By: Aodhán Doyle
ORLEANS, MA – Connor Higgins (Arizona State) had just one career start to his name in two years as a Sun Devil, but that didn’t stop Whitecaps’ manager Jamie Shevchik from calling on Higgins for the team’s opening day start on Wednesday night at Eldredge Park in Orleans.
The big left-hander delivered.
The Arizona State sophomore tossed five scoreless innings against the Orleans Firebirds, getting a two-run home run from Mickey Gasper (Bryant) in support, and Brewster went on to rout Orleans 6-1 in the season opener.
“It was a great team win,” Higgins said. “Everybody was energetic tonight and it was a great start to get this team rolling.”
Making his first start since May 13th against the University of Washington, Higgins struck out six and walked one over his five innings, recording his first career victory in the Cape League.
The Orefield, Pennsylvania native got even better as the game went on, retiring the last ten batters he faced in order. The most trouble Higgins ever faced was in the 1st inning, when an error gave the Firebirds runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. Higgins escaped by forcing a Steve Passatempo (UMass-Lowell) groundout.
“Connor’s going to be really good,” said Shevchik. “He’s going to give some teams the fits.”
Gasper took a 1-0 fastball from Firebirds starter Kevin Smith (Georgia) and drove it over the fence in left-center field in the 5th inning. Gasper is expected to be one of Brewster’s primary catchers this season and finished the game 2-3 with two runs scored, two runs batted in, and a walk.
2nd-year Whitecap A.J. Graffanino (Washington) knocked in Justin Kunz (Gardner-Webb) in his first at-bat of the season to give Brewster a 1-0 lead in the 3rd, and finished the game 2-4 with a stolen base.
Even after Higgins departed, the Whitecaps’ bullpen shut down the Firebirds’ offense over the final four innings. The pitching staff combined to give up just four hits while striking out ten.
Robert Broom (Mercer) was dominant, throwing two perfect innings with four strikeouts. Broom utilized both his fastball and slider, combined with a deceptive submarine throwing motion.
“There’s a kid that I’m going to make a prediction,” Shevchik declared. “He will pitch in the All-Star Game.”
Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee) threw a scoreless eighth inning, striking out two, while Andy Pagnozzi (Mississippi) closed out the game for Brewster, giving up one unearned run.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps travel to McKeon Park to take on the Hyannis Harbor Hawks tomorrow, Thursday June 15th. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.