By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- Fireworks, beautiful sunsets, food on the grill and baseball.
These are all things that commonly occur on a normal Fourth of July, with summer in full swing. Last year in Cape Cod, these things were nowhere to be seen, but after a long wait, that magic finally returned on Sunday night.
With the hill at Eldredge Park filled with chairs, and the stars and stripes waving high above the centerfield fence, the essence of baseball was on full display with the Chatham Anglers and the Orleans Firebirds battling on the field below.
“This is the best summer league game in the country, Chatham and Orleans on July 4,” Head coach Kelly Nicholson. “It doesn’t get any better than that anywhere in the United States.”
After rain cancelled Saturday’s tilt in Chatham, the Birds made sure to take what would’ve been game two of the home and home series 8-3 behind more good pitching from Jonathan Cannon (Georgia) and Donovan Benoit (Tulane).
In what will likely be the final appearance before the MLB Draft for both Benoit and Cannon, the two left with a bang, surrendering only two earned runs on the night. Their combined final stat line for the summer is impressive:
21.1 IP, 17 H, 7 ER, 21 K
“I really wanted to pitch today so I’m excited I got the opportunity to come out and throw,” Benoit said. “This is the first time I’ve ever played on the Fourth, I’ve waited for it all year so I’m happy I got the chance.”
“You just can’t beat it, playing baseball on the Fourth,” Cannon said. “It was great being out here, I think more than anything it’s a learning experience. The biggest thing for me is all the people I met and all the people I’m gonna stay in touch with.”
The only blemish for Cannon on the season was due to some miscommunication between him and catcher Justin Miknis (Kent State), as a pair of wild pitches allowed Matthew Garcia (Chipola College) to advance to third and score. Chatham tacked on two more in the fifth on an error and an RBI single.
After their 31-run performance over the last two games, the Firebird offense pieced together some timely run-support against a tough gamut of Chatham arms.
Facing tall right-hander Austin Vernon (North Carolina Central) for the second time this season, the Birds bagged three runs, with the biggest punch coming on a Peyton Chatagnier (Mississippi) two-run homer to left. Rhylan Thomas (USC) continued his torrid pace at the plate with a four-hit night that included a two RBI double in the sixth.
“There was a lot of discipline tonight,” Chatagnier said. “Everyone has their own role and it’s really cool to see everyone gel. We do have a lot of energy and we have a lot of fun and it produces good results.”
The largest tell-tale stat belonged to Chatham as they surrendered 10 walks to Orleans batters, playing a huge part in the win. It proves even costlier considering Orleans only managed six hits.
“Credit to Chatagnier for hitting the bomb, we were able to get a good win tonight,” Thomas said. “All those guys put together really good at-bats.”
Another deciding factor came from Chase DeLauter (James Madison), who now stands alone atop the home run leaderboard after blasting his fifth to make it official in the seventh.
Right-hander Nick Hull (Grand Canyon) went two scoreless innings to cap-off a third consecutive win for Orleans after a full day of Fourth of July festivities, including the annual parade through downtown Orleans.
“It was a beautiful night and it was a good crowd,” Nicholson said. “I thought the parade was as good as any parade I’ve ever been a part of.”
The Firebirds will look to do it again Monday night against the Brewster Whitecaps at home.