By Jack Loder
Sunday was a new day for the Orleans Firebirds, as they went into Falmouth and swept the day night doubleheader over the Falmouth Commodores.
And oh boy did they need it.
The Birds moved to third place in the East Division with the pair of wins, using dominant pitching and timely hitting (yes, timely hitting) to down the Dores on their home field.
Before the game, outfielder Travis Honeyman coined the phrase “Decide to Fly” as a rallying cry for the struggling group, and decide to fly they did.
Before Nate Furman dug into the left handed batter’s box in the top of the sixth inning in Falmouth on Sunday, Orleans was a beaten down bunch. Two straight innings of agonizing missed opportunities had the Firebirds staring down the barrel of another close loss as the shortened doubleheader entered its twilight stage.
One big swing of the bat can change a lot.
Furman roped a two out, two run double down the left field line, flipping a one run deficit into a one run lead in the blink of an eye. The Orleans dugout came to life, roaring and fist pumping in approval of what was without question the season’s biggest hit to this point.
“We’ve got a great group of guys, and everyone’s ben working really hard,” Furman said salflessly. “I knew he had to come at me with the bases loaded, I was looking for a fastball, being able to get that hit is just really exciting.”
Nicholson couldn’t emphasize the importance of Furman’s knock enough.
“That was Huge. That was H-U-G-E huge,” he said. “No doubt this can be a big energy boost. We made some mistakes. We’ve had some games where the score was lopsided but the game was close, today the game was close but I thought it could have been a bigger differential for us.”
The clutch knock proved to be a welcome antidote for a group that desperately needed it, but the same issues that have plagued Orleans thus far were more present than ever throughout the contest. Although it didn’t end up biting them in the matinee, the inability to drive in traffic on the bases was featured more preval. They stranded a whopping 11 men on base in the seven inning game. In each frame, the Firebirds left at least two men on, including the two innings in which they plated their three runs. They left the bases loaded in two others. In game one of today’s doubleheader, the pitching staff and Furman’s big knock was able to bail them out.
As the UNC Charlotte product pulled into second base, he clapped his hands and acknowledged the jubilant dugout. No matter how tough times have been at the plate for Orleans, they’ve maintained that they’re as tight a bunch as you’ll find on the Cape.
The one run victory wasn’t secured without drama. Left hander Kyle Carr was tasked with getting a six out save. He came up an out short after walking a man and allowing a single in the top half of the ninth. Nicholson called on AJ Blubaugh to get the game’s final out in a high pressure situation. Blubaugh was efficient and successful, retiring the only batter he faced on a single pitch. A drive to left field that looked dangerous off the bat was safely coralled in left by Jacob Stinson to end the ballgame.
“Kyle Carr was doing his thing, he was throwing the ball great,” Nicholson said. “Maybe I should have gone to Blubaugh one batter earlier, but he was competing. They must have moved the fences back here,” he joked about Blubaugh’s only pitch.
Prior to Carr, starter Jacob Stallings and first reliever Samuel Conte combined to throw the game’s first four innings, surrendering one run each. Every Orleans pitcher who stepped on the mound Sunday enjoyed their most successful outing of the summer.
Orleans played long ball in a yard that does not feature a lot of homers on their way to a game two victory. It was Jacob Wilson early giving the Firebirds a 2-0 lead in the third. Kevin Sim then blasted his second bomb in as many days in the sixth inning, giving Orleans some breathing room in what had been a 2-1 contest. That 3-1 lead would hold for Orleans, giving them their third win of the young season and second of the day.
“Good day, really good day,” Nicholson said. “Everyone was nails on the mound and I thought we put together really good at bats as well.”
Pitching in game two, and on Sunday as a whole, was phenomenal. Ben Shields, Shane Telfer and Chris Clark combined to shut down Falmouth in the late afternoon contest. Today’s totals on the mound? 14 innings pitched and four runs allowed on 10 hits.
“Hats off to Shields, Telfer, and Clark,” Nicholson continued. “Clark came in and was really good it was great to get him back on the mound. He showed great improvement.”
Prior to the season, Kevin Sim told us that fans can expect “a lotta homers” from him this summer. He started a little slow, but hes belted two in as many games. I think he may have been right.
Orleans is off on Monday before hosting Harwich at Eldredge Park on Tuesday. If they decide to fly, I wouldn’t sleep on this group.