By: Aodhán Doyle
BOURNE, MA- In a seesaw battle that featured the twists and turns of a rural country road and the back-and-forth blows of a heavyweight boxing bout, the Brewster Whitecaps emerged victorious 7-6 over the Bourne Braves at Doran Park on Friday.
With a playoff berth already clinched, Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik penciled-in a new-look lineup, featuring primarily players who have been used as role players coming off the bench thus far this season.
“At this point, it’s just staying loose and playing comfortable,” Shevchik said after the game. “Hopefully when we get into the playoffs, we’re on our way up and we’re playing our best baseball. The more guys we can get to play our best baseball, the better we’re going to be.”
What happened next was surprising to some, satisfying to others, and exciting to all. The lineup produced, and produced a lot, battling with a Braves (20-18) team that entered the game in first place in the Western Division.
Eight of the nine Brewster (18-19-2) starters had a hit, with six recording multi-hit games.
“It was good. It was good to get them reps, get them at-bats in a game, and it was good to see them do well,” said Brewster second baseman Nick Dunn (Maryland) about the new lineup.
“I’m glad to see guys like Devin Foyle, [Darius] Hill, and Molfetta be really comfortable today,” Shevchik said. “That says we can rely on those guys in the playoffs. You always have an idea what you think you think your best lineup is going to be and that’s never the case. A lot of it depends on who’s hot at the right time. If one or a handful of these guys can emerge as locked-in heading into the playoffs, that’d be big for us.”
The biggest hit of the game, however, came off the bat of Dunn, whose eighth inning RBI-single to center scored Darius Hill (West Virginia) and gave Brewster the one-run edge.
“With two outs, I just tried to wait for a pitch I could put in play hard,” said Dunn.
Dunn finished the day 3-4 with a walk, a run, and a stolen base, extending his hitting streak to fourteen games, the longest active streak in the league, and raising his season average to .336.
After jumping out to an early 1-0 lead, a four-run inning for the Braves in the bottom half of the third put the Whitecaps in a 4-1 hole.
However, Brewster responded, swinging the momentum back in the favor of the Whitecaps.
After a Marty Costes (Maryland) single loaded the bases with nobody out, Justin Kunz (Gardner-Webb) grounded into a double play, scoring Connor Smith (Western Michigan) and cutting the Brewster deficit to two.
Then, Christian Molfetta (Stanford) delivered a clutch two-out single, bringing home Chandler Taylor (Alabama) to make it a one-run game.
Just one night after his two-run home run the Whitecaps a lead in Wareham, Taylor launched another go-ahead home run to left field in the top of the seventh inning.
“Those two guys have been amazing,” Shevchik said about Dunn and Taylor. “Guys get on base and they drive them in, they get on base themselves. You put Mickey [Gasper] in that mix and the reason we are at where we are right now is because of those guys.”
Taylor’s three-run bomb put Brewster on top 6-4 and gave Taylor his league-leading ninth long ball of the season. However, unlike the previous night, it was not a lead that Brewster held.
Keeping with the theme of proportionate responses, Bourne tied the game in the bottom of the frame off Brewster reliever Jonathan Stiever (Indiana).
Andy Atwood (Oregon State) led the inning off with a home run to left, and after a miscommunication in the Brewster outfield allowed a routine fly ball to drop in for a double, Lyle Lin (Arizona State) singled to right to knot the game at six.
Dunn’s two-out run scoring single gave Brewster the final edge in the top of the eighth, however, ending the constantly teetering lead changes for good.
Bradley Spooner (Saddleback CC) took the start for the Whitecaps in a game where Shevchik desperately needed his starter to provide length, coming off a game in Wareham in which Brewster used six different pitchers.
Spooner fit the bill perfectly, providing six innings of sufficient work on the mound with the only blip coming in the second, where Bourne scored all four of their runs off the Brewster righty.
The right-hander finished his outing after six innings, allowing seven hits and six runs, while walking three and striking out none. However, in a game where the Whitecaps’ offense knocked the ball around to the tune of fifteen hits, Spooner’s ability to bounce back from the four-run second and provide length was invaluable.
Stiever came on in relief in the seventh, allowing two runs, but pitched a scoreless eighth before closing the game out in the ninth.
Bourne nearly tied the game in the final frame, advancing the tying-run to third with just one out.
Shevchik brought the Brewster infield in and Stiever got Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) to ground out to second, holding the runner at third, before inducing a lineout to right field to end the game and pick up his third win of the summer.
Braves starting pitcher Bryan Hoeing (Louisville) lasted just four innings in his first Cape League start, surrendering six hits and three runs, while striking out four.
The Whitecaps did most of their damage off Chad Luensmann (Nebraska), who gave up four earned runs in two innings, taking the loss for Bourne and falling to 1-1 on the season.
All-in-all, the production from the Brewster lineup was evident. Taylor finished the day 2-4 with two runs scored and three runs batted-in, while Costes raised his season average to .266 with a 3-4 day.
“We’re just trying to find the guys that are dialed in,” Shevchik said. “When we get to the playoffs, we’re going to pinch-hit guys off the bench and make defensive substitutions so I want to make sure that the guys we rely on off the bench have enough confidence and enough at-bats that they’re going to be able to help us out.”
Hill went 2-4 with a run scored, while Zack Gahagan (UNC) finished 2-4, and Foyle (Kansas) went 1-3 with a double to right.
WHAT’S NEXT: After two games on the road, the Whitecaps return home to Stony Brook Field on Saturday for game one of a home-and-home series against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.