Pitching And Offense Come Together In Win

By Greg Joyce

It was only a matter of time before the 2011 Orleans Firebirds started clicking on all cylinders. The crowd at Eldredge Park on Wednesday night got a glimpse of what the Firebirds are capable of, and the results were impressive, to say the least. The Orleans pitching staff combined for a two-hitter (retiring 17 batters in order at one point), and four batters had a two-hit game for the Firebirds, leading to a 5-1 win over the Harwich Mariners.

The game didn’t start so well for Tyler Johnson (Stony Brook) on the mound, as he let up a triple on the first pitch he threw. Two batters later the score was 1-0 Harwich, and then Johnson allowed a double. But after that batter, Johnson was unstoppable.

The right-hander was completely dominant over the next four innings for Orleans. He retired the last eight batters he faced in order, and if it weren’t for a fielding error, he would have retired the last 13 batters in a row after the first-inning double.

Johnson retired the first ten batters via the ground balls, followed by two strikeouts, and then three outs in the air. But the ground ball was key to Johnson’s success, keeping the pitch count low and allowing him to pitch at a quick tempo once he got in his groove.

“Yeah, that’s what he does,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of the ground balls. “He keeps the ball down and he’s got some sink to it. If he’s getting ground balls, you know he’s got good stuff. That’s who he is. He’s just a ground ball guy.

“He did a terrific job tonight. He hadn’t started in [12] days, but I was really proud of the way he came back, especially after that first inning. Tyler was outstanding.”

The final line for Johnson was 62 pitches in five innings, two hits, one run, two strikeouts, and no walks, as he recorded his second win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Orleans offense quickly erased the deficit they were once facing in the first inning. Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) got on base to start the bottom of the first when he was hit by the first pitch he saw. The newest Firebird, Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) followed with an opposite field double to the fence in left field, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Duffy scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, and Aplin crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) to make it 2-1.

The Firebirds added another run in the fifth inning, which got started when Tarran Senay (NC State) led off with a single to right field. Next was Duffy, who recorded his second base-knock of the game when he hit an infield single to second. Aplin then loaded the bases when he laid down a bunt that the first baseman had trouble fielding. Jayce Boyd (Florida State) was unable to get a hit with the bases juiced and no outs, but did push another run across the plate when he grounded into a 4-3 double play.

Senay started the final rally for Orleans in the seventh inning when he hit another single to right field. One batter later, Aplin crushed his second double of the game, this one getting pulled down the right field line. After Senay scored on a passed ball, Waldrip knocked in Aplin with a single to right field. It was Waldrip’s second RBI of the day, which gave him a team-high 10 on the season.

Both Senay and Aplin recorded two hits and two runs scored, an encouraging sight to see for both players.

“It was terrific,” Nicholson said. “T-Senay did a terrific job.

“Aplin is kind of what this ballclub needed. He’s a high-energy guy, plays hard. You watch him run around even during BP, running down fly balls and getting reads and jumps. That’s just the way Arizona State plays. They play hard and they’re high energy. It was awesome to see him get off to the start he did tonight.”

Rudy Flores (Florida International) joined Duffy, Senay, and Aplin in the two-hit club, stroking a double and a single in his last two at bats.

“I told Rudy what a nice job he did tonight,” Nicholson said.

In relief of Johnson, Kenny Long (Illinois State) and John Brebbia (Elon) combined to set down nine Mariners in a row.

Long pitched the sixth inning on 11 pitches, likely his best appearance of the season. He fielded a ground ball for an out, and then struck out the next two batters with his deceiving pitching.

Brebbia struck out the side in the seventh, and then got three quick outs in the eighth to continue to the dominance by the Orleans staff.

“Kenny Long and Brebbia threw the ball really well,” Nicholson said.

Johnson, Long, and Brebbia combined to set down 17 straight batters from the third inning to the eighth inning, and made it look easy in the process.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) came in to close out the ninth and allowed the first two batters to reach on a hit batter and a walk. But Gott settled down, striking out the next batter looking on a 3-2 count, and ending the game with a 6-4-3 double play.

It had been a tough few games for the Firebirds before Wednesday night, but everything finally all came together for the win.

“In the past five or six games we just hadn’t been able to put a game together, and tonight we did,” Nicholson said. “We played well. I was really pleased with the way we played tonight.”

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About firebirdsccbl
The official blog of the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Check here for the latest news on the Firebirds, and be sure to follow us on Facebook (Orleans Firebirds), Twitter (@FirebirdsCCBL) and YouTube (OrleansFirebirds).

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