By: Cole Bradley
Yarmouth, Mass- It hasn’t felt like a traditional summer over the past two days on Cape Cod.
Lots of rain, wind and inclement weather have summed up the last 48 hours. For the Orleans Firebirds, it’s meant two consecutive days of cancellations, bumping it to four already on the season.
They returned to action at Red Wilson Field to face the Y-D Red Sox, who have continued to stifle Kelly Nicholson’s bunch. Monday’s implications were for sole possession of second-place in the East Division, with a chance to draw closer to the surging Brewster Whitecaps.
Orleans once again struggled against the Red Sox, even after facing Y-D right-hander Patrick Gallagher (Connecticut) for the second time this season, dropping Sunday’s tilt 6-2.
Right-hander Max Rajcic (UCLA) made his fourth start of the summer, giving up his first few runs in the process. A first inning home run from Tanner Smith (Oregon) and a three spot in the third.
“Rajcic could’ve easily gone three innings and only given up a run,” Nicholson said. “Started with a strikeout then we walked the nine hitter and then there’s a strikeout that gets by [Justin] Miknis. It could’ve easily been three-up-three-down that inning.”
Rajcic still managed to strike out three, making quick work of the Red Sox in the second before failing to make it out of the fourth. He was replaced by Nick Wallerstedt (Arizona State) who had his best outing yet.
“Everything is just flowing right now, it just feels good to be on the mound and throwing again,” Wallerstedt said. “It was a good performance all around tonight, guys came in and did what they were supposed to.”
He went 2.1 innings, walking the first man he faced on four pitches before retiring the next seven. He tied his season-high with four punchouts in the effort.
“The first batter I wasn’t as locked-in as I have been,” Wallerstedt said. “And after that I said, ‘I need to lock in.’ I focused up and I felt really good from there.”
While Orleans outhit Y-D 10-5, they struggled with bringing runs home, stranding 11. Facing Gallagher and Jaret Godman (Oklahoma) for the second time, the Birds couldn't find ways to break through, even after getting the leadoff man on five times.
Connor Kokx (Long Beach State) had a nice night, collecting three hits and driving in two runs in the effort. On the first night of the 2021 MLB Draft, Kokx’s future with the Birds is still unclear, but he’s still made the most of his time on the Cape, hitting at a .269 clip thus far.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well, it’s nice to get some results,” Kokx said. “We’ll see what happens, but my time in Orleans has been amazing so far.”
Michael Polk (Georgia) and Jeff Praml (Southern New Hampshire) each turned in solid outings giving up one combined run, but Zack Morris (Arkansas) allowed Smith’s second homer of the game, which ended up being the dagger.
The Birds threatened in the ninth, loading the bases for Chase DeLauter (James Madison) with one out but the Red Sox were able to get him to bounce into a game-ending double play.
“In spite of the result, I thought we played well,” Nicholson said. “We hit the ball well and we pitched well. I liked the way we loaded the bases and brought DeLauter to the plate. If that ball gets by it’s a whole new game. I was really proud of our guys tonight.”
Orleans is now (0-2-1) against Y-D this season, they have dropped to (7-6-2) on the year. They will look to get back in the win column on Monday, as they face the Falmouth Commodores at Guv Fuller Field.