the aggressive baserunning approach. Additionally, two Orleans runners have been waved around third only to be gunned out at the plate. While both were close plays at the plate, they proved costly.
Players of the Week
Jo Oyama: Oyama has been nothing short of productive in the lineup. After Austin Overn left for Team USA, the UC-Irvine second baseman took over the top of the lineup. He said he was trying to “stick to my plan,” which was to get on base. And he did. Oyama’s on-base percentage over the last six games is an incredible .500. That included four multi-hit games and two three-hit games. This also includes a league-leading three triples — no other batter has more than one. Oyama is also a difficult man to strike out with only two in his last 25 at-bats.
Jack Penney: Penney can do it all. What the Notre Dame third baseman does best, however, is come up big in clutch situations. When Y-D hit a three-run home run to take the lead on Sunday, Penney stepped in and hit a solo shot that would eventually send the Firebirds to extras and win the game. Just two days later in Brewster, Orleans needed every run they could muster in a low-scoring affair. However, Penney hit two huge RBI singles in the 3-2 win. Another key of his game is his stellar defense at third.
“I know they call it the hot corner,” Penney said. “I credit it to our pitching staff. There haven’t been too many hotshots at me.”
Dylan Jacobs: Jacobs had a solid first couple of outings allowing three earned runs across 8.2 innings. Then, the Stetson right-hander had a fantastic outing against Cotuit. Not only did Jacobs go a full five scoreless innings allowing four hits, but he also did it in just 46 pitches. This included a four-pitch and a five-pitch inning back to back.
Across the Fourth of July week, fans will get plenty of opportunities to catch the Firebirds in action with four home games. On Saturday, Orleans will take their first trip out to Bourne and will partake in a home-and-home series with the Chatham Anglers. The rainout against Hyannis from last Saturday will be made up on Sunday.