Whitecaps can’t recover from phantom foul ball, Clark’s pitching in loss at Orleans

Carson Swilling (South Alabama) looked like a new pitcher Monday evening, shaking off the rust and going 5.1 innings, but it wasn’t enough in the Whitecaps’ fifth loss to Orleans this summer. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

by Eamonn Ryan 

ORLEANS—The Brewster Whitecaps and Orleans Firebirds played nine full innings Monday night. 

Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik was only around for seven of them.

In the bottom of the seventh of a one-run game, the Whitecaps trailed and Rocco Reid (Clemson) had walked one batter. Firebirds right fielder Colin Tuft (Virginia) laid down a bunt and in a flash, Whitecaps catcher Dylan Leach (Missouri State) popped up, picked up the ball and fired a dart to second base for the first out.

It was no meat-and-potatoes play for the catcher, and what happened next was certainly not ordinary. Firebirds manager Kelly Nicholson exited his dugout and demanded the umpires caucus on the possibility of a foul ball.

After a lengthy meeting, home plate umpire John Budka agreed with Nicholson and called the bunt attempt a foul ball.

Shevchik, who had been the victim of a similar call on a ground-rule-double turned home run in the Whitecaps’ first matchup with Orleans back on June 21, stormed out of the dugout with smoke coming out of his ears.

After jawing with umpires, Shevchik was dramatically thrown out of the game with a pointed finger from the first base umpire signaling the end of the manager’s evening and the dynamic of a close game was suddenly and drastically shifted as the Whitecaps (11-18-2) fell 4-1 to the Firebirds (15-14-0).

“Not saying the game was won and lost by a single call by any stretch,” acting manager and assistant coach Scott Grimes said. “But you don’t want [the umpires] to be the focal point of the game, let’s put it that way.”

The Whitecaps were in favor of Shevchik’s animated discussion.

“It just shows that [Shevchik] cares for us. He’s willing to fight for us,” starting pitcher Carson Swilling (South Alabama) said. “And any player that sees that knows that the coach has your back and knowing that, it makes you want to play more.”

Swilling certainly did his part before the ejection, as he delivered his best outing this season. He went 5.1 innings, allowing just two runs on three hits, alongside just three strikeouts..

“I know I’ve been kind of rusty since I’ve been here. And then after that last outing, I told [Shevchik]—I was like, ‘Hey, I feel like it’s about to click,”’ Swilling said. “Stuff out of the hand was down, everything was tunneling well and that’s how it went for me tonight.”

The only problem with Swilling’s performance? Derek Clark’s was better.

Clark (West Virginia) dazzled in an absurd seven innings of work, keeping the Whitecaps order off-balance and punching out six hitters while allowing just a single run.

After the Firebirds manufactured a run in the bottom of the third off a Justin Rubin fielder’s choice, Brock Tibbitts (Indiana) struck back in the top of the fourth with a much easier way to score a run—by launching a 311-foot home run just left of the light tower in left field to tie the game 1-1.

Tibbitts (right) celebrates his first home run this summer with James Tibbs (Florida State). Tibbitts was selected as an All-Star in the upcoming Cape League All Star Game. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

That was Clark’s one mistake that hurt him, but the lefty allowed plenty of loud contact early in his at-bats. With one out in the top of the fourth, Leach roped a pitch 371 feet into left-center field. 

If the Whitecaps were playing at Red Wilson Field in Yarmouth, Leach could have given his team a 2-1 lead, but with the 434-foot fence in center field at Eldredge Park, it was simply out number two.

“That’s just baseball,” Grimes said. “You’re just trying to hit the ball hard the whole time and…after you hit it you can’t control what happens after that.”

Brewster’s offense could not muster another run, especially after Firebirds closer Sean Matson (Harvard) entered for a six-out save. He struck out three and allowed just one hit from James Tibbs (Florida State), who smoked three singles in a 3-for-4 day.

After Swilling exited, Rocco Reid (Clemson) relieved him and only pitched 1.2 innings, giving up a run on three hits and a walk. Brendan Lysik (Oklahoma State) followed and punched out two hitters to start and end the eighth inning, but also gave up a run after hitting a batter, spiking a wild pitch and a pitch that was smoked into left field for an RBI single by Drew Faurot (Florida State).

Despite the loss—which makes the Whitecaps 0-5 against the Firebirds this season—the Whitecaps pitching staff kept them in the game, but a lot of the hard-hit balls the offense produced found Orleans’ gloves.

“I think we’re starting to put it together. And I think we got something brewing over here,” Swilling said, “Even though we came up short tonight. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Tuesday night, fire up the school bus for a third straight East division road game in this leg of the Whitecaps’ marathon as they travel to Yarmouth-Dennis for a matchup with the Red Sox at 4:45 p.m. at Red Wilson Field.

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