By: Cole Bradley
BREWSTER, Mass- The Orleans Firebirds have reached the home stretch of their regular season schedule, which happens to be very critical.
Coming into Tuesday Orleans found itself five wins behind the second-place Harwich Mariners, who control their own postseason destiny the rest of the way. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, Orleans has a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.
They took another step in the right direction with a 6-3 win over the Brewster Whitecaps at Stony Brook Field on Tuesday afternoon. Orleans is now 3-1 on the season against the Whitecaps, outscoring them 35-20 in those contests.
The Firebirds grabbed two in that inning on a Jared McKenzie (Baylor) two-run single to draw first blood, though they stranded the bases loaded to conclude the frame. They inevitably plated three more in the fifth on a trio of hits, including a Trae Harmon (Stetson) RBI single that scored Jeff Costello (Northeastern).
Luke Keaschall (San Francisco) extended his hitting streak to 11 games with yet another multi-hit performance. The reigning CCBL Player of the Week has racked up eight consecutive multi-hit games and after tagging three on Tuesday, his average has been raised to an astounding .424.
Brewster hasn’t had the same success offensively, particularly with runners on base, coming in sporting a .239 average in those spots on Tuesday. That number didn’t get any better with Thomas Schultz (Vanderbilt) on the bump for Orleans, who spun five shutout innings giving up only three hits and no walks.
In his first two innings Schultz punched out four, using his wipeout slider to collect a good amount of swing and miss throughout his outing. While he only fanned one additional hitter in his final three frames, his command never faded.
“I just continued to build and improve on the stuff I’ve been working on,” Schultz said. “I spun the last few pitches for strikes and kept attacking hitters.”
The Whitecaps countered each of the next three frames following Schultz’s departure, scoring a run on both Hayden Thomas (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) and Jake Saum (UCLA). Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State) also gave up a run on a single before Jared Southard (Texas) came in to shut the door in the ninth.
For the second straight night, Orleans ran out the same duo for the eighth and ninth, fittingly enough against the top-two teams in the entire league, and both games came with good results.
Southard came in and only gave up one hit while striking out a pair to end the evening. It’s the same Brewster team that Southard faced in his first ever outing with Orleans a little under a week ago, going 2-for-2 in terms of saves in those outings.
“I didn’t know if I was gonna come out today aftr I pitched yesterday,” Southard said. “It’s my job to finish things out for the team behind me who comes out and plays everyday.”
Orleans is now (12-13-4), still on the outside looking in but riding high after wins against the best from the East and the West in a span of 48 hours. They still have seven games to make a run, starting with a home tilt against the Chatham Anglers on Wednesday.
“Right now we’re just trying to enjoy it and the time we have together,” Schultz said. “We just want to end the summer well.”
First pitch is slated for 7:00 pm at Eldredge Park.