By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- Eldredge Park has seen its fair share of glorious moments this summer.
From pitchers duels to all out slugfests, Miss Eldredge had it all, and on a picturesque Monday night with the hill jam-packed, it all came to a bittersweet conclusion. In a classic Cape League duel, the Orleans Firebirds closed-out their final home game of the 2021 season with a bang.
“Tonight, playing for nothing but pride, our guys did a really good job and competed,” Head Coach Kelly Nicholson said.
Orleans topped Harwich for the third time this summer, pitching their way to victory in a 1-0 win. The Firebirds finished the season (8-8-3) at home overall, starting and finishing with wins against the Mariners.
It all boiled down to the pitching, with Nathan Florence (Hartford), Zack Morris (Arkansas), Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State) and Jared Southard (Texas) combining to allow only three hits on the evening.
The Mariners came in hot following an 11 hit night against Brewster on Sunday, but had no answers for the ocelote of arms who took the hill for Orleans.
“It doesn’t get any better than a 1-0 game and especially when you have the one and they have the zero,” Nicholson said. “I love this group, they’ve played hard and I told them to give their best effort before the game and they did that.”
Florence motored his way through three no-hit innings before handing it over to Morris, who kept that column at zero until the seventh.
Morris had the opportunity to work with former 19-year Major League verteran Al Leiter before the game, something he clearly benefited from in his 4.1 innings of work.
“It’s awesome to learn from guys who have been on the big stage and him in particular, it’s pretty much everybody’s dream,” Morris said. “He was asking me questions about the way I warm up and why I do this and that. He was just giving me tips on ways to be better with my follow-through and how to improve my game in that aspect.”
In what will likely be his final outing, Morris struck out five and didn’t give up a run, earning his second win of the summer as well. He had a rough first inning but settled in after walking a pair of Harwich batters in the fourth.
“That first inning I was thinking a lot about what Leiter was telling me, which is obviously what you don’t want to do,” Morris said. “After that I went out and tried to be myself.”
Orleans got its lone run in the second on yet another Jared McKenzie (Baylor) RBI single, quietly extending his hitting-streak to eight games.
The Firebirds lineup once again struggled but compensated with near-perfect defense in the field. Regardless, Harwich starter Cam Schlittler (Northeastern) tossed five solid frames with six punchouts.
The back end duo of Wallerstedt and Southard nailed down the win, combining for four strikeouts in the final 1.2 innings.
After Wallerstedt walked a pair of Harwich batters to begin the ninth, Southard ended it with two consecutive strikeouts, letting out a triumphant scream upon the end of his outing.
The Firebirds have two additional games on the road before their 2021 summer comes to an all too quick ending. The final game of a home and home against the Mariners and an encore against the Brewster Whitecaps awaits them over the next two days.
For now, Miss Eldredge will have to wait another year for Firebirds baseball to be played on her grounds, gone too soon but not without a fond farewell.