By Matt Feldman
July 22, 2016
COTUIT – As the Orleans Firebirds took batting practice before Friday night’s game, gusts of wind blowing towards right field kept toppling the batting screen on the first base line. The Firebirds’ fielders scrambled to stand it back up after each fall, but after a few hapless attempts they left it lying on its side for the remainder of the warmup.
Unfortunately for the Firebirds (16-18-1) a toppled batting screen was the least of the troubles that the wind gave them Friday night, as Cotuit (12-22-1) slammed two home runs to right field en route to a 6-4 victory at Lowell Park in Cotuit. The duo of home runs came behind a stellar start start from Matt Ruppenthal (Vanderbilt) for the Kettleers, which saw the right hander allow no runs on just one hits in five and one-third innings.
In the bottom of the first inning, after a leadoff single from Quinn Brodey (Stanford) then two quick outs from Orleans starter Sean Guenther (Notre Dame), A.J. Balta (Oregon) lofted a fly ball into right field.
As the ball cruised off of Balta’s bat, a huge gust of wind shot through Lowell Park, carrying the ball deep into right field and towards Orleans right fielder Adam Haseley (Virginia). Haseley circled under where he thought the ball would land, but after the wind caught it from behind, the ball landed twenty feet beyond where Haseley expected it, disappearing into the trees for Balta’s second homer of the season, putting Cotuit ahead 2-0.
Just one inning later, after Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) led off the second inning with a single, Jordan Pearce (Nevada) knocked a shot into right.
The ball carried again towards Haseley, the American flag in center field swirling in the direction of right as the ball coasted quickly towards the fence. Haseley jumped at the wall, sprawling his arm over the the metal bar in an attempt to rob Pearce, but the ball fell just past the leather and rolled into the trees. It was Pearce’s first homer of the season, and put Cotuit up 4-0 just one and one-third innings in.
After jumping ahead early, the Kettleers would hold the lead, pushing it to 6-0 thanks to RBI hits from Cory Voss (Arizona) and Cal Stevenson (Arizona) later in the game.
Orleans scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning to cut the lead to 6-4 after a shaky appearance from Josh Roberson (UNC-Wilmington), but Alec Byrd (Florida State) slammed the door on any remaining comeback to close the game for Cotuit.