Orleans Gets The Best Of Pitcher’s Duel

By Greg Joyce

For seven and a half innings of Wednesday night’s game, Orleans and Yarmouth-Dennis were stuck in a pitcher’s duel. Both teams had chances to score, but neither could produce any runs. The tension was building with every out at Eldredge Park, and it was shaping up to either be a huge win or a crushing defeat. In the bottom of the eighth, the Firebirds made sure they got the huge win, scoring twice to secure a 2-0 victory over the Red Sox.

With one out and runners at the corners in the bottom of the eighth, Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) stepped up to the plate, knowing he’d likely be getting the sign for a bunt.

“When I was walking to the plate, I kind of half expected it from [third base coach Benny Craig], especially in the situation, wanting to stay out of the double play,” Duffy said.

What came next was a perfectly executed safety squeeze from Duffy that scored Matt Lowenstein (Loyola Marymount), as the Firebirds took the 1-0 lead.

“When I bunted it, I honestly thought that [the pitcher] was gonna come up with it and get the guy out at home,” Duffy said. “But it kind of stopped up, it didn’t have a lot of steam when it came off the bat. I kind of peeked as I was running down the line, I saw he didn’t flip it too well, so I was happy about that.”

“That’s a real hard play to defend, first and third with one out,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of Duffy’s bunt. “Benny put the safety squeeze on, and if you execute that, it’s almost indefensible. It’s really, really difficult to defend. Our guys did a good job executing it.”

Though that run would prove to be enough to win the game, Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) added an insurance run the next player, lining a single to center field to bring home Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt).

In the ninth inning, Trevor Gott (Kentucky) took the mound for the Firebirds, and recorded a 1-2-3 inning to rack up his eighth save of the season.

“Gott was Gott tonight,” Nicholson said. “That was great. His coach was here, Gary Henderson was here from Kentucky tonight, so it was neat that Gary got to see him pitch and do well.”

Of course, the win would not have been possible if not for the impressive starting performance from Tyler Johnson (Stony Brook). The righty went six strong innings, allowing five hits and one walk, but did not let up a single run to the offense-heavy Red Sox.

“Outstanding,” Nicholson said of Johnson’s start. “He threw the ball very well, and [Y-D] is a very, very offensive team.”

Johnson was matched up against Y-D’s Mark Appel (Stanford), who held the Firebirds to just three hits in his six innings of work, meaning it was all about the pitching in the first six innings of the game.

After Johnson, Kurt Heyer (Arizona) added on two scoreless innings and recorded the win in the process. It was Heyer’s first time throwing out of the bullpen, and due to the amount of innings he’s thrown over the past few months, he will stay there for the rest of the season.

“He is gonna be in the pen,” Nicholson said. “He’s gonna come in and throw a couple innings and I think it’s gonna be really good for Kurt. It’s gonna be good for him, it’s gonna be good for our ballclub.”

Heyer allowed one hit over the two innings, and struck out two. Most importantly, he preserved the 0-0 tie, and Nicholson liked what he saw from Heyer in his first relief stint.

“His velocity was good tonight, I think it was 91-93 or 94,” Nicholson said.

The win was an especially important one for the Firebirds, as they had temporarily fallen into fourth place in the East Division before the game. Now with the win, they are back tied for third, and with every other Eastern team losing, Orleans was able to make up some ground in the standings.

With the pitcher’s duel on the night, it turned into a do or die game for the Firebirds, as the 2,942 in attendance could sense how much the team needed the win. In the end, Orleans came through in the clutch thanks to Duffy’s safety squeeze, combined with an amazing pitching performance from Johnson, Heyer, and Gott.

It was exactly the huge win they were looking for.

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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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