By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- The Orleans Firebirds were brought back to earth for an evening.
After scoring 39 runs in the previous three ballgames, the Birds offense hit a skid against the same Brewster Whitecaps squad that they plated 19 against on Friday. The Whitecaps made sure they got their revenge too.
After being stiffed by Max Rajcic (UCLA) for nearly five innings, Brewster loaded the bases against Jack Filby (UCLA) in the sixth. After Connor Housley (Tennessee) took over, Mac Bingham (Arizona) plated the first run of the night on a sac-fly.
The ensuing batter, Kurtis Byrne (TCU), proceeded to double-home a pair to give Brewster the lead for good to snap the Birds winning-streak at three, thanks in part to lights-out pitching as well with a final of 5-2. They wound up grabbing a pair of insurance runs in the eighth before the night was over.
“We weren’t gonna average 13 runs per game for the whole summer,” Head coach Kelly Nicholson said. “Brewster did a really good job on the mound tonight, especially their starter. He had good stuff.”
Both starters were X-factors in the contest, as both Rajcic and Brewster’s Bryce Hubbart (Florida State) traded a combined 9.1 scoreless innings of work.
“I felt good, I thought I did a good job attacking the zone,” Rajcic said. “He was throwing up zeros and I was doing the same. It was fun competing with him.”
Rajcic’s night ended after 4.1 scoreless innings of work, only allowing five hits, all singles, and striking out a pair. Rajcic’s tour to become a starter has seen him pitch to the tune of a 0.00 ERA in just over ten total innings.
“It feels good to be a starter again,” Rajcic said. “I feel like I’m just getting better and better every day facing the best hitters.”
After Housley dodged further damage in that tree-run sixth for Brewster, Conner Thurman (San Diego) made his final appearance for Orleans this summer. He leaves on a high note after a tough outing against the Cotuit Kettleers, as he went two scoreless frames racking up two strikeouts.
His best inning was his first, where he sat down two straight hitters on strikes before getting a quick flyout.
“I wanted to leave it all on the table and showcase some of my pitches and do what I do,” Thurman said. “It was fun, I enjoyed my time out here. It was great to bounce back, I know what I’m capable of and my defense has my back. Riding the bikes with Jonathan Cannon is something I’ll miss; we rode them all over town and to the field. The memories and the relationships with these guys are great.”
The Firebirds broke through in the seventh after being cut down by Hubbart for five innings, plating one on a Rhylan Thomas (USC) RBI single followed by another run-scoring base hit from pinch hitter Julio Marcano (NJIT) in the eighth.
Orleans had a chance to grab more in the eighth, but Benjamin Blackwell (Dayton) rolled into an inning-ending double-play. The missed opportunity came back to bite them in the ninth, as Orion Kerkering (South Florida) gave up two, as Brewster closed it out in the next half.
“They [Brewster] threw a lot of strikes and they only walked one guy tonight,” Nicholson said. “Anytime you throw strikes you’re gonna put your team in a good position to win and they did that tonight.”
The Birds will look to start a new winning streak on Tuesday, but they’ll have to go through the Bourne Braves, the team with the best record on the Cape so far. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 pm.