By: Koki Riley
BREWSTER, MA- Entering Thursday evening’s contest, the Brewster Whitecaps ranked at the bottom of the leaderboard amongst Cape League teams in errors committed and fielding percentage.
The Whitecaps’ numbers only got worse on Thursday, as Brewster (15-17-1) committed four errors on four consecutive plays in the top of the fifth inning, leading to a seven-run frame for the Orleans Firebirds (22-11) and an eventual 8-6 Orleans win that was called due to darkness after seven innings.
“It’s certainly a microcosm of our entire season, there’s no doubt about it,” said Whitecaps bench coach Tommy Weber, who filled in after coach Jamie Shevchik was ejected in the fourth inning. “We are working really hard. Every player on this club is working very, very hard to try and remedy this thing, but we just haven’t gotten around to it and tonight it reared its ugly head again and we gave them a game we should have had.”
The onslaught of errors from the Whitecaps began on an errant throw from Brewster second baseman Nick Dunn (Maryland), allowing Orleans center fielder Jimmy Herron (Duke) to advance to second.
Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt) then reached on another Dunn error before Romy Gonzalez (Miami) lined a ball to center field which dropped for a single in front of Steele Walker (Oklahoma), but Walker lost his footing, allowing the ball to roll to the wall, scoring two, and going as the third Brewster error of the inning.
With the score now 6-3 Whitecaps and still nobody out in the inning, the miscues didn’t stop there.
Stephen Scott (Vanderbilt) hit a routine groundball to second, which Gonzalez would have scored on regardless, but Dunn booted it, allowing Scott to reach and going in the books as Dunn’s third error of the inning.
After a Steve Passatempo (UMass-Lowell) singled, Brewster went to its bullpen, calling on Will Tribucher (Michigan), who didn’t find much luck against a tough Firebirds lineup.
Four more Firebirds runs crossed the plate after Tribucher entered, including two on a pinch-hit Niko Decolati (Loyola Marymount) single.
All-in-all, Orleans scored seven runs in the inning, taking an 8-6 lead which they would hold.
While the Firebirds had their fair share of excitement in the fifth, there were plenty of fireworks earlier in the game.
The Whitecaps built their lead on a pair of Chandler Taylor (Alabama) home runs.
The first, a three-run shot to straightaway center field, put Brewster up 3-0 in the bottom of the first. Then, Taylor launched his second blast, his seventh of the season which entered him into a three-way tie for the Cape League lead, to right, extending the Brewster lead to four in the fourth.
Brewster tacked on two more runs on a Dunn RBI-single and a Mickey Gasper (Bryant) bases loaded walk to make it 6-1 Whitecaps.
Tribucher (0-2) took the loss for the Whitecaps, allowing two runs (one earned) in an inning and two-thirds.
The southpaw took over for Bradley Spooner (Saddleback CC) on the mound, who made his second start for Brewster and pitched well, despite the team’s defensive shortcomings. Spooner lasted four-plus innings, giving up six runs, although just two were earned and struck out three.
“I felt good coming into it,” Spooner said. “I just needed to control all four of my pitches and you can’t really control the errors. I just tried to go out there and do my best.”
Robert Broom (Mercer) finished the game on the mound for Brewster, surrendering only one hit in an inning and a third and lowering his season earned run average to a stellar 0.44 mark.
“I think pitching is doing well enough at this point to win games, we just need to focus on making the smaller plays,” Spooner said.
On the bump for the Firebirds was righty Taylor Sugg (UNC). The Tar Heel had trouble with his command and gave up five runs over three innings, including the two home runs to Taylor.
Sugg was succeeded by the trio of Riley Thompson (Louisville), Parker Kelly (Oregon), and Jake Wong (Grand Canyon), who combined for four innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits.
Kelly (1-1) earned his first win of the season for coach Kelly Nicholson's squad.
Shevchik was ejected in the top of the fourth inning after arguing with home plate umpire Tim Carey. Shevchik claimed that Firebirds outfielder Brandon Riley (UNC) swung at a pitch in the dirt on a hit-and-run play in which Passatempo swiped second, but Carey did not call it a strike and would not convene with the rest of the umpiring crew to discuss it further.
“Once in a while you get umpires that are overly sensitive,” Weber said. “Sometimes I try to remind them that if you don’t bait guys, it’s just the sound of one hand clapping. If you don’t say something, the guy won’t come back and say something. Too many of these guys that are out here can’t resist the temptation to bait someone and I think they baited Jamie and I think they ran him early.”
Carey also issued a warning to the rest of the Whitecaps’ bench, as well as the Firebirds dugout.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps finish up their three-game home stand on Friday against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks before the All-Star Game on Saturday.
“It would mean a lot [to win on Friday],” said Weber. “It would kind of stop this snowball effect. Hopefully, what we’d really like to do is play a clean game. No errors, get out early and take a lead as we did tonight and not give it back by playing a tight game defensively. I think more than anything else, that’s really what we’re looking for is one clean game.”
First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.