By: Aodhán Doyle
BREWSTER, MA- On Sunday evening at Stony Brook Field, the Brewster Whitecaps had two options: win or go home.
Behind a stellar start from Will Tribucher (Michigan), Brewster chose the former, defeating the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox 6-1 to even the best-of-three first round playoff series at one apiece.
After losing game one in one of the most heart-wrenching fashions possible, allowing five runs in the bottom of the ninth to lose 8-5, Brewster bounced back and forced a decisive game three.
“I said don’t let us win today. They let us stick around,” said Brewster catcher Mickey Gasper (Bryant). “Tomorrow is a new day, we’re going to be ready to go, and I’m excited for the challenge. Another do-or-die game.”
“I give our guys a lot of credit because they could have folded it up, especially after that loss,” Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik said. “Now it’s one game. It’s one game, survivor advances, and we go from there. Anybody can win tomorrow. We have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose. The pressure’s definitely on them, not us.”
Tribucher looked locked in from the start, not allowing a hit until the top of the fourth inning when Alfonso Rivas (Arizona) looped a double into shallow left field to tie the game at one.
“Lately he’s been able to execute everything,” said Gasper. “Fastball, curveball, changeup, all for strikes. His fastball has a lot of movement, so he’s a really dynamic pitcher and he’s just been able to command, locate, and get ahead of hitters.”
It was the only time Y-D crossed home, as Tribucher retired the next batter and held the Red Sox scoreless until he was removed with two outs in the top of the eighth inning.
Tribucher, who started the season on a temporary contract, finished his outing in the biggest game of the Whitecaps’ season with seven and two-thirds innings pitched, just one run and four hits allowed, and six strikeouts.
“We took it hard yesterday, but our team as a whole today came back pretty well,” said Tribucher. “The defense made some really good plays behind us, offensively we did really well scoring some runs and I was lucky to keep us there.”
“He threw exactly like he did the last time he faced these guys,” said Shevchik. “He spotted up his fastball, changed speeds, and had them off balance. It was a great outing and especially for someone to come in here and do that when we really needed it.”
The southpaw finished the regular season just 1-2 with a 4.10 earned run average, but the gem wasn’t entirely surprising. In three appearances against the Red Sox, Tribucher tossed ten and one-third innings, giving up just eight hits, striking out 13, and pitching to a 2.61 earned run average.
“I think I’ve been working really well with Mickey recently, today and the last time I pitched against them,” Tribucher said about his success against Y-D. “Me and him have some pretty good chemistry.”
Exactly one week prior, Tribucher shut down the Red Sox at Red Wilson Field. The lefty took the win after going six innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out seven.
“A ton. Me, Will, and [pitching coach Austin] Straub were talking all week,” Gasper said about how much the most recent outing helped them prepare. “We knew we were going to be ready for this game and we knew how to attack these guys. We stuck to the game plan and Will was able to execute.”
It was the top of the Brewster order that provided the support for Tribucher.
Nick Dunn (Maryland), Kyle Datres (UNC), and Gasper combined to go 3-9 with a run scored, three walks, and four runs driven in.
“It’s big,” said Shevchik about getting production from the top of the order. “The lineup has changed every single day, so, I’ll be honest with you, most of it is how we feel that day, gut feeling. I look at the stats over and over every day, I try and see what the matchups are against righties and lefties, sometimes we even see how they take batting practice. It’s going to be the same thing tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re going to do our research and see who we’re facing and see which one of our guys is going to stack up best.”
Gasper put Brewster on the board first with an RBI-single in the bottom of the third, before Rivas’ double tied the game.
“Coach Shev always talks about setting the momentum early,” said Gasper. “The first couple innings set the tone for the rest of the game. Will pitched great, nearly all eight innings. He started out hot and we were able to scratch one across first.”
“It was important because you get to breathe a little bit,” said Shevchik. “It’s hard when you’re down a handful of runs and you’ve got to fight your way back. To get that run and to get some breathing room, it takes a lot of pressure off everyone.”
The Whitecaps really took charge in the fifth, scoring three runs on a Dunn single, a Datres sacrifice fly, and A.J. Graffanino (Washington) coming home on a wild pitch.
Brewster tacked on two more insurance runs in the eighth on a Graffanino bases loaded walk and a Dunn sacrifice fly to left, giving the Whitecaps a 6-1 edge.
While he did not have his best stuff, Red Sox starter John Rooney (Hofstra) managed to work through five and two-thirds innings, while allowing four runs on five hits and striking out six.
Y-D manager Scott Pickler removed Rooney with two outs in the sixth in favor of Brent Teller (Sacred Heart), who retired Julian Infante (Vanderbilt) to end the frame.
However, Teller walked two batters in the seventh and the first two batters in the eighth, before Pickler went to his bullpen again, signaling for Tanner Graham (UAB).
Graham and Karl Blum (Rutgers) combined to work through the rest of the eighth inning, striking out one and walking two.
Joe DeMers (Washington) recorded the final four outs for the Whitecaps, not allowing a baserunner.
WHAT’S NEXT: Game three between the Whitecaps and Red Sox is Monday at 4 p.m. at Red Wilson Field. The winner moves on to the second round of the playoffs, while the loser is eliminated.