By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- To measure how good a team is you must pin them against the very best. Regardless of the outcome, it allows room to improve, with ample time before a second chance.
Considering that, a shot at the (9-1-2) Bourne Braves seemed appropriate for the Orleans Firebirds on Tuesday night after going 3-1 over the past week. With the Braves being the top team in the CCBL, led by their pitching staff that came in sporting a 1.95 team ERA, the Birds offense met their match.
Netz and the Orleans bullpen made sure to hold the Bravo bats at bay for the most part but the Birds once again failed to take advantage at the plate, stranding six runners on only six hits. They still managed to grab a point, tying 2-2.
Dawson Netz (Arizona) in particular was outstanding, shutting down the best offense on the Cape through three innings. He only gave up one hit, a double, striking out five batters with no walks.
“It was nice to come out and be able to play for these guys,” Netz said. “It’s a blast playing for such a talented group.”
Once Netz was replaced by Michael Polk (Georgia), The Braves started to heat up, scoring two on a rocket of an RBI triple from Zachary Agnos (East Carolina), who also doubled off of Netz earlier.
The following combo of Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State), Zack Morris (Arkansas) and Nick Hull (Grand Canyon) made sure to keep it scoreless the rest of the way, combining for 5.1 innings and five strikeouts. Wallerstedt hasn’t given up a run over his last four appearances.
“I’ve found a routine that has been working for me and I’ve felt really good,” Wallerstedt said. “I knew what I needed to do to get each hitter out tonight. All my stuff was working so it was kind of easy.”
Offensively, the Birds mustered what they could, failing to record an extra-base hit in the contest but scoring on a fielder's choice that Julio Marcano (NJIT) grounded into. That, paired with a successfully converted first-and-third miscue by Bourne, where Peyton Chatagnier (Mississippi) came home on a throw down to second to try and get Rhylan Thomas (USC) at second.
After receiving Player of the Week honors, Chase DeLauter (James Madison) found the outfield grass three times going 3-for-4, all singles.
“Being able to just see the ball well here against the best arms means everything,” DeLauter said. “It’s really about just being on time with where the pitch is thrown.”
On the other side, Bourne made it hard for Orleans to get anything, striking out nine batters and inducing lots of soft contact. Eric Adler (Wake Forest) struck out the side in the ninth, an occurrence that pretty much summed up the night for Orleans, but not before a wacky series of events.
With Jared McKenzie (Baylor) at the plate, after robbing a home run that would’ve given Bourne the lead in the seventh, exited the box in the middle of his at-bat and peered down the right field line to find that the sprinklers came on. After figuring out that they wouldn’t turn them off in time, a few players took matters into their own hands, covering up the deluge of water with buckets for the remainder of the game.
A controversial strike-three call on the final pitch of the game put a bow on the wild night. The pitch appeared to break well-below the bottom of the strike zone.
“It was very weird, I was out in the bullpen and we had Polk and Garret on buckets covering the sprinklers,” Wallerstedt said. “It definitely was a good Cape Cod ending, but that call at the end was very bad.”
For Bourne, it’s a third tie as they stay undefeated on the road after losing at home on Monday night. The Birds will get another shot at the Braves on July 23, but before that they have an off day on Wednesday.
Their next opponent will be the Hyannis Harbor Hawks at 6:00 pm at McKeon Park.