By: Aodhán Doyle
BREWSTER, MA- If you ask Brewster Whitecaps outfielder Marty Costes (Maryland), he’ll say he’s not a clutch player, but on Sunday night at Stony Brook Field, Costes was the living embodiment of the word.
With the Whitecaps trailing the Harwich Mariners 10-8 and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Costes took the first pitch he saw from Harwich reliever Logan Browning (Florida Southern) and crushed it over the left field fence for a three-run home run, giving Brewster an 11-10 edge that they would hold until the game was called after eight innings due to darkness.
“I knew that guy was trying to get ahead of me and I knew I wasn’t in take mode," Costes said. "A couple of at-bats before I flew out on the first pitch but I felt like I just missed it and if I got that pitch again I wasn’t going to miss.”
The home run was Costes’ fourth of the season and was the final, improbable moment in a Whitecaps comeback that two-thirds of the way through the game looked impossible.
“This one’s special,” Costes added. “I feel all of them are special, I don’t take anything for granted. This game is hard enough. I definitely think being clutch is a sweet thing, and I don’t do that often.”
“The game can get a little fast, but you’ve just got to relax. That’s something I’ve had to learn. This is the first time for me, pinch-hitting and things like that. One thing I did was pay attention during the game, especially to the strike zone and different guys coming in.”
As the game moved to the seventh inning stretch, Brewster (15-14-1), trailing Harwich (10-18-1) 10-2, was on its fifth pitcher, had committed three errors, and had subbed out six of the nine starting position players.
“It was amazing. To empty the bench and put in eight new guys and come back with an eight-run deficit and win the game literally on a walk-off home run, for the most part, ranks up in the top five things I’ve ever been a part of,” said Whitecaps head coach Jamie Shevchik.
For six innings, Mariners starter Tyler Baum (UNC) held the Whitecaps’ offense to just two runs and five hits, but when Harwich manager Steve Englert went to his bullpen, the Whitecaps’ offense began to click.
Brewster loaded the bases with one out in the seventh off Tim Herrin (Indiana), who then proceeded to walk Devin Foyle (Kansas), concede a single to Mickey Gasper (Bryant), and walk Christian Molfetta (Stanford) before exiting with the bases still loaded and the score 10-5 Mariners.
New Harwich arm Cullen Dana (Seton Hall) didn’t fare any better, walking Costes to bring home another run and throwing two balls to Julian Infante (Vanderbilt) before being pulled in favor of Theodore Rodliff (Stony Brook).
“When somebody’s constantly out of the strike zone, we need to do exactly what we did today and that’s take a lot of pitches and that got us back in this game,” said Shevchik.
Rodliff, inheriting the 2-0 count couldn’t bounce back, walking Infante to bring home the fifth run of the inning for the Whitecaps, the third via a bases loaded walk, before retiring the final two batters of the inning.
Despite the five-run frame, Brewster still had work to do in the eighth with the sun setting rapidly and Harwich still leading by three.
“It’s really huge. We didn’t quit on each other and we’re going to ride that momentum more than just beating Harwich,” said Gasper. “We knew we came in and had to do that, but we know we’ve got a little more fight in us than a lot of people believe, so we just stuck with it and that’s a good team win, and we’re going to ride it.”
With Rodliff still on the mound, it was more of the same, as the Harwich lefty walked the leadoff man before hitting Michael Curry (Georgia) and Foyle back-to-back, loading the bases once again with nobody out.
Rodliff struck out Gasper for the first out before Browning (0-1) entered and Molfetta hit a sacrifice fly, cutting the Harwich lead to two and setting the stage for Costes.
“It was a lot of the guys still wanting to play and not giving up on each other,” Gasper said. “It was just more of a team effort to stay in the game and not give up hope. We know we have a deep lineup and at any time we can strike. We stuck with it and we ended up getting it done.”
Brewster got their first two runs of the game in the bottom of the third when Gasper homered to right field. At the time, Gasper’s fifth home run of the season tied the game at two and were the only two runs before the nine put up by Brewster in the seventh and eighth.
“It was pretty similar to my at-bat last night,” Gasper said. “They started me off with a fastball and then they went to the curveball. Last night I missed it and flew out to left field, but today I was just ready for that breaking ball, I was on time and put a good swing on it and it just happened to get out of there.”
“It went from five innings of me preparing my post-game speech of stuff I probably can’t say right now to one of the best things I’ve ever seen in baseball,” Shevchik laughed.
After Brewster’s initial rally in the bottom of the seventh, it appeared as though Harwich was on the track to respond. The Mariners led off the eighth with consecutive singles, but Shevchik turned to Stephen Jones (Samford) who retired the next three batters in order, halting the Harwich response and earning the win.
“He’s making a name for himself and he’s putting his name into our lineup card as a guy who we can go to in a tight situation,” Shevchik said about Jones. “We’ve lost some of those guys along the way but to add Stephen into that mix, that’s big for the back end of our bullpen.”
Before the game, Shevchik said “all hands [were] on-deck” in the bullpen for the game against the Mariners, but not even he could have foreseen the predicament he and his team would find themselves in.
After surrendering a run in the top of the first, Brewster starter Davis Daniel (Auburn) was removed from the game with arm discomfort.
“He had some discomfort in his arm so we certainly weren't going to run him back out there,” said Shevchik.
This put an already tired bullpen in a tough situation, having to carry the pitching staff the rest of the way.
The combination of Will Tribucher (Michigan), Joe Molettiere (Monmouth), Sam Bordner (Louisville), Matt Beck (LSU), and Jones (1-0) took Brewster the rest of the way, giving up nine runs (six earned) while striking out just one.
“It literally was all hands on deck in the bullpen today,” Shevchik said. “I give those guys a lot of credit.”
Bordner gave up his first two earned runs of the season, while just one of the four runs charged to Molettiere was earned after Brewster committed three errors in the top of the fifth.
Offensively, Costes finished his day with four RBI while Gasper went 2-4 with two runs scored and three RBI, surpassing Cotuit’s Griffin Conine (Duke) for the league lead with 25.
“I’m just trying to get that run in for our team,” said Gasper. “When I see people on base, I just try and shorten up, do my job, and drive them in for the boys.”
“Tomorrow’s day off could have been really miserable but to get this W is going to make it a lot better,” Shevchik added.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps have Monday off before traveling to Veteran’s Field to take on the red-hot Chatham Anglers on Tuesday. The Anglers have not allowed a run in their last 28 innings, resulting in three straight wins and only trail Brewster by one point in the Eastern Division standings. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.