With Roster Set, Firebirds Put On A Show

By Greg Joyce

Chatham and Orleans always put on an entertaining game, and Sunday night’s performance at Eldredge Park did not disappoint. The 2,092 in attendance of the first half of the home and home series saw a lead by both teams and a tie before the Firebirds pulled ahead for good on a home run by Jayce Boyd (Florida State), leading to an impressive 7-3 win.

Playing their first game of the season with a full roster of permanent players, the Firebirds put together a good all-around display of pitching, defense, and hitting, a combination that the Orleans coaching staff has been looking for all season.

“Hey, these are our 28 [guys],” field manager Kelly Nicholson said after the game.

Ryan Carpenter (Gonzaga) got the start for the Birds, and looked impressive over five innings. He allowed one run in the third inning and two more in the fifth, but his offense gave him good run support, getting him the win. Carpenter finished with eight strikeouts and no walks, showing good command of his fastball to get strikes early on in at bats and using offspeed pitches to fool them later on.

“I thought Ryan Carpenter threw the ball pretty well tonight,” Nicholson said.

After Carpenter allowed a solo home run in the top of the third, his teammates came back to erase Chatham’s lead in the bottom of the fourth. In his Orleans debut, Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) led off the inning with a double to center field. The hit could have easily been a single, but Gomez kept his head up and saw that the ball got by the diving centerfielder, taking second on the hustle play. Gomez would go on to take third base on a ball that skipped away from the catcher, putting him 90 feet away from home plate. Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook) then hit a hard ground ball to the first baseman, who lunged to get the ball and ran over to first to get the out. But once again, Gomez made a heads up play and determined that he could score on the play, and did so to tie the game at one.

“That kind of sparked us when he scored that run from third base on just a heads up, gamey play,” Nicholson said.

The next batter was Reed Gragnani (Virginia), who walked to bring up Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine). The catcher blasted a home run over the scoreboard in left field to tie the game at three. Shaeffer got a hold of a fastball that was left up, and pulled it for his first home run of the season.

After the Anglers tied the game at three in the fifth inning, the Firebirds answered quickly in the bottom half of the inning on the back of Boyd. With one out, he lifted a pitch to the opposite field for his first round-tripper of the year, as the ball landed in the Orleans bullpen.  That notched the score at 4-3, and the Firebirds never looked back after that.

“It was nice to get some big home runs tonight,” the skipper said.

 Tyler Gebler (Rutgers) relieved Carpenter to start the sixth, and was in shut down mode during his first two innings of work. He retired six straight batters, and struck out two in the process, holding the Firebird lead.

“I thought Gebler threw the ball extremely well,” Nicholson said.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Firebirds used their speed to their advantage again to score another run. Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) singled to right with one out in the inning. Then, with Boyd at the plate, Nicholson put on a hit and run that was executed perfectly. With Aplin stealing second on the pitch, Boyd slapped a single through the right side where the second baseman would have been, and Aplin took third with the head start. He came in to score on a passed ball, adding an insurance run to make it 5-3 Orleans.

The Anglers finally reached base on Gebler in the eighth inning, getting runners on the corners with two outs. In came Trevor Gott (Kentucky), who struck out the batter on four pitches with all fastballs.

With the 5-3 lead in hand, the Firebirds gave themselves some more breathing room in their last plate appearance. After Tissenbaum walked and Gragnani singled to right, Shaeffer came up and started another run-scoring play. He hit a slow dribbler down the third base line that went for an infield single. But on the play, the third baseman errantly threw the ball past the first baseman and into foul territory, allowing Tissenbaum and Gragnani to score.

Gott struck out two more batters in the ninth, en route to his fifth save of the season.

“Trevor Gott was Trevor Gott—he was really good,” Nicholson said.

After the game, the game-changing player that stuck out in Nicholson’s mind was Gomez.

“I thought Anthony Gomez was really, really good at short, and he brought some good energy to our club,” he said.

Though the teams had the same amount of hits at the end of the game, it came down to the little things for the win: better pitching(14 strikeouts, one walk), better defense (no errors), and more damage with two-outs for the Firebirds.

“Two-out RBIs are huge,” Nicholson said. “They’re very deflating to the defense and they’re really a big boost to the offense. Offense—it’s not about getting hits, it’s about scoring runs, that’s what wins. It’s not about who has the most hits at the end of the game. It’s scoring runs, and in the long run it’s going to boil down to pitching and defense. And normally when you do not make an error and you’re not walking anybody and you’re striking guys out, you’re gonna get a good result. And we got one 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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