By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- The Orleans Firebirds have seen their postseason odds dwindle right before their eyes recently. After having a three-game winning streak snapped on Friday by Bourne, the rest of the East Division has started to shape out, with just over a week remaining in the regular season.
Their summer of inconsistencies carried into Orleans’ fourth and final matchup against the Wareham Gatemen, falling 6-4 at Eldredge Park. Wareham takes the season series with the win, aided by the Owen Diodati (Alabama) and Kamren James (Mississippi State) dual threat.
The duo combined to plate three runs, two on a James’ seventh inning home run to seal the deal.
The Firebirds ran Max Rajcic (UCLA) out to the mound for his sixth start of the summer, going 3.2 innings in the losing effort. He ran into trouble in the fourth but still managed to turn it over to left-hander Jake Saum (UCLA) with the deficit at one.
Saum had a bounce back outing, going 3.1 innings with five strikeouts. Despite giving up the two-run homer, Saum had one of his best outings of the summer, and he kept the contest within reach for Orleans.
“I felt like all my stuff was working, it’s been a rough few outings but I felt like I turned the page,” Saum said. “Those guys put some good at-bats together, especially in my last inning they strung some together. I know I can compete so it’s just a matter of letting the defense work behind me.”
Offensively the Firebirds had yet another stellar night from the top-four hitters in the lineup, as Luke Keaschall (San Francisco), Tyler Locklear (VCU) and Chase DeLauter (James Madison) all collected a combined four hits. Locklear and DeLauter both blasted homers yet again to keep it close.
Locklear has belted four dingers in his last six games, putting him atop the home run leaderboard in with DeLauter with his eighth.
“I felt like I was getting too deep into counts and always hitting with two strikes,” Locklear said. “Nobody wants to do that, you can’t really get anything, I think I have been trying to hit earlier in counts.”
Regardless, Orleans couldn’t find a whole lot of ways to crack the Wareham staff this season, as Garrett Schmeltz (Louisville) personified that narrative in four shutout innings of work out of the pen.
Wareham’s starter, Paul Skenes (Air Force) only went three innings, giving up the Locklear home run in the second. He threw 62 pitches in three innings before Schmeltz relieved him.
“I thought they pitched pretty well,” Head coach Kelly Nicholson said. “I thought we had opportunities and we just couldn’t push runs across.”
The Firebirds are now (10-12-4), and with just ten games left in the season, their chances at a postseason run look bleak. Orleans has a shot to get back on track with an early tilt on Sunday against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, first pitch is scheduled for 5:30 pm.