By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- There seems to be a theme for the Orleans Firebirds this season.
While the Firebirds haven’t necessarily faced an easy arm this season, they still have yet to get into a groove offensively. Through the first full week of the Cape Cod League season, the Firebirds are slugging a combined .296 with their nine extra-base hits.
Their scoreless innings streak came to an end in the bottom of the fifth on Monday night, as Orleans bounced back from their tie against Y-D beating Harwich for the second time 2-1.
The offense found a way to scratch across a pair in that fifth inning against Harwich starter Evan Shawver (Cincinnati), who pitched to the tune of a 2.72 ERA this spring. Out of all the good pitching Orleans has seen so far this summer, Shawver was the best, going five innings and striking out 12 batters.
“He had good velo,” Connor Kokx (Long Beach State) said. “He was a lefty, lefties are always tough. He mixed pitches really well and he kept guys off balance.”
Left fielder Rhylan Thomas (USC) laid down a perfect safety squeeze to bring home Jordan Sprinkle (UC Santa Barbara) before Kokx brought home another on a fielder's choice. The Birds made the most of some sloppy defense by the Mariners in the infield.
“It’s tough to critique a win, it’s a confidence booster in the end,” Kokx said. “Getting a win like that is huge.”
Another trend continued as well, good pitching.
Max Rajcic (UCLA) had his second outing and made the most of it, not giving up a run in three innings. He set the tone right away, striking out two in the first inning before cruising through his final two frames.
“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff like at Chatham, but I gave up no runs and I left men on,” Rajcic said. “It’s nice knowing that I have a good defense behind me. I think it’s important to pound the zone and make a statement.”
The Firebird bullpen followed with an impressive display, giving up only one run while punching out six batters and letting the defense get their share of chances in the field. His Bruin teammate Jack Filby (UCLA) bounced back after a rough outing in Wareham, going 2.2 scoreless in relief striking out three.
“The first two outings didn’t go as planned but I threw the ball well and it felt good to go back out there and give my best,” Filby said. “Guilly called a great game and I had great defense behind me.”
Defense once again played a huge part, as Sprinkle put on another clinic at shortstop, showing off some range up the middle. Pitching to contact has been Orleans’ bread and butter so far this year, and it’s produced desirable results.
“It’s a great feeling to know you can fill up the zone and that you have eight other guys that are going to make plays for you,” Filby said. “He’s [Sprinkle] a great defender. You want him on your team. I know if it’s hit that way I can start walking off the field. That’s the guy you want backing you up.”
Nick Hull (GCU) came in afterwards and shut the door in his second outing, going two innings and striking out the side in order. At the end of the night the staff combined for ten strikeouts and only three walks.
The Birds will look to finish off the homestand with a win tomorrow against the Wareham Gatemen, first pitch is slated for 7:00 pm.