Birds can't overcome 5th-inning barrage in Harwich

Art or Photo Credit: Sophia Soropoulos

(Above photo by Sophia Soropoulos)

One game removed from their highest-scoring performance of the season in Friday's win over the Whitecaps, the Firebirds looked to bring their newfound offensive momentum into Harwich as they made their first visit to Whitehouse Field since last year's playoffs.

After Khadim Diaw's fourth hit (a single) in as many games played, a balk advanced him to second, putting him in scoring position.

The balk proved costly for the Mariners, as the extra base allowed Roch Cholowsky to roll a ground ball through the second and third base gap. Cholowsky's ground ball sent Diaw home for the Birds' lone first-inning run of the summer.

Watching the first inning, you wouldn't have guessed there were 24 hours between Birds' at-bats. The offense, which typically takes a few trips to the plate to get in a rhythm, quickly loaded the bases following Cholowskys fourth RBI of the summer.

The continued growth of the offense, showcased in different ways over the past few games, originates from a virtue that Firebirds manager Kelly Nicholson has been preaching to his players since Day 1: patience.

"The offense is gonna go north," Nicholson said. "It's not going sideways and it's not gonna go south, we're just going to have to start putting barrels on baseballs."

Despite the Birds jumping out to the one-out, bases-loaded advantage, in hopes of sinking the Mariners before their offense could set sail, Griffin Kirn delivered two consecutive strikeouts for Harwich that stranded all three Orleans base runners.

"We had a chance to score some more runs there with the bases loaded and went strikeout, strikeout, you can't do that," Nicholson said. "We're going to have to put the ball in play and we're going to have a chance to win some games."

A Cam Maldonado RBI single tied the game and moved a Harwich base runner to third. Reliever Joe Allen prevented the Mariners from doing more damage in the fourth and worked the Birds out of the first-and-third jam in his Orleans debut.

Unfortunately, for the Birds, Allen's first outing didn't get any better from there, as the Mariners went on to explode for four runs in the fifth inning, completely swinging the momentum and suddenly taking a commanding 5-1 lead.

Harwich reliever Tommy Allman didn't give the Birds a single chance to rally, as he struck out all eight Orleans hitters who stepped in the box to face him, which propelled his Mariners to a win.

The loss marks the Firebirds' 10th of the summer, and despite outhitting Harwich by a slim 8-7 margin, they couldn't get any offense going after the first inning.

If pending rain holds, the Birds will see their second glimpse of the Bourne Braves this summer, this time at Eldredge. Should Mother Nature allow, it's sure to be a packed hill Sunday night, as the matchup serves as a rematch of last year's CCBL Championship.

First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.