By: Aodhán Doyle
BREWSTER, MA- A night after allowing three runs in the first two innings, a deficit that proved insurmountable, it appeared the Brewster Whitecaps were headed down the same path.
Facing elimination in game two of the Eastern Division Championship Series, Brewster fell into an early 2-0 hole against the Orleans Firebirds.
This time, however, the tables turned, Brewster’s offense exploded, scoring eight runs on twelve hits and the Whitecaps forced a decisive game three with an 8-3 victory at Stony Brook Field on Wednesday.
“I think it’s just all the time we spend together,” said Julian Infante (Vanderbilt) about the team’s ability to succeed in the face of adversity. “We have fun together and we don’t want to go home and not hang out with each other.”
After allowing a run in both the top of the first and second innings, Brewster tied the game at two with one swing of the bat.
Infante, who was 0-3 with three strikeouts in the playoffs entering Wednesday’s contest, launched a two-out, two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the second, scoring Darius Hill (West Virginia), who had reached in the previous at-bat with a two-out double.
“It was just like every other at-bat,” Infante said. “Just trust yourself, trust your training, trust your own talent because if you don’t trust yourself, nobody else will.”
The Whitecaps tacked on another run in the third and their fourth in the fourth on two solo home runs to right field, one by Nick Dunn (Maryland) and the other off the bat of Chandler Taylor (Alabama).
“It was awesome,” Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik said about seeing Infante and Taylor homer. “If they’re going to get it going right now, now’s the time to do it. It was good to see Julian kind of get off the slide a little bit and the same thing with Chandler. If we’re going to make a run through tomorrow and into the next round, we’re going to need those guys to help us score runs.”
Entering the seventh inning leading 4-3, Brewster put the game out of reach with a three-run frame.
Kyle Datres (UNC) lined an RBI-single to center, scoring Mickey Gasper (Bryant), bringing the score to 5-3.
“We were only going to be as good as guys like Mickey [Gasper] and guys like Nick Dunn,” said Shevchik. “Everybody else contributes, but let those guys lead, and that’s what they’ve been doing. They’ve been leading, for the most part, all year.”
Then, after throwing a wild pitch that scored Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) for ball three, Orleans intentionally walked Hill to get to Infante.
While the Commodore didn’t put a ball over the fence, he did bring home his third run of the game with a bases loaded walk.
“Just staying consistent, nothing really changes,” said Infante about the difference between Wednesday and games he struggled in. “Just staying positive and if you’re not positive about yourself, then nobody is. Nothing really changed.”
Just for good measure, Brewster tacked on their eighth run in the bottom of the eighth when Marty Costes (Maryland) brought home Gasper, who led the inning off with a triple to right-center.
After falling behind 2-0, Brewster’s bullpen took over in the top of the third and was outstanding.
Joe DeMers (Washington) and Ryan Cyr (Kansas) combined for six innings of relief, allowing just three hits and one unearned run, while striking out four.
“The fastball was huge today and I found my slider, so I was throwing that well,” DeMers said. “I was just filling up the zone again, as usual, and working off the fastball today.”
“He came in at the right time and he held those guys,” said Shevchik about DeMers. “If you look at the first two innings yesterday and the first two innings today, we didn’t miss a whole lot of barrels when we were throwing baseballs. For a guy like Joe to come in and give us those three solid innings, it shut down their momentum and it allowed us to breathe a little bit and get the momentum back on our side.”
In a game that could have gotten out of reach if Orleans continued to produce like the first two innings, the bullpen’s performance was vital to a Brewster win.
“We just love playing baseball,” said DeMers. “Nothing better than playoff baseball, so this is where we shine and we’ve been doing well.”
Troy Miller (Michigan) picked up a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning to close out the game.
The Brewster pitching staff was able to hold Orleans’ one through four hitters, which consisted of three CCBL all-stars and the CCBL Home Run Derby champion, just 1-16 in the game.
“Just no free bases, really attacking the zone, going after hitters, and make them earn their runs,” DeMers said about the staff’s approach to Orleans’ dangerous lineup.
Orleans got out to the early 2-0 lead courtesy of an Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt) home run to right in the first and a Jeff Houghtby (San Diego) RBI-single in the second.
Brewster starter Bradley Spooner (Saddleback CC) lasted just two innings, allowing two runs on three hits and walking two.
The Firebirds didn’t receive much help from their pitching staff, however.
Joey Murray (Kent State) got the start for Kelly Nicholson’s squad and lasted just three and one-third innings, allowing four runs on seven hits.
Murray was relieved by J.T. Hintzen (Florida Southern), who was better than his predecessor, but still walked two and allowed a run in two and two-thirds.
After Hintzen walked Gasper to start the bottom of the seventh, Nicholson turned to Parker Kelly (Oregon), whom Brewster found their most success against.
The right-hander recorded just one out before being removed and allowed two runs on two hits and two walks.
Chandler Day (Vanderbilt) was the final arm for Orleans, allowing a run of his own in an inning and two-thirds.
If there was a downside to the game for the Whitecaps, it had to be their defense. For the second consecutive game, the Whitecaps committed three errors.
Brewster now looks to match their incredible first round comeback again in the second round. The Whitecaps dropped game one to the Y-D Red Sox before winning games two and three to advance to the East Championship. Now, after winning game two, Brewster finds themselves in the exact same scenario, going on the road to try and win a decisive third game.
“Just the same thing,” said Infante. “Stay consistent, trust each other, have fun, and it’s just another ballpark, just another game, and spend more time with each other.”
“Just keep the same mentality,” Shevchik said. “The pressure, again, is on them. They’re supposed to win, they’re the one seed and we’re the three seed. So, the pressure is on them. If we go out there and just continue to play baseball, do the little things right, put guys in scoring position, the same things we’ve been trying to do all year long, who knows, we might be playing a couple more games here.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The series will be decided on Thursday in a do-or-die game three at Eldredge Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the winner facing the Bourne Braves in the Cape League Championship.