Anglers Hand Firebirds A Close Loss

By Greg Joyce

Thursday night’s matchup between Orleans and Chatham showcased some quality baseball, meaning it would come down to the little things to determine the outcome of the game. Unfortunately for the Firebirds, a few little mistakes proved costly on the night, as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Anglers at Eldredge Park.

Down by one and threatening in the bottom of the sixth with runners at the corner with one out, the Firebirds turned to some small ball to try to tie up the game. Matt Koch (Loyola Marymount) laid down a bunt on a safety squeeze, but Chatham’s pitcher Buck Farmer (Georgia Tech) came charging in on the ball, scooped it with his glove to the catcher, and got it there just in time to tag out Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State), who was trying to score.

“We didn’t execute that safety squeeze offensively, and that was the difference in the ballgame right there,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said.

The other mistake that changed the game came in the third inning. Chatham used a four-run frame for all their offense on the night, and that was just enough to hang on to the win in the end. Jason Wheeler (Loyola Marymount) got himself into trouble with two on and one out, when he hit Stephen Perez (Miami) on a 0-2 count to load the bases.

That brought up Dane Phillips (Oklahoma State), who made Wheeler pay, smacking a bases-clearing triple into the gap in right-center field. He came home for the fourth run on the next play, scoring on a sacrifice fly.

“We made a costly pitching mistake by hitting Stephen Perez on an 0-2 count,” Nicholson said.

Down 4-0 after that half inning, the Firebirds began chipping away at the lead in the bottom of the third. Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) led off with a single to center field, and ended up on third base two groundouts later. With two outs, Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) came through with a single to left field, scoring Duffy to make it 4-1.

The Firebirds continued to battle in the next inning, when they added another run. Jayce Boyd (Florida State) found a hole on the left side for a single to start the inning. He advanced to third base on a single by Waldrip, bringing up Steve Selsky (Arizona). The right fielder hit a fly ball to center field, deep enough to bring home Boyd and cut the lead in half.

In that sixth inning before the safety squeeze, Orleans got within one run thanks to Boyd and Selsky again. Boyd singled with one out for his second hit of the night, and Waldrip followed by reaching on an error by the second baseman. After the runners each moved over a base on a wild pitch, Selsky came up and grounded an infield single to the hole at shortstop to score Boyd.

But that was as close as the Firebirds would get to the Anglers, as their comeback attempt faded after the missed execution on the safety squeeze.

“I liked the way we competed,” Nicholson said. “We just didn’t execute a pitch and we didn’t execute offensively. But outside of that, it was just a good ballgame.”

Wheeler was hit with the loss, but performed well outside of the four-run third inning.

“I really liked the way Jason Wheeler competed the fourth and fifth innings,” Nicholson said. “He got right back on the mound and threw up a couple zeroes and kept us in the ballgame.”

He finished with five innings pitched, allowing five hits, four runs, and two walks on 71 pitches.

The Orleans bullpen was impressive in relief of Wheeler, pitching four scoreless innings thanks to Kenny Long (Illinois State) and Matt Boyd (Oregon State).

Long pitched the sixth and seventh innings, and retired all six batters he faced in order. He struck out the first two hitters on six pitches, fooling them with his offspeed junk.

Boyd threw the eighth and ninth, and although he loaded the bases in the eighth, he did not allow any runs in his outing.

“The bullpen was outstanding,” Nicholson said. “Kenny Long was really good, and Matt Boyd threw the ball well.”

As is the case in any tight ballgame with both teams playing well, it came down to execution, and the Firebirds were off in that department, by a matter of feet in both cases.

“Hey, we just got beat tonight,” Nicholson said. “We didn’t do anything terribly wrong, just a couple little mistakes…that was the difference in the ballgame.”

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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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