Awards Handed Out On Wednesday Night

By Greg Joyce

Prior to Wednesday night’s regular season home finale against Chatham, the Orleans Firebirds organization handed out their annual awards, citing eight players who went above and beyond expectations throughout the season.

The Charles F. Moore, Sr. Award for the team’s most valuable player went to Matt Duffy (Long Beach State), who was outstanding for the Firebirds all season long. Coming in as a temp, Duffy filled in at shortstop, second base, and third base, displaying his versatility in the field. He also slid into the three-spot in the lineup by the midpoint of the season, and finished the season as the team’s leading hitter, batting .346.

Duffy’s roommate and journey-mate, Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) shared the Charles F. Moore, Jr. Award with John Brebbia (Elon). The award cited Waldrip and Brebbia for their outstanding performance on and off the field. The young men have performed incredibly on the field for their team, and are two of the nicest players you will meet off the field as well.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was awarded with the Thomas Yankus Pitching Award for his performance on the mound. Gott finished the season 12-for-12 in save opportunities, with a 1.29 ERA. The All-Star’s cool demeanor and impressive poise on the hill earned him the relief pitcher of the year for the CCBL.

The next award was the Castleberry Coaches’ award, and it went to Reed Gragnani (Virginia) and Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine). These two players did everything their coaches asked of them, and came to the field each and every day with great attitudes that their coaches were lucky to have.

Finally, the Harry Hossfeld Spirit Award was given to Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) and Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt). These two players gave the Firebirds a much-needed spark when they arrived at the beginning of July, and their presence and energy could be felt in every game. Whether they were hitting, making spectacular defensive plays, or just getting guys excited in the dugout, Aplin and Gomez gave Orleans the jumpstart it needed to lock up the number one seed in the East.

Home Runs Lift Firebirds To Sixth Straight

By Greg Joyce

On the back of yet another strong pitching performance and two big swings, the Orleans Firebirds recorded their sixth straight win on Monday night at Eldredge Park. John Brebbia (Elon) threw six innings of one-run ball, while Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) and Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) added solo home runs to propel their team to the 3-1 victory over Falmouth.

For the second time in as many games at Eldredge Park, Gomez gave his team a spark in the first inning when he belted an opposite field shot to take the 1-0 lead.

“It was big,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of the home run. “I think it got us going a little that. And I think it kind of deflated Falmouth a little bit. It was cool to see Go-Go do that, go [opposite field]. It was a good spark for us.”

The Firebirds padded their lead in the second inning when they were able to manufacture their second run. Jake Stewart (Stanford) led off with a single to left field, then stole second base easily. Up next was Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine), who came through with a single of his own to put men on the corners with no outs.

Then Reed Gragnani (Virginia) continued to be productive and knocked in Stewart on a fielder’s choice, making it 2-0 Orleans.

With the 2-0 lead to work with, Brebbia never looked back. The righty made it look easy through the first four innings, allowing just two hits but no runs. His one blemish on the night came in the fifth inning when he allowed a solo home run, but he was able to get past it and ended up striking out the side.

Brebbia finished with six innings pitched, as he let up four hits, one run, two walks, and struck out six. It was another solid start from the dependable Brebbia.

“I thought Breb threw the ball really well,” Nicholson said. “He located that fastball again and threw some good sliders tonight. He kept the ball down. It was good to get him through six.

Tyler Geblr (Rutgers) and Kenny Long (Illinois State) combined to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, and they both turned in impressive performances, preserving the lead. Long used a big double play to get out of a jam in the eighth and leave the then-tying run 90 feet away at third base.

“Gebler was good tonight, and Kenny Long got a big double play ball,” Nicholson said.

In the bottom of the eighth, Duffy gave his team some breathing room when he took hold of a pitch and lifted it over the left field fence for his first home run of the summer. The home run was also just another milestone in Duffy’s amazing summer, as he continues to show why he deserved his All-Star bid.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was once again called on in the ninth, and for the 11th time this season, he shut the door with no problem, closing out the 3-1 win.

“Gott was Gott again tonight, he did a nice job,” Nicholson said.

With two hits on the night, Gomez now has seven hits over his last three games, and has upped his average to .300.

Now winners of six straight, Nicholson likes how his team is coming together down the stretch. The Firebirds now stand in a tie for first place in the East Division with Harwich, with six games remaining in the regular season.

“It’s nice to see these guys on a run,” he said. “When we were kind of struggling, you just had to kind of weather that and stay around .500, and then at the end you hope you get on a run like this and they have. They’ve put themselves in a pretty good position.”

Brebbia Shining On The Mound

By Greg Joyce

For every player in the Cape Cod Baseball League, getting to start and play baseball every night is an honor. But for John Brebbia (Elon), each start means something more, every inning pitch holds extra importance and the pitcher understands how special it is to be playing on the Cape.

If you look at the Firebirds roster, you’d see that Brebbia is officially from Sharon, Mass. What many people don’t know, though, is that Brebbia grew up spending his summers in Chatham. He grew up as a fan attending all the Cape League games, and now that he gets to pitch every week, he’s on the other side of everything.

“I grew up watching these games, and I was always that little kid running on to the field after games to get autographs,” Brebbia said with a huge smile on his face. “And now little kids coming up and doing that to me, it’s surreal.

“But it’s really exciting. I love having family here. Gosh, you come out and you pitch against the best competition, it’s exhilarating. It’s great.”

The righty who attends Elon University started the season out of the bullpen for the Orleans Firebirds, but has now started three games, and Brebbia seems comfortable taking on more innings.

“It’s been pretty good,” Brebbia said of the transition to starting. “I feel more and more comfortable with it every time I pitch. Like a lot of these guys, I used to start in high school. So I feel fairly comfortable with it, I just haven’t done it in a while. But I’m having no problem with it. I’m enjoying it. I love pitching in general, so whether it’s starting or relieving, it’s going to be fun no matter what.”

That attitude of having fun on the mound has gone a long way for Brebbia, who had his best start of the season on Tuesday night. He threw five innings of one-run ball in the Firebirds’ 3-1 win over Hyannis, going 4.2 innings before allowing his first hit.

As is the case with most successful pitchers, Brebbia was in the zone all night, not even knowing he hadn’t allowed a hit until Hyannis finally got its first base knock.

“I actually didn’t even realize it until the kid did get the hit and I heard a bunch of cheering from [Hyannis’] dugout, and I looked up at the scoreboard and I was like, ‘Oh, that was their first hit,’” Brebbia said with a grin. “Cause as a pitcher, you focus on every pitch throwing as best as you can. You hear about pitchers being in the zone and stuff like that, and that’s what I was doing. I was zoned in. I was throwing the right pitch every time, and until the kid got the hit, I honestly didn’t even realize.”

The key to Brebbia’s success all night was getting ahead in the count early on batters, so that he could mix in his offspeed pitches and pick his locations. Brebbia has been working on a slider with assistant coach Jason Brown so far this season, and the results have been very positive. The slider compliments Brebbia’s fastball, giving him the ability to fool batters when up in the count to record outs.

“I thought he was outstanding,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of his starter after Tuesday night’s game. “He was really good. I was really proud of him. He works hard. He commands that fastball. His slider is really coming along. I know he’s really worked hard with [assistant coach Jason Brown] on that. And that hard work is paying off.”

Brebbia is now 1-1 on the season with a 1.90 ERA. In 19 innings pitched, the 2011 New York Yankees’ 30th round draft pick has struck out 16, and impresses everyone who gets the chance to see him throw.

Statistics aside though, Brebbia knows there’s a more important meaning to each game. After Tuesday night’s game, Brebbia got to enjoy the win with his family on the field.

Following the team meeting, he was in the dugout collecting his belongings while asking Nicholson when he could watch tape of his mechanics so he could make some improvements.

Then, on his walk to the clubhouse in the outfield, he met with his dad and his two dogs, and had another conversation. It was likely about baseball, but that’s not what mattered. What mattered was that Brebbia got to savor the win by spending it with family members, who were with him all those summers he spent watching from the lawn chairs and blankets.

He may be just ten years removed from being another face in the crowd at Cape League games, but now Brebbia is the one on the diamond, living the dream. He is in the spotlight, and making the most of it. He is always looking to improve himself, and has an impressive work ethic. And most importantly, with his family always at his games to cheer him on, John Brebbia is enjoying every second of his Cape League experience. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Step In The Right Direction

By Greg Joyce

There was a good feeling going around at Eldredge Park after Tuesday night’s game, and that is because the Firebirds got back in the win column. Orleans ended its three-game skid with a 3-1 victory over Hyannis, thanks to John Brebbia’s (Elon) arm and Ronnie Shaeffer’s (UC Irvine) bat.

Brebbia got his third start of the summer on the hill, and he was dominant early. The kid who summered in Chatham growing up went the first 4.2 innings without allowing a hit, and ended the night after five innings, only letting up one run.

“I felt great tonight,” Brebbia said. “My arm felt awesome, which it has all summer. Awesome defense behind me, which is the best a pitcher can ask for. Defense and hitting, that’s exactly what we had. We got on the board fairly early, made a bunch of nice plays, and it was just a great overall game that we played today. It was good.”

The run support that Brebbia spoke of came in the third inning, when Orleans scored all three of its runs.

Reed Gragnani (Virginia) got the rally going with a double to the gap in left, and he advanced to third on a sac-bunt from Andrew Aplin (Arizona State). Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt) brought home Gragnani on a single through the right side to make it 1-0.

After Gomez, Jayce Boyd (Florida State) drew a walk, followed by a fly out from Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) for the second out. Then, Steve Selsky (Arizona) joined the hit parade with a single to left field, putting runners at the corners for Shaeffer.

The catcher known more for his defense came through offensively, smacking a single to center field to score Gomez and Boyd.

“We had timely hitting with Ronnie Shaeffer,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said.

That 3-spot stood strong through the whole game for Orleans, as the pitching staff came up big.

Relieving Brebbia was Andrew Chafin (Kent State), who threw two perfect innings before getting into a jam in the eighth. The lefty got two outs but loaded the bases, and exited the game giving way to Trevor Gott (Kentucky).

Gott had little margin for error, but he wasn’t phased by the pressure situation, as he struck out the batter to end the inning.

“Huge situation with T-Gott,” Nicholson said.

In the ninth inning, Gott allowed an infield single with two outs that brought the potential tying run to the plate. But once again, Gott came through, striking out Adam Walker (Jacksonville) on three pitches to end the game.

“Trevor just pounded the zone and threw nothing but fastballs,” Nicholson said. “He did an outstanding job. Just really attacked the mitt with his fastball, which is awesome to see.”

Gott picked up his seventh save of the season with his 1.1-inning performance, continuing his lights-out pitching.

On the offensive side, Selsky and Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) both racked up two hits. Duffy has now reached base in five straight games. Eight Firebirds recorded at least one hit. Aplin wasthe only starter without one, though he did have the key sac-bunt in the third-inning rally.

Most importantly, the win snapped a three-game skid for the Firebirds, and put them back in the right direction.

“It was good to get a W,” Nicholson said. “That’s a typical Cape League game tonight: low-scoring, well-pitched. It was good.”