By Jack Loder
With a lefty heavy Chatham lineup in town, Kelly Nicholson wasn’t sure starting Bryce Warrecker was the right move on Wednesday night. He had to be convinced by his pitching coach.
“Jim Lawler deserves a lot of credit because he said Bryce would be a good option to start today,” Nicholson said. “He said he’s gonna fill up the zone and he’s gonna throw strikes with three pitches.”
To say Lawler got that one right would be a laughable understatement. Warrecker did get the starting nod, and all he did with it was turn in six perfect innings, striking out seven Chatham Anglers and stamping his name on ⅔ of what ended up a combined no hitter at Eldredge Park. Warrecker, Josh Allen and Chris Clark teamed up to slam the door on the masterpiece. Two hit by pitches and a walk were the only blemishes of the evening.
“I was just out there making pitches. I’ve always considered myself a strike thrower,” Warrecker said. “Garret Guillemette called an insane game, and our defense made great plays behind me. That’s all I was doing really, just pitching to contact and trusting my defense.”
With six perfect innings in the books, it was reasonable to believe that Nicholson might send Warrecker back out to the mound to attempt to go the distance and toss a perfect game. Working against this romantic hypothetical, however, was reality. No Orleans pitcher had thrown more than four innings prior to Warrecker’s six, and his 81 pitches dictated an unusually lengthy summer ball outing. The decision to greet Warrecker with a warm handshake and an outing ending pat on the back after the sixth may have seemed like a tough one to those on the outside, but inside the dugout there was no real debate.
“Nope, not at all,” Nicholson said when asked if he considered letting Warrecker stay in the ballgame. “That was not an option he was not going to start that seventh. 80 was plenty, that’s the most anybody has thrown this summer and it was plenty.”
It was the unwavering poise with which Warrecker attacked each of his 81 pitches that was most impressive. For a pitcher who has at times struggled to consistently fill up the strike zone, you wouldn’t have been able to tell by his performance tonight. He threw a first pitch strike to a whopping 15 of the 18 batters he faced. The epitome of in control. Anything and everything Guillemette called worked.
All three pitches were working for Warrecker and he was able to throw them effectively in any count. He pitched guys backwards, he pitched guys forwards, with the only similarity being the result. The final at bat of his night was perhaps the most tense, working one of two three ball counts Warrecker experienced all game long. In a full count, Warrecker ripped off his best slider of an evening that featured 10 like it. A swing and a miss was only a fitting cherry on top.
“I think I got shaken off maybe two or three times tonight,” Guillemette said. “We were on the same page all night. From the first pitch to the last we knew exactly what we were doing.”
The rapport was evident.
Warrecker was relieved by Josh Allen, who of course spun two no hit innings of his own. Despite hitting the second batter he faced in the seventh, he also turned in his best outing of the summer. A double play to end the seventh and a perfect eighth ensured that Orleans had faced the minimum through eight frames.
Chris Clark had the honor of closing out the combined no-no. He made it interesting in the ninth, hitting the leadoff man before walking the next. A lineout and a pair of strikeouts sealed the deal. Pandemonium ensued. A sea of red and black came pouring out of the first base dugout, greeting Clark and mobbing the infield just in front of the pitcher’s mound.
“To be honest I kind of forgot about it going into the ninth,” Clark said with a grin. “I’ve never been a part of a no hitter, when I saw everyone running out I thought about how crazy it was. Just a really good fun experience.”
The night was full of firsts. Nicholson described it as one of the most fun games he’s been a part of in this league. He admitted his memory isn’t great, citing his age of 62, but acknowledged confidently that this no-no was the first he has been a part of in 17 seasons on the Cape. Lawler, about 10 years Nicholson’s senior, had a much different reaction when asked if he’d been a part of a no hitter before.
“Oh come on,” he said. “I’ve been around for 100 years.”
The Firebirds did indeed bat in this game as well. The offense provided all the team would need early on. Kevin Sim dug into the right hand batter’s box following a Luke Keaschall double and he left earth. The San Diego product launched a hanging curveball well over the left field fence, giving Orleans a 2-0 lead in the first frame. With the way Warrecker threw the ball, the homer was worth one more run than the Firebirds would need.
Orleans ambushed Chatham starter Wyatt Evans again in the fourth inning. After Isaac Humphrey singled with one out, Logan Beard and Garret Guillemette laced back to back doubles. Guillemette’s gapper scored two runs, extending the Firebirds lead to 4-0.
The no hitter was well attended. As the calendar turns to July, Eldredge Park is undergoing its annual transformation into one of the coolest amateur baseball atmospheres in the country. Wednesday night was a packed house, and marked the first of its kind at the historic yard in 2022. The hill was teeming with life all night. Fans werr loud and engaged, and Warrecker’s gem fanned the flames of the raucous sea of red and black.
Orleans is 7-7-2, but if you watched them interact on the field and away from it, they have the makeup of a loose bunch that is just focused on taking things day by day. It doesn’t hurt to make some lifelong friends along the way.
“God I just really love this team,” Guillemette said unprompted. “Love these guys a ton. These guys came in today, we had an idea of what we wanted to do and we executed.”