By Jack Loder
Baseball games are often won or lost on fewer than five pitches. On Tuesday night in Cotuit, Orleans wanted two specific pitches back in a 3-2 loss against the league leading Ketleers. The Firebirds had every chance to tie or go ahead, but dropped the third game of a three game set at Lowell Park.
“I felt like they played just a little bit better than us tonight,” Kelly Nicholson said. “They pitched really well. Any time you give up two or fewer runs in a Cape League game you’re doing something right.”
Cotuit was in command most of the night. They got the scoring started in the home half of the second inning, when a leadoff triple was brought home on a sac fly to give the Ketleers a 1-0 lead.
Orleans didn’t wait long to punch back, with the right hook coming off the bat of Luke Keaschall with two outs and nobody on in the top of the third. The soon to be Arizona State Sun Devil took on the deepest part of the yard, blasting his third home run of the season comfortably over the center field wall. As he does each time he gets a hold of one, Keaachall tore out of the box and didn’t slow into his home run trot until he was halfway to second base. When he’s locked in, you won’t know if its a chopper to third or a 415 foot big fly by the way he leaves the batter’s box.
“Keaschall has put together some good at bats,” Nicholson said. “Again we made a couple outs on the bases, got caught stealing a few times and then thrown out at home on an agressive play.”
When Alex Amalfi arrived in Cape Cod earlier this month, he wasn’t sure if he belonged. Through four starts for Orleans so far this summer, it’s clear that he certainly does. His stuff was phenomenal again on Tuesday night, locating his impressive 92 mph fastball and executing his wipe out slider when it was called for. He went 3.2 innings, allowing two runs. Both were earned. Amalfi was hurt with the fastball twice, once for a leadoff triple in the third and then a go ahead solo homer in the fourth. Aside from those two pitches, the Umass Boston right hander was masterful.
Cole Reynolds was first out of the bullpen for Orleans. He retired the final batter of the fourth before pitching through trouble in both the fifth and sixth innings. His lone blemish was also a punished fastball, as Cotuit’s Cole Cook launched a solo bomb in the home half of the fifth. Cole on Cole crime is no joke.
There’s a reason Cotuit sits comfortable atop the Cape League standings 15 games in, and it has a lot to do with their pitching. That was on display on Tuesday night, as Orleans’ batters were on their heels all night long.
“These arms are really good, and Cotuit has some of the best,” Nicholson said. “Our guys did their jobs
Defensive highlights were abundant for the Firebirds, with Nate Furman and Nik McClaughry putting on a show up the middle. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, a hot shot up the middle was gloved on the run by Furman. With his momentum carrying him towards left field, he flipped the rock to Nik McClaughry, who stretched like a first baseman to record the out with no time to spare.
An inning later, McClaughry put his range on display. The Arizona shortstop shuffled to his left, made a clean grab and fired a strike to first. This stellar defense has been an undeniable bright spot all year long for Orleans.
The Seventh inning was uneventful after the Firebirds threatened in the fifth and sixth, ensuring the third straight non win for Orleans, after tying and losing to Cotuit in Sunday’s doubleheader.
“It was a tough one tonight. A tough one,” Nicholson said with a signature smile. “We’ll bounce back Im sure of that.”