By: Koki Riley
HYANNIS, MA - After forcing a tie against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks on Friday night, the Brewster Whitecaps dropped game two of the home-and-home series at McKeon Park by a score of 2-1 on Sunday night.
The Whitecaps’ (15-18-2) offense had trouble driving in runs against Hyannis (12-20-3) pitching as Brewster only scratched across six hits all game.
“Big ballpark, wind blowing in, too many flyballs,” said Whitecaps bench coach Tommy Weber. “We needed to put the ball in play more effectively, maybe on the ground or on a line. We hit a lot of flyballs today and the ball wasn’t going to go anywhere so we ended up one run short.”
Brewster did not score until the seventh inning, when a Julian Infante (Vanderbilt) sacrifice fly to right field allowed Nick Dunn (Maryland) to score from third base, tying the game at one.
With two outs and two men on, Connor Smith (Western Michigan) got a chance to give the Whitecaps the lead, but the Whitecaps’ third basemen struck out to end the top half of the inning.
In the bottom half, Hyannis’ first two batters reached, prompting a pitching change from Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik, who replaced Jonathan Stiever (Indiana) with Joe DeMers (Washington).
With two outs in the frame, however, Hyannis catcher, and pinch-hitter, Chris Proctor (Duke) lifted a fly ball down the left field line that just stayed fair before bouncing out of play for a ground-rule double, putting Hyannis back on top 2-1.
While the offense struggled, the Whitecaps’ pitching and defense was exceptional.
Stiever was thrown into the fire for Brewster, entering the game in the third inning trailing 1-0 after Brewster starter Ryan Avidano (Georgia) left the game with general soreness.
“It was kind of crazy, luckily it was pretty early so I had warmed up not too long before that, so it didn’t take me too long,” Stiever said about the circumstances. “As I was warming up, just already getting the mentality that I’m in the game and got to compete.”
Despite the adverse circumstances, Stiever performed admirably, allowing just one run on two hits in four innings of work while striking out two.
“Just trying to work more off the plate a little and mix speeds throughout my outing,” Stiever said. “Hopefully trying to induce some soft contact, which hopefully I did for the most part.”
“A lot of strikes,” Weber said about Stiever’s performance. “It’s the worst kept secret in the world, you’ve got to throw a lot of strikes. You throw a lot of strikes and you’ve got a shot. We played good defense, which was refreshing, but unfortunately we came out on the short side of it.”
Avidano continued his strong pitching for Brewster as the big southpaw surrendered only one a run in just 2.2 innings of work before exiting.
The run came in the first inning when Tyler Frank (Florida Atlantic) beat out the throw from second base on a potential double play, allowing Reece Hampton (Charlotte) to score from third and make it 1-0 Harbor Hawks.
The Whitecaps would not record a single error, snapping a six-game streak in which Brewster committed at least one error in every game.
“We just have put in a lot of time and effort,” Weber said about the team’s defense. “Everybody on this club is working real hard to remedy this problem we’ve had all year long and, basically, we told them just keep at it and eventually the tide will turn and hopefully it has.”
“Also, the rhythm of a pitcher like Stiever tonight, who just kept throwing a lot of strikes, keeps the defense on its toes and it’s easier to make plays.”
However, Hyannis matched Brewster’s defensive and pitching prowess with only one run allowed and only one error committed on the night.
The Harbor Hawks started Tyler Vaughn (Belmont) on the mound who, in his first appearance in the Cape League, did not allow a run on five hits and three strikeouts in five innings of work.
In relief of Vaughn for Hyannis was the trio of Ryan Weiss (Wright State), Christian Tripp (New Mexico), and Nick Sandlin (Southern Mississippi). The triad combined to allow only one run and one hit in four innings of work.
Avidano wasn’t the only Whitecap to leave the game with an injury as starting center fielder Steele Walker (Oklahoma) was removed with achilles soreness.
Walker lined out to the shortstop in his only at-bat in the top of the first inning.
With Harwich dropping their eighth game in a row against Orleans on Sunday night, the Whitecaps are now either three wins or three Harwich losses away from clinching a spot in the playoffs.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps head to Fenway Park in Boston for the league’s annual workout day in front of scouts. The team’s next game is Tuesday evening at Stony Brook Field against the Cotuit Kettleers. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.