|'Caps take opener
By ERIC MOSKOWITZ
PLEASANT LAKE - Jeff Bruksch pitched well for Hyannis yesterday, but after the Mets lost 2-0 in the Cape League championship series opener to the Brewster Whitecaps, he sounded like he could've been narrating the pitching equivalent of a driver's ed video.
"Walks kill," Bruksch said, shaking his head. "Any young pitcher anywhere can learn from that."
Brewster pitcher Ryan Olson lets one fly during game one of the championship series against Hyannis. (Staff photo by CARRIE NILAND)
That is what happened yesterday. Bruksch was near-perfect, taking a no-hitter into the fifth and allowing just three baserunners in the first six innings. But he walked the first two batters in the seventh and both went on to score, giving Brewster the only runs it would need.
As a Stanford sophomore this past spring, Bruksch tied the school record for saves with 13, closing for a Cardinal team that reached the College World Series final. But the 6-foot-4 righty has visions of being a college starter, and he hoped to convince the coaches back home with a successful summer.
And there's little doubt that he has. He arrived from the College World Series two weeks into the Cape season to find a last-place Mets squad that started 1-8, and he's played an integral role in the team's turnaround. He went 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA in the regular season as Hyannis made an improbable run into the playoffs. But he was often under careful pitch counts, averaging 6ª innings a start.
Without run support yesterday, he got burned in the seventh, when both Paul O'Toole and Josh Persell worked the count full before drawing walks to lead off. In a tooth-and-nail battle at Cape Tech, the fans may have expected a bunt from the next hitter, Brewster DH Todd Faulkner, but the Auburn slugger did more than just surprise the fans, he stunned Bruksch. Faulkner drilled the first pitch past the reach of Hyannis third baseman Mike Rabelo, bringing home a run.
Now, with runners once more on first and second and nobody out, Mailon Kent dropped down a textbook sacrifice bunt that Bruksch fielded cleanly. With no chance of getting Persell at third, he fired to first, where second baseman Dan Kantrovitz was covering. The utility infielder from Brown failed to come up with the throw, though, and the second run came home. On the next play, Kantrovitz made a stellar run-saving dive to stop Mike Rouse's grounder from going through to right, but for all intents and purposes the game was over.
"I'm very comfortable going deep in games. I've done it tons of times before," said Bruksch, shaking off notions that he should have departed after six. In fact, the L.A. native was an outstanding starter at Beverly Hills High School, earning First Team All-Ocean League honors. "Last week I threw eight innings and gave up more hits, but I didn't walk anyone and didn't give up a run. That's what killed me all summer - every time I had a couple of walks, those turned out to be the runs that scored."
Brewster's Ryan Olson, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound southpaw for whom the word lanky does not quite do justice, was as good as he needed to be to keep Hyannis off the board.
"He made clutch pitches, that was pretty much the key," said Brewster coach Pat Shine of his starter, who allowed five hits and four walks in eight scoreless innings. "With runners in scoring position, he located all his fastballs and was throwing offspeed for strikes."
Olson, a rising junior at UNLV, was less quick to praise his own performance.
"I just got the breaks today," said Olson, who was 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA for the Whitecaps in the regular season. "I got in trouble in every inning, but the defense picked me up, and (Paul) O'Toole did a great job behind the plate."
The Mets put a man on base with one out in each of the first two innings, then got five runners in scoring position in the next four innings. Each time, Olson finagled his way out of the jam, often with the help of highlight reel defense. In the third inning, Brendan Harris doubled to left to put runners on second and third with one out.
But Olson got Brian Stavisky - who finished second in the league in hitting at .324 - to hit a pop foul to the catcher, and then left fielder Jack Headley came through with the play of the day. Matt Carson hit a fly ball to left that was sinking rapidly, just right of the foul line and maybe 30 feet past the infield dirt. Headley charged hard from left, then leapt parallel to the ground, making a diving catch to keep the game scoreless.
While one (perhaps) former Stanford closer made an excellent, but not quite good enough, start, a possible future Stanford closer finished the game for Brewster. Dan Rich, who had an 11.37 ERA in six relief appearances for the Cardinal this year, pitched a perfect ninth, earning his second playoff save for the Whitecaps - he also closed the series-winner Friday against Chatham in the opening round. He had 10 saves and a minuscule 0.63 ERA in the regular season for Brewster.
The teams move to Hyannis today for game two. The Mets will go with a 6-foot-5 southpaw of their own, Charleston Southern's Matt Coenan, while the Whitecaps have given the nod to another Stanford hurler, Mike Wodnicki.