Jared Jones (LSU) blasting a solo home run in the fourth inning of the ballgame. Jones was 2-for-4 on the night with 3 RBI. Photo credit: Sadie Parker
By Mark Rappaport
ORLEANS––Matchups between the two rivals have not been kind to the Brewster Whitecaps, as they lost every regular season contest to the Firebirds in 2023, though they have been entertaining.
From a phantom blast to two ejections and multiple nail-biters, there have been no shortage of oddities and the ultimate matchup was no exception.
The Brewster Whitecaps (15-23-2) lost 10-6 Saturday evening to the Firebirds (21-19), their sixth loss against Orleans in six tries this season.
The Whitecaps outhit the Firebirds 12 hits to nine but left 13 runners on the basepaths. Brewster did score six runs, though it was not enough as their pitching staff faltered, walking seven and punching out just three batters.
Brewster’s fate was set early on as the Firebirds got their runs in two four-run bunches, one in the first and another in the third.
“The difference was our pitching. Can’t walk seven guys, hit two and expect to win a baseball game,” Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik said. “It sucks the life out of you, takes the wind out of your sails, and it’s hard to compete.”
Brewster took the lead in the top of the first as Josh Pearson (LSU) launched a no-doubt, 402-foot solo blast to give the Whitecaps an early 1-0 lead at Eldredge Park.
The good fortunes did not last long, however, as Orleans responded with force in the bottom of the frame off Brewster southpaw Brendan Lysik (Texas Tech).
Jo Oyama (California Irvine) and Justin Rubin (Virginia) singled to lead off the frame, which gave way to Jack Penney (Notre Dame), who knocked Oyama in with an RBI single, tying the game at one apiece.
Then, Matt Halbach (San Diego) launched a decisive three-run blast to give Orleans a 4-1 lead, dampening the Whitecaps’ spirits early on, just one night removed from a 21-5 stinker in Harwich.
After a scoreless second inning, the Whitecaps threatened in the third but failed to muster a rally, which became a consistent theme Saturday evening.
Hunter D’Amato (Fairleigh Dickinson) led off with a double and scored off an RBI groundout by Michael Robinson (Florida). Firebirds Sam Hliboki (Vanderbilt) proceeded to load the bases with one out but limited the damage as Brock Tibbitts (Indiana) hit into an inning-ending double play.
It only got worse for Shevchik’s Whitecaps as Orleans torched Lysik and Brennen Oxford (Florida State) in the bottom of the frame. The pair gave up four runs off two hits, four walks, and a hit-by-pitch, which extended the Firebirds’ lead to 8-2.
In the fourth, Jared Jones (LSU) got Brewster one run closer with a 355-foot shot to left, but the home run was outshined as the Whitecaps left two runners on in the frame and three more with the bases loaded in the fifth.
Then, Halbach struck again in the sixth for his second homer of the night, a two-run blast, which extended Orleans’ advantage to 10-3.
Oxford gave Shevchik length and pitched 4.2 innings but could not stop the bleeding when it was needed most in the third.
Center fielder Michael Robinson (Florida) making a routine play at Eldredge Park. Photo credit: Sadie Parker
In the eighth, Brewster got the bats going and scored three runs. Davis Diaz (Vanderbilt) launched a blast for his second home run of the season, and Jones knocked a two-RBI single, but when all was said and done, the Whitecaps were four runs short of the Firebirds.
Jones was a bright spot on a difficult evening for the Whitecaps. The first baseman from the 2023 national champion LSU Tigers was 2-for-4 on the evening with a home run, a walk and three RBI, representing half of Brewster’s runs.
“Feeling good. Definitely more confident today,” Jones said. “I was just trying to put a barrel on a ball and I’m not trying to do too much. Just kind of worked out for me, swinging easy and swinging loose.”
Brewster clinched a playoff spot despite the loss after Chatham’s 9-7 loss to the Bourne Braves at Veterans Field. The Whitecaps can now step back and relax in the final four games of the regular season, ahead of the playoffs, which begin Friday afternoon.
After back-to-back away games in Harwich and Orleans, the Whitecaps head home for a matchup with the first-place Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Stony Brook Field.