Firebirds can’t keep pace with high-powered Braves, now face elimination

Art or Photo Credit: Margaret Nye

Bourne Braves. Orleans Firebirds.

The reigning Cape Cod League Champions took on a team that hasn’t lifted the Arnold Mycock Trophy since 2005.

The Championship was set, and the city of Orleans showed up — and showed up in droves.

“These fans are awesome,” right fielder Fenwick Trimble said. “We’re having fun up here, and it’s going to pay off tomorrow.”

While the season-high 5,083 fans delivered claps, chants and reactions at Eldredge Park, the Firebirds had all their focus on the diamond in front of them

“It seemed pretty good. To be honest with you, I don’t pay attention to the crowd. You get locked in on the game,” manager Kelly Nicholson said. “They were watching the best. Tonight, there wasn’t a batter amateur game in the United States of America.”

Coming into the game, it was an immovable object taking on an unstoppable force. The Bourne Braves are a potent offense, averaging 10 runs per game in the playoffs with star power lining up and down the batting order. The Orleans Firebirds, on the other hand, are the definition of dominant pitching — averaging under three runs allowed per game in their respective run.

These two teams kept it competitive in each of the four meetings this season. Orleans ultimately won the regular season series 3-1, but each game finished within two runs.

“We knew they weren’t going to be an easy team to beat,” Trimble said. “You just play hard. That’s really what we’ve been focusing on.”

The Firebirds kept battling back against the explosive Bourne offense, but the Braves were ultimately too much to handle as Orleans fell 6-4 in game one of the Championship.

“We fought,” left-handed reliever Everett Catlett said with a long pause. “They’re a good team. We realized that pretty quick. But, it’s not over.”

The two starting pitchers had a rivalry of their own coming into the contest. The Firebirds started heat-throwing right-hander Greysen Carter, while the Braves started their ace, Bryce Cunningham. The connection: Vanderbilt University.

Orleans, who couldn’t scratch a run on Cunningham last time they faced him, got to the right-hander early. Fenwick Trimble took the second pitch of his at-bat way deep over the left-field wall for an early 1-0 lead. The last time Trimble hit a home run was the go-ahead grand slam in game one of the semifinals, where the Firebirds won 8-4 over Y-D.

“I just kind of relax, seeing the ball better, let it travel a little deeper,” Trimble said. “I got a good swing on a good pitch, and it was a good result.”

Carter, meanwhile, pumped in his triple-digit fastball for three perfect frames, shutting the Braves down completely the first time through the order. Bourne’s Jonathan Vastine broke up the no-no with a lead-off double down the right-field line. It was followed up by Joshua Kuroda-Grauer’s RBI double launched over the head of Eddie King Jr. in center field.

A sac-fly moved Kuroda-Grauer over to third, before he scored on a groundout to second base, giving the Braves a 2-1 advantage.

The Firebirds quickly responded in the bottom of the fourth. Trimble earned the Firebirds' first hit since the last time he was up to bat with a lead-off infield single to third base. Jack Penney ripped a double over the right fielder’s head and off the wall. Trimble scored as the throw home was errant, moving Penney to third.

Then, with the infield in, Matt Halbach chopped a single through the middle to re-take the lead 3-2.

“It was kind of a boxing match,” Nicholson said. “We score first, and then they come back. And then we take a lead, and they score … it’s a good lineup. They’re swinging the bats well.”

After striking out his third batter of the contest, Carter ran into trouble. Sam Peterson worked a four-pitch walk. Then, Bourne enacted the hit-and-run, with Nuu Contrades poking it through the four-hole to move Peterson to third. Pete Ciuffreda grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Peterson to tie the game.

Then, Kuroda-Grauer launched a ball to center field against the shift to score both runners on a massive double, giving Bourne the 5-3 lead.

“Next thing you know, they had three runs, and it happened pretty fast,” Nicholson said. “We had the right guy on the mound in Greysen Carter, that’s for sure. That’s why we stayed with him.”

Carter was then replaced by left-handed reliever Everett Catlett, escaping the inning without further damage.

“Henry did a great job of calming me down today,” Catlett said. “He was … telling me to breathe and stuff. Let me calm down, which was great. All credit to him for that one.”

Catlett, leaning heavily on his changeup, pitched back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to keep the Braves from advancing their lead, but Bourne got to him in the eighth. A lead-off walk to Kuroda-Grauer, whose name is sprinkled across the night’s stat sheet, proved costly as Bryce Eblin brought him home on an RBI single to right field. The insurance run gave Bourne a three-run cushion with six outs to go.

“They smacked balls,” Catlett said. “Later in that outing, I got my second time through. They were sitting changeup or sitting fastball, so I was trying to throw what they weren’t thinking about.”

In the eighth, Trimble led off the frame with his third hit of the contest dribbled down the left-field line. Halbach kept it going with a one-out single lofted to left field to put the winning run at home. King ripped the ball 102 miles per hour up the middle to score Trimble and cut the deficit to two.

“I like the way our guys battled,” Nicholson said. “There’s a lot of fight in these guys. It’s hard to go undefeated in the playoffs. It’s best of three.”

Orleans didn’t have the comeback in them today, going down in order in the bottom of the ninth. They now face elimination tomorrow.

“We’re going to have to really pitch tomorrow, and our guys have been talking about how they’d like to win it at home. We have a chance to win it at home now,” Nicholson said. “We need to go down to Bourne and take care of business. It’s going to be tough, but they’re good and we’re good. And we got the right guy on the mound.”

Game two of the CCBL Championship series is set for tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. at Doran Park in Bourne. The Firebirds are set to start right-hander Ivran Romero.

“Birds are still hot,” Catlett said. “That just fires up even more. I don’t think anybody’s doubting us now, so even still after that, we know we can win. We will.”