Smooth sailing for Whitecaps over Hyannis
By RUSS CHARPENTIER
HYANNIS - Forgive Brewsterites if all they saw Sunday was bright sunshine. First-ever championships easily camouflage dark clouds and drizzle.
The Brewster Whitecaps garnered their first Cape Cod Baseball League championship yesterday, knocking off Hyannis, 6-2, to complete a two-game finals sweep before an estimated crowd of more than 2,000 hardy fans at McKeon Field.
"This is awesome," said Brewster left fielder Jack Headley of Santa Clara, named the playoff MVP after going 5-for-18 with four RBIs and a game-saving catch in Game 1. "I've been told this is the tightest-knit group they've had in Brewster. Everybody wanted to play and win. The trademark of this team is that it played hard. We're all homesick, but nobody wanted to go home."
Brewster starter Mike Wodnicki did his part for the Whitecaps yesterday, pitching in with seven solid innings to help pave the way to a 6-2, title-clinching victory over Hyannis. Wodnicki scattered five hits with seven strikeouts and only two walks.
(Photo by CARRIE NILAND)
There will be few arguments with that sentiment after the Whitecaps' 4-1 playoff run, in which they eliminated Chatham in three games in the semifinals before sweeping Hyannis.
Brewster pitchers had thrown 25¤ consecutive scoreless innings before Hyannis finally got on the board yesterday by scoring two runs in the sixth inning. But by then, Brewster already had its six-spot up in bright lights.
"Our pitching peaked at the right time," Brewster acting manager Pat Shine said. "They just kept getting better and better."
Shine was the Whitecaps pitching coach before manager Dave Lawn left with a week to go in the regular season to take a coaching job at the University of Southern California. Brewster never missed a beat.
"To be honest, they were running on auto pilot," Shine said of his players. "Dave Lawn set the foundation for us. When he took off, it was a little different addressing the team as head coach. But the kids knew what to do."
Win a championship.
Stanford's Mike Wodnicki worked seven strong innings for Brewster to get the win. He threw only 95 pitches, giving up five hits while striking out seven and walking two.
"I could relax better knowing it wasn't the deciding (third) game," said Wodnicki, who also pitched in the College World Series. "We didn't win at the Series. It was nice to come here and win one."
Wodnicki was handed an early lead as the Whitecaps scored thrice in the second, twice in the third and once in the fourth.
Left-handed swinging Paul O'Toole, normally a catcher but who played left field, dropped down a bunt to start the second frame, then swiped second base.
"I figured it was lefty against lefty (Hyannis starter Matt Coenen) and he's tough," said O'Toole. "That's a situation where it's prime for me to bunt. I laid it down and the guys after me kept it going."
Coenen, out of Charleston Southern, was 5-0 in the regular season. But he wasn't sharp yesterday and issued a pair of walks after O'Toole's bunt. Anthony Lunetta of USC followed with his first playoff hit, a ground single to left bringing in two runs. A double-play grounder by Mike Rouse brought in the third run.
O'Toole, the catcher at Notre Dame, got into the act again, singling in a pair of runs in the fourth for a 5-0 lead. He was 6-for-20 with four RBIs in the playoffs.
"It seems come playoff time at school or in the summer I raise it to the next level," he said. "You have to, because everyone else is at that level."
Headley's sacrifice fly upped the count to 6-0 in the fourth.
Hyannis relievers Greg Conden and Jake Carney blanked Brewster from there on, but it was too late.
The Mets finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth. Brendan Harris (5-for-12 in the playoffs) doubled off the left-field fence to score Jamie Athas (bunt single). Harris eventually scored on a passed ball.
George Carralejo pitched the eighth for Brewster and Mike Sullie set the Mets down in the ninth to put the finishing touches on Brewster's championship and the 2000 season.
Stanley, O'Toole and Lunetta all had two hits for Brewster. Harris, Jon Henry Kail and Dan Kantrovitz all had two hits for Hyannis.
"This is quite an experience," said Notre Dame's Stanley (6-for-20 in the playoffs), the league's batting champion in the regular season in his second year with Brewster. "I felt if we got the lead early, having already won one game, it would take the heart out of the oppnent. Then we'd let our pitchers do the rest."
Hyannis manager Tom O'Connell, who guided his team all the way back from a 1-8 start to the championship series, was humble at season's end.
"When guys started trickling in, we started to put it together. We got to .500. It took a long time, but when we did we found ourselves in second. So we said let's go and get to the playoffs. We had a lot of upheavals, kids injured, leaving for school or personal reasons. We had kids out of position. But it was a great group. I've been coaching 40 years and I'm very appreciative of the job they did."
When it all ended, Brewster's Shine had his Gatorade bath and a new outlook on summer ball.
"It feels like a championship," he said. "But traveling the journey is what you enjoy. From Day 1, putting together a team, getting the kids in, establishing a work ethic. Winning a championship is what these kids work for. It's what motivates them."
He could say that yesterday. Nine other Cape League towns were under thick clouds. Brewster bathed in the glow of its first championship.