Aplin Saves The Day, Firebirds Sweep Doubleheader

By Greg Joyce

It was a catch that most will never forget that they saw on Friday night at Whitehouse Field. Not only did Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) make a highlight reel catch, but he also prevented a walk-off home run, and provided the offense in the Orleans Firebirds’ 4-3 win, the second victory in their sweep of the Harwich Mariners.

With a man on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh (the last inning of regulation in a doubleheader game), the Harwich batter sent a deep fly ball to right field. Aplin ran back to the fence, kept his eye on the ball, leaped at the fence and caught the ball, before flipping over the fence in full sprawl. Aplin got back on his feet to show the umpire he had caught the ball, as his teammates ran out to right field to celebrate the game-winning catch.

“When I went up, I just kept tracking it and I wasn’t gonna stop until I got it,” Aplin said. “I just saw the fence out of the corner of my eye and figured I would give it a shot.”

Aplin sacrificed his body at full speed, but saved the game and drew the praises of his teammates and coaches alike after the game.

“That’s one of the best catches I’ve seen in my 11 summers up here,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said.

The runner who was on third had reached base only after Jake Stewart (Stanford) sacrificed his body as well, running full-speed into the fence in center field before the ball was knocked out of his glove from the blow from the fence.

“I think it says a lot about our team, and I told them after the game, that Jake Stewart sacrifices his body in the second game of a doubleheader when it’s really, really hot and really, really humid, and then Aplin does exactly the same thing,” Nicholson said. “Those two guys are gamers.”

Aplin came up big earlier in the game as well, this time from the batter’s box. With his team down 2-1 in the fifth inning, Aplin connected on a pitch and shot it over the right field fence for a three-run bomb.

“I was swinging it pretty good all day, and he just threw a fastball and hung it across the plate a little bit and I put good wood on it,” Aplin said.

“Big, big home run,” Nicholson said. “Ap’s a gamer. It’s a shame he didn’t make the All-Star team. He deserves it. We could only take four outfielders. He’s as deserving as anyone on that team.”

Pat Butler (UConn) started the game for Orleans, and did exactly what he was asked to do by the coaching staff.

“Who I was really proud of in game 2 was Pat Butler,” Nicholson said. “He did exactly what he hoped that he would do. He gave us two and two-thirds, he gave up a run and kept us in the game.”

After Butler, Kyle Ottoson (Arizona State) made his first appearance of the summer and earned the win after throwing two innings and allowing two runs. He was relieved by Kenny Long (Illinois State), who finished the fifth inning.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) worked the last two innings for the Firebirds, getting a key strikeout in the seventh before Aplin’s amazing catch.

“Gott was Gott; he did a nice job,” Nicholson said.

The Firebirds scored their first run of the game in the fifth inning, when Jayce Boyd (Florida State), Stewart, and Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook) recorded consecutive singles. Boyd came in to score on a throwing error after a flyout.

Game One

In the first game of the twin bill, Orleans used Jason Wheeler’s (Loyola Marymount) best start of the summer and some timely hitting to record the 3-1 win.

Wheeler threw 5.2 innings of one-run baseball, allowing four hits, one walk, striking out two, and recording the win.

“I think it probably was his best start of the year,” Nicholson said. “He survived the heat, the humidity, and he did an outstanding job tonight.”

The Firebirds got on the board first in the second inning. Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) led off with a single up the middle, followed by a walk from Steve Selsky (Arizona). After the next two batters were retired in order, Reed Gragnani (Virginia) came through with a double to the left field fence, scoring both runners.

In the next inning, Aplin led off with a stand-up triple to right field, his second extra base hit of the game. He was able to score on a wild pitch, giving the Firebirds the 3-0 lead.

Kurt Heyer (Arizona) relieved Wheeler and went the last one and a third innings to preserve the 3-1 win in his first save of the year.

A sweep of any doubleheader in the Cape League is difficult enough, but given the extreme heat and humidity, and the close standings atop the East Division, this one was extremely rewarding. The wins put Orleans back at the .500 mark, and got them within three points of first place.

“Huge,” Nicholson said of the sweep. “Hey, every game on the Cape is tough, every team is really good. But doubleheaders are hard to win, especially on the road. To come up and beat Harwich on the road…they’re a very good ballclub. You have to give our guys a lot of credit, they did an outstanding job today.”

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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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