By: Cole Bradley
WAREHAM, Mass- The Orleans Firebirds needed a big win.
Losers of three straight before a tough tie in Harwich, the Firebirds came into Friday night needing a win to separate themselves from the last place Chatham Anglers. They had to earn it against the Wareham Gatemen, going across the bridge to start the weekend.
After dealing in his last outing at Falmouth, Hayden Thomas (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) powered his way through five shutout innings of work, striking out five to help Orleans snap a four game winless stretch by a final score of 5-4.
“I just wanted to go out and fill up the zone,” Thomas said. “My goal was to just try and do my job. I looked at the scouting report and just tried to execute my own plan.”
While the win was a satisfying way to end the week, it came with a bit of a scare. Outfielders Jared McKenzie (Baylor) and Jack Bulger (Vanderbilt) collided with each other in left center field, forcing both to exit the game in the fifth inning.
Fortunately, both men came off the field under their own power and appeared to be okay.
“All my focus was on Jared on that play, I just hope he and Jack are both okay,” Thomas said.
Thomas finished the frame and his night sitting down the Gatemen in order before turning it over to the bullpen. Thomas has a 2.25 ERA in four appearances so far this summer and it’s the second time he’s held the Gatemen to under three runs on the season.
The offense picked up the slack after Wareham starter Adam Mazur (South Dakota State) departed following 5.2 innings of one-run ball. In the seventh, the Birds put up a four spot on three hits, taking advantage of three costly errors as well by the Gatemen.
Luke Keaschall (San Francisco), who came in to replace Bulger in left, capped off the inning with a base hit to score Cory Acton (Florida) before advancing to third on a throwing error. He had a run-scoring single earlier in the ballgame as well.
“I think we were just building off each other's momentum tonight,” Keaschall said. “It took the whole team that inning. That’s what won the game.”
Before the night was over, Wareham didn’t go down without a fight, scoring a pair in the sixth and seventh on four total hits, the biggest coming on an Owen Diodati (Alabama) two-run homer. But the momentum shift was short lived once Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State) came into the game in the eighth.
After a pair of Gatemen were thrown out at third trying to take an extra base, Wallerstedt zoned in during the ninth, retiring the side following a hit-by-pitch to start the inning.
“It feels good to be able to go in there and have confidence,” Wallerstedt said. “I didn’t feel like I had my best stuff tonight but I knew the guys were gonna get outs behind me.”
The Firebirds are (8-8-3) on the year after getting a win to start what is arguably the most critical stretch of their season. They’ll look to get another big win against a team that they have yet to figure out in the Y-D Red Sox at Eldredge Park, first pitch is scheduled for 7:00 pm.