By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- A nice off-day between a rainout in Harwich and game three against the powerful Cotuit Kettleers seemed to be beneficial for the Orleans Firebirds.
After struggling to find early offense for the past couple of days, Orleans had their big inning in the third, scoring four runs before battling their way to a 6-4 win.
That inning wasn’t as enjoyable for the Kettleers, particularly Harrison Cohen (George Washington) and Joey Walsh (Boston College), who surrendered a combined four walks, three of which allowing runners to score. Right fielder Connor Kokx (Long Beach State) put a period on the frame with an RBI single to left.
“We did amazing tonight at the plate,” Rhylan Thomas (USC) said. “We manufactured a bunch of runs. Getting deep in counts and grinding out at-bats. Getting walks and hit-by-pitches. I’m blessed to have a great team and great teammates.”
Kokx slapped another single before the end of the night. While the start was strong for the Firebirds at the plate, it was equally matched by their performance on the mound through the first five innings.
Chase DeLauter (James Madison) pulled a Shohei Ohtani, starting the game and batting for himself the entire contest. In his one inning of work he gave up one hit and struck out one.
“Coming out here knowing I get to pitch and hit it’s a blessing,” DeLauter said. “They told me I was gonna open for Thurman so I had to come out in the first and keep them scoreless for Thurman.”
Overall, the night belonged to right-hander Connor Thurman (San Diego) who dealt in his three innings of work. His lethal fastball/slider mix notched him four big strikeouts, holding the Kettleers to one measly hit.
“It was really good to get my feet wet at Eldredge in front of all these fans,” Thurman said. “My sliders kinda always been my go to, I’m also adding a new pitch that’s kinda like a slurve. Tonight was the first night I threw that and it worked out really well.”
As the Orleans offense started to cool down in the middle innings, Cotuit’s started to warm up, as the Kettleers cashed in three in the sixth and one in the eighth on a solo homer from Luke Gold (Boston College). Jake Saum (UCLA), had a bounceback outing, retiring all five batters he faced in the eighth and ninth inning to finish it off after Nick Hull (Grand Canyon) gave up the homer.
“I think we have some guys who can pitch,” Head coach Kelly Nicholson said. “We didn’t run out any big arms tonight, but we have some guys that keep the ball down and their ball moves and sinks. Anytime you can get a win in the Cape League it’s a good night.”
Offensively, it was a step in the right direction for Orleans, and while they still managed to get out-hit by Cotuit, they manufactured more of their runs and stranded fewer on the base-paths. DeLauter drove in two key runs including one on a long sac-fly to center field.
Thomas had a breakout night as well, reaching base three times on a pair of hits including a ringing double in the first.
“I went deep in the count and I was expecting an off-speed pitch,” Thomas said. “I was lucky enough to get the barrel on it.”
The Birds will make the long trip to Wareham on Friday for a matchup with the Gatemen for the first time this season. First pitch is scheduled for 6:45 pm.