Fifty-three

It took 53 games for the Brewster Whitecaps to win the Cape Cod Baseball League championship. They played 44 regular season games and the maximum nine in the playoffs, with three-game sets in each round. Since the playoffs expanded to three rounds, no team had gone to three games in each series. And since the playoffs were shorter in the past, the Whitecaps played more games than any team in Cape League history.

That’s fitting for this group.

They were determined to stick around until the finish line.

A few weeks ago, after Brewster scored a late-season win over Orleans, manager Jamie Shevchik told the Cape Cod Times, “They’re playing their best baseball right now towards the end of the year. There’s been a lot of guys that I think were here for the wrong reasons that are no longer with us – guys that were on innings limits or whatever it is. What you’re left with is now guys that want to win championships.”

A Cape League playoff run is often marked by that desire more than anything else. When every team is fairly similar in talent level – and in the tugs of home at the end of a long summer – embracing the goal of winning a title is more than half the battle. Then if you play good baseball and get a little lucky, good things can happen.

The roots for Brewster’s run came in that win over Orleans Aug. 1 and a win the day before over Y-D. The Whitecaps would carry a fresh memory of beating the best teams in the league into the playoffs, to go with a four-game win streak and a steady lineup that had a lot of hot hitters.

Brewster matched up with those two top teams in the East Division playoffs. The Red Sox – with playoff magic in the franchise’s DNA – stunned Brewster in game one of the East semis with a five-run ninth inning rally. That would surely be it for the Whitecaps, you figured. Y-D would be on a roll again.

But Brewster won the next game 6-1 then held off the magic for an 8-7 win in game three.

Against Orleans, the Whitecaps dropped the opener. That would be it, you figured. The Firebirds had the league’s best pitching staff, offense and defense, and they were ready to roll.

But Brewster stayed alive with an 8-3 win then won the decisive third game 2-1.

In the championship series, Brewster edged Bourne 5-4 in the opener. The Braves came back with a vengeance in game two, rallying from an early hole with an emphatic eight-run inning and winning 13-7. That would be . . . well, you get the point.

It wasn’t.

The wind was knocked out of their sails in that game two – the Whitecaps didn’t register a hit after Bourne’s big innings – but game 53 had arrived. Brewster just needed nine more innings of fight.

William Tribucher (Michigan) took the ball for the decisive game, just three days after saving the clinching win over Orleans and seven days after earning the win in game two against Y-D. He played the role of postseason hero perfectly again, tossing 6.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts. For the postseason, he had a 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings. Every appearance was in a must-win game.

Brewster’s offense backed him in typical postseason fashion. Marty Costes (Maryland) delivered a sacrifice fly for his seventh RBI of the playoffs and Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) hit his third home run in nine postseason games on a sixth-inning blast that made it 2-0.

Tribucher and reliever Joe DeMers (Washington) got into trouble in the seventh. The Braves – a team that had its own share of playoff momentum – loaded the bases with two outs. Lyle Lin (Arizona State) hit a fly ball to deep left field. Costes made a diving catch to end the inning. If the ball had dropped, Bourne likely would have taken the lead.

With that scare averted, Troy Miller (Michigan) set out to preserve the lead for his college teammate and worked through the red-hot middle of the order for a scoreless eighth, with a double play helping the cause. In the ninth, the Braves notched a leadoff single, but Miller induced another double play, this one off the bat of Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville), Bourne’s hottest playoff hitter. A ground ball to shortstop followed and two-year Brewster mainstay A.J. Graffanino (Washington) fielded it and threw to first for the final out.

The Whitecaps celebrated like you’d expect for a team that battled through 53 games. Fans savored the franchise’s first title since 2000.

Bishop and Nick Dunn shared playoff MVP honors, but it could have gone to any number of games. Tribucher saved a taxed pitching staff. Costes and Kyle Datres (North Carolina) each hit two home runs in the postseason. Mickey Gasper (Bryant) had six RBI. Three relievers didn’t allow a run in the playoffs.

My guess is it didn’t matter much to them.

As they packed their bags for a quick departure – the season went long, after all – the Whitecaps took to social media.

Dispatches from a group of guys who really wanted a championship, just like their manager suspected a few weeks ago.

They played 53 games and didn’t stop until they had it.

RELATED POSTS

One Comment

  1. Orville from Orleans says:

    Congrats to Head Coach Shevchik and his never-say-die Whitecaps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*