By: Koki Riley
ORLEANS, M.A. – Before Chance Huff (Vanderbilt) even got the chance to hop on the mound for his first start as a Whitecap, Brewster (11-11-1) had a 2-0 lead over the Orleans Firebirds (12-10-2). A nice start to a game of significant importance for a Whitecaps team stuck in the muck of a tight Eastern Divisional race.
Already working from ahead, Huff walked the leadoff batter Jacob Hurtubise (Army), surrendered a double to Zach Britton (Louisville) and then, after retiring the next two batters, plunked Trevin Esquerra (Loyola Marymount) and Rob Emery (San Francisco) with separate pitches to load the bases for Tanner Murray (UC Davis).
With a run already allowed, Murray’s single off of Huff evaporated Brewster’s early 2-0 lead. Making the score 3-2 after a long first inning for both sides.
The Firebirds grabbed that advantage on the scoreboard and ran with it. Running Huff out of the game after just 1.1 innings pitched and eventually defeating the Whitecaps 6-3 from Eldredge Park.
“We didn’t have much of a chance,” Whitecaps head coach Jamie Shevchik said. “Our starting pitcher didn’t give us a whole lot to work with at the beginning. But to his credit, he hasn’t pitched against live hitters in awhile.”
Brewster’s most recent pitching addition walked four batters, hit three batters with pitches and gave up four earned runs despite allowing just two hits in his short-lived start.
And although it was short-lived stint from a game length perspective, Huffs deliberate approach and high walk total allowed the affair in Orleans to grind down to a near standstill.
When the third inning concluded, the game had already lasted about an hour and 30 minutes. In comparison, the next six innings were just under an hour and a half.
But why the sea change in game pace? A couple things.
One, the Whitecaps offense went silent after the third frame, recording just two hits and striking out eight times in six innings off of Orleans left hander Isaac Esqueda (USC).
Esqueda pitched all six innings in relief for the Firebirds and only ran into trouble once in the seventh inning.
“We had opportunities to score runs but couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Shevchik said. “Our pitchers have got to do a better job of, when we score runs, of going out there and getting us a shutout inning.”
Two, Brewster’s bullpen was quite solid on the night despite having to be called upon in the second inning. Reliever Stevie Emmanuels (Washington) had a tough third inning, but escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second and eventually settled down to allow no runs in his last two frames.
Tyler Follis (Louisiana Tech) was then nearly unhittable in the following three frames after Emmanuels.
Even at .500, the Whitecaps are in last place in the Eastern Division with 23 points at about the half way mark on the regular season.
Granted, they’ve played two less games than the Harwich Mariners, who are ahead in the standings despite having more losses than wins, but the Mariners have played excellent baseball as of late after winning their last two games.
So, if Brewster wants a good shot at making the postseason for the third consecutive year, snatching winnable games against an Eastern divisional foe like Orleans will need to become more of a necessity and less of a bonus.
The Whitecaps head back home on Wednesday evening as they take on Y-D. First pitch from Stony Brook Field will be at 5 p.m.