By: Aodhán Doyle
ORLEANS, MA- All season long, Brewster Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik has preached the importance of striking first and setting the tone early to his team.
On Tuesday night in game one of the Eastern Division Championship Series, Shevchik’s words came to fruition…for the Orleans Firebirds.
Three of the first four Firebird batters in the bottom of the first inning singled and the one that didn’t, Stephen Scott (Vanderbilt), put Orleans on top 1-0 with a sacrifice fly to left.
Orleans tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice bunt and a Brewster error, the first of three the Whitecaps committed in the eventual 4-1 loss.
The Firebirds were held in check for the remainder of the game, but the early support was more than enough for a dominating Orleans pitching staff.
The trio of Brett Daniels (UNC), Cody Deason (Arizona), and Josh Hiatt (UNC) held the Whitecaps to just one run on four hits, while striking out 14.
“This is game forty-seven or whatever the heck it is,” said Shevchik. “At this point, they have to will themselves into staying for handful more days. If they do that, the hits are going to come.”
Daniels got the start, despite ten of his 13 regular season appearances coming out of the bullpen, and showed the 3,033 fans in attendance why Firebirds manager Kelly Nicholson had so much confidence in his six-foot tall right-hander.
The Tar Heel spun six innings of three-hit ball, allowing just one run, and striking out eight on a mere 70 pitches.
Deason was just as untouchable, allowing just one hit in two innings and striking out five.
The only blip in the Firebirds box score came in third inning when Whitecaps center fielder Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) homered to left field, cutting the Orleans lead to 3-1.
The Whitecaps’ pitching, on the other hand, was more of a mixed bag.
Jonathan Stiever (Indiana) got the start for Brewster and surrendered seven hits and three runs (two earned) in just two innings.
Shane McDonald (Southern New Hampshire), however, made his Brewster debut and seized his playoffs moment.
After playing in the Hamptons League on Long Island, McDonald signed with Brewster and joined the team before the regular season finale against Harwich.
“It’s been kind of crazy, honestly,” McDonald said about his journey. “I didn’t really expect this to ever happen. I was just playing in the Hamptons League to get innings and I wound up doing pretty well. They gave me the call to come here and I just took the opportunity and I ran with it.”
“I actually had not thrown to Mickey [Gasper] at all until I got in the game, so we were adjusting to each other on the fly, but he did a great job back there. In terms of the team, it’s always a little awkward being the new guy, but all these guys are great guys and I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”
The southpaw went six innings for Brewster and allowed just one run on four hits, while striking out five.
“I felt good out there today, I was locating my fastball well,” said McDonald. “I thought I had good run on it and they were pounding a lot of balls into the ground. In the later innings, I started to get a better feel for my breaking ball and that helped me the second time through the order.”
“I give credit to Shane today,” said Shevchik. “The way he threw, if we knew we had that before the game started, the kid would have started today, and that’s the downside of getting kids in here late when you have no idea what they can do…If we knew he was like that, we would have started him today and it’s probably a different game if we do.”
The Whitecaps now face elimination in game two and must win to keep their season alive.
“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time,” McDonald said. “They haven’t done anything yet, they didn’t win the series yet. That’s what coach was just saying. We’ve got to come back out and stick to our game plan, hopefully take tomorrow’s game and push it to three.”
Brewster has been in this situation before, however. In round one of the playoffs, the Whitecaps lost game one on the road to the Red Sox before coming back to win the next two and advance.
“The pressure is on them, not us,” Shevchik said. “If you get up 1-0, you tend to drop your guard and just like we saw with Y-D, when they got to our field, they were a little too loose. You never know what’s going to happen. We’re used to this and if we win tomorrow, anybody wins the next day.”
WHAT’S NEXT: For the second time in four days, the Whitecaps return home to Stony Brook Field down 0-1 and facing elimination. First pitch between Brewster and Orleans is scheduled for 4 p.m.