Firebirds Fueled By Championship Loss As New Cape League Season Begins

by Brad Joyal

BOURNE – In the words of late Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

Three hundred and seven days after the 2023 Orleans Firebirds fell to the Bourne Braves in the Cape League’s best-of-three championship series, the Birds returned to Doran Park in Bourne on Sunday for opening day of the premier summer league’s 101st season.

Although Orleans registered 10 hits, the early success at the plate wasn’t enough as Bourne made the most of a six-run fourth inning en route to a 9-4 season-opening victory over the Firebirds.

“One inning got away from us,” said longtime Orleans manager Kelly Nicholson. “I think there was one out and nobody on and two strikes and we ended up hitting a guy and all heck broke loose. It just happens. Normally in game one, if you get four runs and 10 hits early in the Cape League season, you’re normally going to end up on top. But you can’t give up nine and expect to win.”

The loss brought back the stinging memories from last year’s league championship, which saw Bourne spoil Orleans’ first finals appearance since 2013 and defend its title after sealing a 2-1 series victory with a 5-2 win at Eldredge Park on Aug. 13.

It was an intense and contentious series that was packed with drama after bus issues following Game 2 in Bourne and a controversial home run celebration by the Braves in Game 3.

Nicholson didn’t forget.

“I only thought about that last game every day as I think as any manager would,” he said. “I think we learned a lot as coaches from that series and last season. The things that we learned we can apply to this season. I’ve been up here for quite a while, and it doesn’t matter how well you know the game, there’s always stuff that we don’t know.”

Bourne built a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Saturday’s opener before rallying for six more runs in the fourth against Orleans reliever Chase Hoover (TCU). The lefty reliever surrendered five earned runs on four hits, walked one, hit two batters and had a balk before being replaced by Cody Bowker (Georgetown) with two outs in the frame.

Still, Nicholson was encouraged by what he saw from his players, specifically returning Firebird Evan Truitt, a right-handed hurler from Charleston Southern. Truitt earned the start on the mound and allowed one run (earned) on two hits in three innings of work.

“He was solid,” Nicholson said of Truitt. “He threw the ball really well. I don’t know what his [velocity] was tonight, but it’s the same Evan Truitt that we saw last summer and that’s why we gave him the ball in the opener.”

After suffering a 2-1 loss to Cotuit in Sunday’s home opener, the Firebirds rallied for a 1-0 victory over Falmouth on Monday night at Eldredge Park.

Despite the mixed early results, the players said they are happy to be representing the defending East Division champions in Orleans.

“It’s fun. It’s cool,” said J-P Smith, an outfielder from Sacramento State. “We’re playing some big-time guys, so I’m taking it all in the best I can. I’m playing like a kid all over again.”

Fast Start For Harwich, Brewster Falls To 1-2

Harwich’s bats came alive in a 13-2 season-opening victory at Cotuit on Saturday before the team dropped its home opener to Hyannis, 5-1, on Sunday. Harwich rebounded for a 3-2 victory over Yarmouth-Dennis on Monday and currently sits in a three-way tie with Chatham and Y-D atop the East Division standings after all three teams opened the season with 2-1 records.

Following a 2-1 loss to Y-D on Saturday, Brewster rallied for a 4-3 win over Bourne in its home opener before falling to Hyannis, 10-4, on the road Monday evening.