Awards Handed Out On Wednesday Night

By Greg Joyce

Prior to Wednesday night’s regular season home finale against Chatham, the Orleans Firebirds organization handed out their annual awards, citing eight players who went above and beyond expectations throughout the season.

The Charles F. Moore, Sr. Award for the team’s most valuable player went to Matt Duffy (Long Beach State), who was outstanding for the Firebirds all season long. Coming in as a temp, Duffy filled in at shortstop, second base, and third base, displaying his versatility in the field. He also slid into the three-spot in the lineup by the midpoint of the season, and finished the season as the team’s leading hitter, batting .346.

Duffy’s roommate and journey-mate, Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) shared the Charles F. Moore, Jr. Award with John Brebbia (Elon). The award cited Waldrip and Brebbia for their outstanding performance on and off the field. The young men have performed incredibly on the field for their team, and are two of the nicest players you will meet off the field as well.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was awarded with the Thomas Yankus Pitching Award for his performance on the mound. Gott finished the season 12-for-12 in save opportunities, with a 1.29 ERA. The All-Star’s cool demeanor and impressive poise on the hill earned him the relief pitcher of the year for the CCBL.

The next award was the Castleberry Coaches’ award, and it went to Reed Gragnani (Virginia) and Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine). These two players did everything their coaches asked of them, and came to the field each and every day with great attitudes that their coaches were lucky to have.

Finally, the Harry Hossfeld Spirit Award was given to Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) and Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt). These two players gave the Firebirds a much-needed spark when they arrived at the beginning of July, and their presence and energy could be felt in every game. Whether they were hitting, making spectacular defensive plays, or just getting guys excited in the dugout, Aplin and Gomez gave Orleans the jumpstart it needed to lock up the number one seed in the East.


Home Runs Lift Firebirds To Sixth Straight

By Greg Joyce

On the back of yet another strong pitching performance and two big swings, the Orleans Firebirds recorded their sixth straight win on Monday night at Eldredge Park. John Brebbia (Elon) threw six innings of one-run ball, while Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) and Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) added solo home runs to propel their team to the 3-1 victory over Falmouth.

For the second time in as many games at Eldredge Park, Gomez gave his team a spark in the first inning when he belted an opposite field shot to take the 1-0 lead.

“It was big,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of the home run. “I think it got us going a little that. And I think it kind of deflated Falmouth a little bit. It was cool to see Go-Go do that, go [opposite field]. It was a good spark for us.”

The Firebirds padded their lead in the second inning when they were able to manufacture their second run. Jake Stewart (Stanford) led off with a single to left field, then stole second base easily. Up next was Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine), who came through with a single of his own to put men on the corners with no outs.

Then Reed Gragnani (Virginia) continued to be productive and knocked in Stewart on a fielder’s choice, making it 2-0 Orleans.

With the 2-0 lead to work with, Brebbia never looked back. The righty made it look easy through the first four innings, allowing just two hits but no runs. His one blemish on the night came in the fifth inning when he allowed a solo home run, but he was able to get past it and ended up striking out the side.

Brebbia finished with six innings pitched, as he let up four hits, one run, two walks, and struck out six. It was another solid start from the dependable Brebbia.

“I thought Breb threw the ball really well,” Nicholson said. “He located that fastball again and threw some good sliders tonight. He kept the ball down. It was good to get him through six.

Tyler Geblr (Rutgers) and Kenny Long (Illinois State) combined to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, and they both turned in impressive performances, preserving the lead. Long used a big double play to get out of a jam in the eighth and leave the then-tying run 90 feet away at third base.

“Gebler was good tonight, and Kenny Long got a big double play ball,” Nicholson said.

In the bottom of the eighth, Duffy gave his team some breathing room when he took hold of a pitch and lifted it over the left field fence for his first home run of the summer. The home run was also just another milestone in Duffy’s amazing summer, as he continues to show why he deserved his All-Star bid.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was once again called on in the ninth, and for the 11th time this season, he shut the door with no problem, closing out the 3-1 win.

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

With two hits on the night, Gomez now has seven hits over his last three games, and has upped his average to .300.

Now winners of six straight, Nicholson likes how his team is coming together down the stretch. The Firebirds now stand in a tie for first place in the East Division with Harwich, with six games remaining in the regular season.

“It’s nice to see these guys on a run,” he said. “When we were kind of struggling, you just had to kind of weather that and stay around .500, and then at the end you hope you get on a run like this and they have. They’ve put themselves in a pretty good position.”