By: Andrew Constant / @andrew_constant
The fireworks started ahead of schedule, as the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (7-6) and Orleans Firebirds (10-3) played an old-fashioned shootout at Red Wilson Field Friday evening. The teams traded punches all night long, with nine lead changes highlighting a 11-10 Red Sox victory before the actual fireworks lit up the Yarmouth sky. Zak Blair drove Alex Blandino home with a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, capping a four-run rally for Y-D.
In the bottom of the ninth, trailing by a run, the Red Sox had the heart of their lineup due up against ace reliever Trevor Gott. Gott was called on out of the Firebirds? bullpen to get a four-out save, but was unable to do it after getting the final out of the eighth inning. Gott, a sophomore from Kentucky, came into Friday?s action with four saves and nine strikeouts in seven scoreless innings pitched this summer, but couldn?t get through the middle of Y-D?s order in the ninth.
Robert Pehl led off with a walk and was pinch-run for by Tyler Sciacca. Blandino singled to center, advancing Sciacca to second before Sam Travis doubled to the gap in left-center, scoring Sciacca. The Firebirds walked Mason Katz intentionally to get to Blair, who had homered in the eighth inning. On a 1-2 pitch, Katz lined a fly ball to left field, where Cody Kulp squeezed it for the first out of the frame. But Blandino tested Kulp?s arm and beat the throw to the plate, setting off a wild celebration behind the dish as the Red Sox won their second straight contest.
The game appeared to be out of reach for Y-D after the seventh inning, when the Firebirds went ahead 10-7. Brian Gilbert, who had come on in relief of starter Rick Knapp, gave up an infield hit to Jay Gonzalez, who went to second on a bad throw by Blandino. Y-D manager Scott Pickler went to his bullpen for a second time, calling on Preston Hatcher to get his squad out of the potential jam. But Hatcher was ineffective, walking the first batter he faced an allowing a bunt single to the second man he faced. The bases were then loaded for Conrad Gregor, who launched a go-ahead grand slam over the center field wall, giving Orleans the 10-7 advantage.
Chris O?Hare came out of the Y-D bullpen to put out the fire, but struggled in his own right. He struck out the first batter he faced, but he would reach as strike three got away from catcher Wayne Taylor. The next hitter, Max Rossiter singled, giving the Firebirds runners at first and second with nobody out. O?Hare settled down, striking out the next two hitters before giving way to Jonny Hoffman, who got the final out of the inning easily.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox started chipping away at the lead, getting one back when Travis singled home Pehl with one out. After a scoreless top of the eighth, Blair homered leading off the bottom half of the frame, cutting Orleans? lead to just one.
Hoffman got a little help from his defense in the top of the ninth inning, as Katz threw out Daniel Aldrich trying to stretch his one-out single into a double. Hoffman tossed 2.1 scoreless innings, keeping the lead at bay and allowing his offense a chance to come back and steal a victory from the Cape League?s top team.
Knapp got the start for Y-D and lasted five innings for the Red Sox. He gave up a run in the top of the first, allowing an infield single to come back and haunt him, before settling down and retiring the Firebirds in order in the second and third innings. But in the fourth, Knapp ran into trouble, giving up the lead via the long ball.
JT Riddle led off the frame with a double and advanced to third when Gregor grounded out to third. After a strikeout and a hit by pitch, Kulp launched a three-run home run to right-center, giving Orleans a 4-3 lead.
In one of many twists and turns in the game, the Red Sox came right back, answering the Firebirds rally with one of their own in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Pehl started it off with a walk and scored on Blandino?s double to left. After a pitching change and two walks, Orleans had to go back to their bullpen and get Philip Pfeifer, who gave up a single to Blair, which drove home Blandino and Travis, but Katz was called out at the plate, trying to clear the bases at once.
Blair finished with four RBI in the game, while Blandino had an RBI double and two runs scored for the Red Sox. Pehl upped his team-leading average to over .440 with two hits and two walks.
The Red Sox are back in action looking to extend their winning-streak to a season-high three games, Saturday when they travel to Falmouth to battle the Commodores.