Fog puts an early end to 7-1 route of Firebirds

Photo by Raj Das | *ED Photography*|Art or Photo Credit: Raj Das

(Above photo by Raj Das, Ed Photography)

The Firebirds entered Wednesday night's game against the Falmouth Commodores with what seemed to be a perfect opportunity to begin turning their season around. Heading into each team's 10th game of the season, Falmouth was ranked in the bottom three in offense, and dead last in pitching. It looked as though if there were a game for the Orleans bats to finally catch fire, this would be the one.

The first inning got off to a promising start for the Birds, as Roch Cholowsky (UCLA) fought for an early walk, and would promptly advance to scoring position after stealing second.

In Tuesday night's loss to Wareham, the Birds were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, something they hoped to see change against a struggling Commodore defense.

With Cholowsky slowly easing off the second base bag, Commodores pitcher Tanner Smith (Harvard) noticed he had gone past the point of return. Smith quickly made the throw to second, picking off Cholowsky, and handing the Birds out No. 2. It was an early gut punch for a Firebirds team that needed all the run support it could get, desperately trying to get things going on offense.

With the Birds continuing to work out the kinks offensively, Evan Truitt (Charleston Southern) came onto the mound for his third start of the summer, hoping to keep the game within striking distance for his team.

Unfortunately for the Birds, Jaxon Willits (Oklahoma), the Commodores' leadoff man, set the tone with a line-drive single into right-center field and quickly advanced to second off a force out at first. Willits didn't have to wait in scoring position long, as a Luke Gaffney (Purdue) single into right field brought him home.

The Commodores wasted no time building on the early 1-0 lead. In the very next at-bat, Trent Caraway (Oregon St.) sent a two-run homer over the left-center field wall, expanding the Falmouth lead to 3-0.

After the homer, Truitt quickly regained his composure and got the Birds out of a nightmare first inning.

Despite Austin Smith (San Diego) driving in a one-out single to center field in his first Cape League at-bat, a double play marked another scoreless inning for the Birds.

After Truitt went 1-2-3 in the second, the Birds began to put runners on base. After Lorenzo Meola (Stetson), Colin Tuft (Tulane) and Eddie Yamin (Dayton) all fought for walks, the bases were loaded with no outs.

Commodores pitcher Tanner Smith continued to battle despite finding himself in a no-out, bases-loaded jam. He struck out Mike Mancini (James Madison) and threw out Meola, as he was forced toward home after a Cholowsky dribbler.

With the bases still loaded and Hudson Shupe (Gonzaga), one of the Birds' most consistent hitters, up to bat, there was still a great opportunity to bring in some much-needed runs.

Shupe drilled what looked to be a line drive on its way into left field and over the head of Falmouth third basemen Trent Caraway. However, a heads up, leaping catch from Caraway saved the Commodore outfield from going into scramble mode, and sent the Birds back to the dugout scoreless, despite loading the bases.

Falmouth would tally another run in the bottom of the third, courtesy of a Jayson Jones (Arkansas) RBI single, which grew its lead to 4-0 as fog began to roll in over Guv Fuller Field.

With the Firebirds continuing to struggle to capitalize with base runners in scoring position, manager Kelly Nicholson went to his bullpen in hopes the game wouldn't get further away from his offense.

Despite the fresh arm of first-time Firebird, Lucas Litteral, coming out of the bullpen, Falmouth put two more runners in scoring position, which they quickly took advantage of.

A ground ball from Gavin Kilen (Louisville) took a strange hop over first baseman Eddie Yamin and rolled into the outfield, allowing both runners in scoring position to go home and push the Dores' lead to 6-0.

The less-than-ideal conditions became evident at the next at-bat after Gaffney popped a fly ball into right field. Shupe struggled to locate the ball until it was too late to adjust, allowing Gaffney's fly to drop fair and bring in another Commodore to score.

Falmouth took their 7-0 lead into the sixth, with the fog continuing to intensify. After Tuft fought for another walk, the conditions caused Commodore outfielder Tab Tracy (Texas A&M) to misplay a Mancini pop fly, allowing Tuft to run in the first, and only score of the game for the Birds.

After each outfield continued to struggle with the conditions, the umpires gathered, and decided to call a 30-minute delay on the remainder of the game. The delay didn't last long, however, and with the outfield not getting any clearer, the game was called in the bottom of the sixth, with a final score of 7-1.

As the game was called, Nicholson had already put this one behind him and focused his sights on the Birds' next opponent.

"We got to put this one behind us," Nicholson said. "We got a home game against Y-D tomorrow, so we don't have a choice."

Thursday night will be the Birds' first look at the East Division-leading Y-D Red Sox, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.