By: Cole Bradley
ORLEANS, Mass- After rain brought a melancholy end to the Orleans Firebirds 2021 summer campaign in Brewster, the time of reflection has arrived. Dealing with a truncated 40-game schedule with no make-ups or All-Star game, Orleans failed to find a groove.
The Firebirds finished (13-17-5), wrapping-up with a 2-2 tie against the Harwich Mariners on Tuesday. It’s the third time in the last five seasons that Head Coach Kelly Nicholson has finished with a losing record.
While Orleans couldn’t figure out how to sneak into a top-two spot in the East Division, or find success against the pesky Y-D Red Sox, the Firebirds still played competitive baseball throughout the summer.
Chase DeLauter (James Madison) and Tyler Locklear (VCU) “The Super Smash Bros”- Both men came in after a stellar spring and finished tied atop the CCBL home run leaderboard with nine big-flies. The Firebirds hit 32 homers as a team this summer, the second-most behind Chatham, and Locklear and DeLauter accounted for over half. The duo will likely receive strong consideration for the CCBL Most Valuable Player Award based on their strong individual performance. DeLauter’s 21 walks to 18 strikeouts show just how comfortable he felt against Cape League pitching all summer, consistently hitting the ball hard with minimal swing-and-miss. Locklear finished second in the CCBL in RBI with 27 and at one point had a stretch where he tagged five homers in eight games. Needless to say, the “Super Smash Bros,” lived up to their infamous title all summer long.
Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State)- Following an abysmal spring at ASU, Wallerstedt came into the summer and pitched like a man possessed, logging 16.2 high-leverage innings in relief. The Cape League All-Star held a 1.62 ERA after only giving up three runs all season. He held opposing batters to a .193 average, giving up just 11 hits to the 69 batters he faced. Wallerstedt proved himself in multi-inning appearances, one-inning save situations, in the mop-up roll and even when all Nicholson needed was a single out. He did it all, and he did it with dominance, striking out 22 in 13 games. He earned the role of set-up man/closer right from the start.
Hayden Thomas (Texas A&M Corpus Christi)- Thomas was one of the most consistent pitchers in all of Cape Cod this summer, tossing at least five innings in all but one of his starts. His 2.60 ERA ranked in the top-10 in the CCBL and was the lowest among Orleans starters. The right-hander had competitive outings against both Bourne and Brewster, the top-two teams in Cape, going 11 innings in three overall appearances while only allowing four runs and notching 12 strikeouts.
39 runs in three games (June 30-July 4)- After staggering at the plate through the first nine games of the season, Orleans showed off the offensive power that was so highly regarded at the beginning of the summer. Even after losing Jordan Sprinkle (UC Santa Barbara) and Jace Jung (Texas Tech) to Team USA, the Firebirds plated 39 runs in their next three games without them. With newcomer Peyton Chatagnier (Mississippi) joining the lineup, Orleans tagged an impressive 37 hits and 11 homers in that span. The 19 runs scored against Brewster at home on July 2 is the most runs scored in a single game all summer.
(10-2-3) against playoff teams (Bourne, Cotuit, Brewster, Harwich)- The Firebirds had their fair share of struggles this season but they looked very formidable against the best that the Cape League had to offer. In 15 games, those teams averaged 2.8 runs per game against Orleans. They also went unbeaten against Harwich and Cotuit. The simple fact that those four made the postseason and Orleans didn’t is indeed the only fact that matters, but it still doesn’t discount their competitiveness this season.
Top defensive team on the Cape- Orleans’ fielding certainly eluded them late in-season, but the Firebirds still managed to commit the fewest errors of any team on the Cape. Their .972 fielding-percentage was tied for first in the CCBL with Wareham. Led by a constantly changing middle infield that included Sprinkle, Jung, Chatagnier and David Marcano (NJIT), Firebird pitchers would play to contact with confidence.