Whitecaps get rocked by hot Firebirds offense, drop third straight

Mason White (Arizona) was the lone bright spot for the Whitecaps after a 13-2 loss, smacking a solo home run in the fourth inning. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

by Eamonn Ryan

ORLEANS—As Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik and Orleans manager Kelly Nicholson shook hands before the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday evening, the Brewster dugout was silent.

It was a cold, dreary night with mist and wind swirling throughout Eldredge Park, and the Whitecaps’ performance proved eerily similar to the less-than-ideal conditions.

The handshake confirmed the ugliest loss of Brewster’s 2023 season to date, a 13-2 drubbing of the Whitecaps (4-5-2) by the Firebirds (5-6-0). The quarter-mark of the 44-game season was marred by errors, an inability to defend infield hits and continued offensive woes, resulting in Brewster’s third straight loss.

“It was rough, obviously,” said Whitecaps assistant coach Scott Grimes. “We’ve been battling the past couple days, trying to sort a lot of stuff out. It’s still just not consistent on all sides of the ball.”

The first batter of the game, Whitecaps center fielder James Tibbs (Florida State), started with a lined single to center, but the Whitecaps went in order after that. And then things got significantly worse.

Firebirds second baseman Jo Oyama (UC Irvine) got on via an infield single, then advanced on a passed ball to second before scoring off a double by teammate Andy Blake (Columbia) to put Orleans up 1-0. 

The Whitecaps surrendered two more in the bottom of the second off just one hit allowed by starter Brennan Phillips (Oklahoma State), but three errors in the inning gave Orleans an early three-run lead over the Whitecaps.

Brewster started the comeback in the fourth, as Brock Tibbitts (Indiana) singled to open the inning and advanced to second after Jaime Ferrer (Florida State) was hit by a pitch. Then the Whitecaps had some luck go their way after a throwing error allowed newcomer Trevor Werner (Texas A&M) to reach first and Tibbitts to score, cutting it to a 3-1 deficit.

It looked like the Whitecaps might return to their early successes of coming back in games as designated hitter Mason White (Arizona) barreled a ball over the right-field fence for his first home run of the season in the fifth, making it a 3-2 ballgame.

Throughout White’s first four appearances, he had faced plenty of lefties. Hailing from the left side of the plate, he hadn’t hit for power until Thursday night’s blast.

“To get [White] against a righty, he was a little more comfortable in there and it was a good swing out of him,” Grimes said. “Getting him feeling comfortable is a big deal…seeing him make a pretty good swing on the ball is a good thing. Especially in a count that he’s behind in.”

There was a small glimmer of hope after White’s solo shot in the fifth, but the Firebirds gained momentum over the next two innings, erasing any shot at a comeback for the Whitecaps. 

Orleans extended their lead to 5-2 off lefty Andrew Sentlinger (Virginia Tech), and then continued their barrage in the sixth, amassing eight runs off eight hits, with the most damaging being a three-run blast by designated hitter Eddie Michelletti Jr. (George Washington).

After the top of the seventh, the umpires called the game due to rain, giving Orleans the win over Brewster for the second-straight night in seven innings.

When it was all said and done, the Firebirds pummeled the Whitecaps for 19 hits in just six innings at the plate, and four errors from Brewster didn’t help after mustering just three of its own.

“We’re on a downslope a little bit right now, started off well but we’re on a downward slope,” Grimes said. “We got to figure out a way to crawl back out of it, but this was a tough one.”

After losing both games of a back-to-back to the Firebirds, Brewster returns home to Stony Brook Field Friday evening as they honor first responders and the military on Red Shirt Friday. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox come into town with first pitch at 5 p.m.

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