BREWSTER – The storyline stuck with the Orleans Firebirds during the last week of the regular season.
The team controlled its own destiny, needing just one win in its final three games to separate itself from Chatham and secure the fourth and final spot in the East Division playoffs.
After suffering a 5-0 loss to defending champion Brewster on Sunday, Orleans nearly punched its postseason ticket with an improbable comeback against the surging Whitecaps on Monday at Stony Brook Field.
Despite falling behind 9-1 after three innings, the visiting Firebirds battled back with a seven-run sixth inning that cut the Whitecaps’ lead to 9-8. Brewster ultimately added a couple insurance runs to earn an 11-8 win, setting Orleans up with one last chance to qualify for the postseason.
The Firebirds will earn the East Division’s fourth playoff spot with either a victory over Wareham in Tuesday’s finale, after The Chronicle’s deadline, or if Chatham loses either of its two remaining games against Harwich on Tuesday and against Yarmouth-Dennis on Wednesday.
“We had a rough start,” Orleans manager Kelly Nicholson said after Monday’s loss at Brewster. “We got a couple diggers and the next thing you know we’re down 9-1 after three innings. But you have to give our guys credit for coming back – they did a good job and showed a lot of fight.”
Nicholson said he was comfortable knowing that Bryce Warrecker, a right-handed pitcher from Cal Poly, was scheduled to start Tuesday against Wareham.
“I like where we’re at,” the longtime manager said. “If someone told us a couple weeks ago that we’ve got to win a game at home with Warrecker on the mound, I’d take it.”
Still, Monday’s loss stung for the Firebirds, who showed they can hang with Brewster, which entered its regular-season finale against Y-D on Tuesday with a 5-0-1 record in its past six games.
“We had five hits and made four errors and we were close,” Nicholson said, adding that Monday’s loss was a game most teams will experience over the course of a long season.
“I said it in the middle of the game, you have games like this that you’re down 9-1 or 10-1, it happens sometimes. You’re going to see it all over the course of 44 games – you just have to stay with your process and stay positive and take good at-bats and make good pitches and keep battling.”
As for any pressure Orleans might feel heading into its last regular season game, Nicholson said those feelings beat the alternative of not vying for a playoff spot.
“Pressure is a privilege,” he said. “We could not be in a playoff spot, so it’ll be fun [Tuesday]. I said two weeks ago that it was going to come down to the last day and here we are.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal