Last Comeback Attempt Falls Just Short

By Greg Joyce

A ninth-inning rally came up just short on Friday night in Wareham, and Orleans fell to the Gatemen, 6-5. The Firebirds fell behind three times in the game and came back twice, but were unable to pull off the final comeback to drop to two games under .500.

Down 6-3 in the ninth, Orleans loaded the bases with one out as Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook) walked, and Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine) and Reed Gragnani (Virginia) both singled to left field.

After a Wareham pitching change, pinch-hitter Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) lined a single to center field, scoring Tissenbaum and Shaeffer to make it a one-run game.

“Waldrip came up with a big hit,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said.

But that was as close as the Firebirds would get, as the next batter grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game.

“We had the bases loaded and Wally came up with that big hit, and then we just came up a little bit short,” Nicholson said. “But I loved the way our guys competed right down to the last at bat and last pitch.”

The Gatemen jumped out to an early 1-0 lead off Kurt Heyer (Arizona) in the bottom of the first inning, but the Firebirds were quick to respond.

In the top of the second, Tissenbaum walked, and moved to second on a groundout. Tarran Senay (NC State) then came through, with a RBI single to left field, tying the game.

An inning later, the Gatemen took the lead again. This time they made it 3-1 on four hits off Heyer.

The score would remain at 3-1 until the fifth inning, when Orleans tied it back up. After the first two batters were retired, Gragnani reached with an infield single down the third base line. He came in to score on the next play, as Jake Stewart (Stanford) drilled a triple to the fence in left-center field.

Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) was up next, and brought home Stewart when he slapped a double to left field that tied the game at three.

It didn’t take long for the Gatemen to regain the lead though, as they captured it for good in the bottom of the inning. Tyler Johnson (Stony Brook) was on the mound in relief of Heyer, but got into some trouble and allowed the 4-3 lead.

The Gatemen tacked on two more runs in the sixth that made it 6-3, the deficit that the Firebirds faced heading into the ninth.

Heyer was not as sharp as he was in his last start, and he finished with 3.2 innings pitched, allowing three runs in the no decision.

“I think Kurt might be a little bit tired,” Nicholson said. “He threw a lot of innings [at Arizona]. His ball was flat, the ball was up a little bit, the slider was flat. His velocity was okay, it was 87-89. But he just left the ball up and didn’t have very good fastball command.”

Nicholson was pleased with his team’s ability to fight back throughout the game, even though the last push was not enough.

“I love the way our guys compete,” he said. “Most of the times in the Cape when you’re down three going into the ninth inning and they bring in a closer. it’s kind of game over. But our guys did a good job of really battling. So yeah, except for the result, I was pretty pleased with the way we competed.

Though it was the second straight loss for the Firebirds, and the fifth in their last six games, Nicholson still sees a bright future for his team.

“We need to clean up some things,” he said. “We’re just not playing very well right now. When we pitch, we don’t hit. When we hit, we don’t pitch. And when we pitch and hit, we don’t play defense.

“But it’s all gonna come together. I’m very confident that it’s all gonna come together and that we’re gonna be playing well at the end.”

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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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