By Jack Loder
It had been a long time since Luke Keaschall had gone deep. Too long. When he dug into the box in the bottom of the seventh with Orleans trailing 4-3 and two runners on, he hadn’t left the yard in nearly a month. None of that mattered though, when he laced a 2-1 fastball over the left field wall to give his team a 6-4 lead that would stick. On the back of its Iron Man, Orleans downed Wareham in the regular season finale and clinched a playoff spot in the process.
“When you come to the Cape Leage this is what it’s all about, trying to qualify for the postseason and put yourself in position to win it,” Kelly Nicholson said. “Obviously we would have liked to finish first or second to get home field, but we’ll take it.”
With Chatham’s win over Harwich, the Birds only clinched tonight because of their own win. Had the early Wareham lead held, Orleans would have had to sweat out tomorrow’s make up game between Chatham and Y-D to learn of their playoff fate. As it stands now, Keaschall’s blast has kept the season alive.
“I was off with my timing a little bit in the previous at bat so I was really focused on being on time,” Keaschall said. “He hung a change up up and in and everything fell into place.
The blast was a massive energy injection to a dejected dugout.
“We had some energy before that because we were rallying, but it really fired everyone up to take the lead,” Keaschall added.
Bryce Warrecker was due for a less than perfect outing. He’s been dealing lately, breezing through Cape league lineups with relative ease on his way to completing what will almost surely be a pitcher of the year caliber summer. In the second inning on Tuesday, however, he looked mortal.
Wareham jumped the Cal Poly right hander for four runs on five hits. Warrecker got his cardio in during the frame, jogging to back up bases as Gatemen rounded them. As all good pitchers do, Warrecker bounced back nicely. He completed six innings without allowing another run. All four came in the second.
Collin Kramer continued his stellar summer with a shutout seventh inning before Tommy Hopfe delivered a shutout eighth of his own. In the ninth it was Ryan Bourrassa, who has assumed the closer role nicely. He and his devastating splitter struck out the side in order in the ninth, putting the champagne on ice.
“Now it’s about staying hot,” Nicholson said. “We don’t know who we’re gonna play but we’ll be ready.”