Harvard Teammates Fang, Matson Lead Firebirds Pitching Staff

by Brad Joyal

ORLEANS – The Crimson are shining in a different shade of red this summer.

After pitching together at O’Donnell Field on Harvard’s Cambridge campus in the spring, Callan Fang and Sean Matson have led the Orleans Firebirds pitching staff while showcasing their talent in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

“It’s pretty special,” said Matson, a 6-foot-2 righty from Chadds Ford, Pa. who returned to Orleans after earning the league’s Russ Ford Award given to the most outstanding relief pitcher last summer. “It’s cool having another Harvard guy here. Chris Clark was before me and kind of paved the way for me. Hopefully I’m being a good role model for Cal. He’s a year younger, but he’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen or been on a team with. He keeps dominating.”

Fang improved to 2-1 on Saturday night after earning the victory in Orleans’ 3-1 win over Hyannis at Eldredge Park. The 6-foot-3 righty from Yardley, Pa. tossed six innings, allowing four hits, striking out seven and walking one. His only hiccup was a solo home run by Mason White (Arizona) that tied the game 1-1 in the fourth.

Saturday’s outing was nothing new for Fang. The righty has been one of the Firebirds’ most consistent starters, boasting a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings pitched over four appearances including three starts. He has pounded the strike zone and has struck out 23 batters compared to walking just four.

“He really commands his fastball and has a very, very good changeup,” Nicholson said of Fang. “And then he can dump a curveball in there when he needs to. His fastball plays up — I think that 89-90 plays up to 92 a little bit. He has a good presence out there and a good command. You know what you’re going to get with Fang out there, and it’s a lot of strikes.”

After pitching for the Vermont Lake Monsters in the Futures Collegiate League last summer, Fang said taking the mound for the Firebirds has been awesome.

“It’s awesome to be able to come here for the summer and play a game I love,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys, so being able to go out once a week and give them a chance to win is awesome. It’s really special.”

It’s even more enjoyable sharing the experience with Matson, a starter at Harvard who has served as Orleans’ closer since last summer.

“Sean’s like an older brother to me,” Fang said. “He never loses his composure and he’s a great source of information because he’s been through it.”

Matson has earned saves in four of the Firebirds’ five wins. He likely would have been in line to close out Saturday’s game had it not been cut short in the seventh inning due to rain. It’s been another lights-out summer for the righty, who has allowed only three hits in seven scoreless innings.

“It feels like the culture hasn’t changed a bit,” Matson said of his second season in Orleans. “Skip brings in a bunch of good, high-character guys. I’ve loved every second of it once again. I love it more and more every day.”

Although Matson is eligible to be picked when the MLB Draft kicks off Sunday, his focus is glued to Eldredge Park and his allegiance to the Firebirds.

“It’s just another step,” he said. “My parents always tell me to keep it in the present, so I’m just trying to focus on my next game that I pitch here and my preparation for that. I’m not too focused on the draft because I’m still here on the mound, but when it comes a little closer to it I’ll start focusing on it.”

While Matson’s baseball future is certain, there isn’t another Cape League pitcher that Nicholson would rather call out of the bullpen at the end of a game.

“The guy that we like to have at the backend of our bullpen is a guy that has command,” Nicholson said. “They are going to have to beat him to beat us. I think he’s as good of a closer as there is. If I had to pick a Cape team and pick a closer, I’d pick Sean Matson.”