By: Aodhán Doyle
BREWSTER, MA- Every day, young aspiring baseball players dream of coming to bat with two outs, the bases loaded, and a chance to win the game.
On Friday night at Stony Brook Field, Brewster Whitecaps right fielder Chandler Taylor (Alabama) got that opportunity, and won the game, but in a way he never expected.
With the Whitecaps and Bourne Braves tied at four in the tenth inning of game one of the league championship series, Taylor fell behind in the count 1-2 with the winning run just ninety-feet away.
Braves reliever Sean Leland (Illinois) took a deep breath, came set, and dealt a breaking ball.
The curveball broke down and in to Taylor, nailing his right foot, and bringing home Nick Dunn (Maryland) on a walk-off hit-by-pitch.
Taylor lived every player’s childhood dream, winning the game, and both literally and figuratively, took one for the team.
Brewster took a 1-0 series lead with the 5-4 victory over the visiting Braves, the first time the Whitecaps have led 1-0 in any playoff series this season.
“Obviously, we’re a really good hitting team, but as you could see, it was a really tough game, but we found a way to do it,” said Brewster outfielder Hunter Bishop (Arizona State). “So, I just say it’s a tribute to we’re grinders. We just grind out at-bats and Chandler did a great job with two-strikes.”
“I don’t know if I’ve seen that, especially in this magnitude,” said Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik. “If I did, it was probably some tenth game of the year, mid-season, where I forgot about it. So, to have a game end like this in a championship series, I’m kind of stuck for words here. As soon as they walked the bases loaded, Coach Weber and I were both just throwing scenarios out there and passed ball was thrown in there, base hit, hit-by-pitch, it was all there. Although, to see a game end with a hit-by-pitch, I’ll take it. Any way we can get it.”
The Whitecaps had a chance to win the game in a regulation nine innings, leading 4-2 going into the final frame, but Bourne battled back to force extra innings.
Whitecaps reliever Sam Bordner (Louisville) entered the game in the top of the ninth inning needing three outs to finish off the Braves.
Bordner started strong, getting the first two-batters out in order.
Then, things began to unravel for the 6’6” right-hander.
A hard-hit single to left off the bat of number-nine hitter and fellow Louisville teammate Tyler Fitzgerald brought Grant Williams (Kennesaw State) to the plate, who worked a five-pitch walk.
After falling behind 2-0, Bordner battled back to a full count and was one-strike away from ending the game, but left a fastball up in the zone and Bourne first-baseman Lyle Lin (Arizona State) lined it into the gap in left-center, scoring two, and tying the game.
Bordner struck out Jared Triolo (Houston) to end the threat, but Brewster couldn’t manage a run in the bottom of the inning, sending the game into extra innings.
The situation was eerily similar to game one of Brewster’s first round series against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.
In that contest at Red Wilson Field, Brewster held a 5-3 lead entering the ninth inning, but Bordner allowed five runs (one earned) and the Whitecaps lost on a walk-off three-run home run.
This time, however, it was Brewster who got the last laugh.
“They’re resilient,” said Shevchik. “That’s the best word to describe it.”
For much of the game, it was a low-scoring affair between the two number three seeds.
Bourne started the scoring off with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Richie Palacios (Towson), making it 1-0 Braves in the second, but as has been the case all playoffs long, Brewster rebounded.
After a single and a Bourne error put two runners on with one-out, Bishop crushed a home run the opposite way on the first pitch he saw, over the fence in left.
“Well I missed a few fastballs early in my first at-bat and then he threw me a fastball right down the plate in my second one,” Bishop said. “My plan was to sit on a fastball on the outside half and he just threw it right down the plate, so I took it the opposite way.”
It was Bishop’s second opposite-field home run of the postseason, and certainly the most important, as it gave Brewster a 3-1 lead.
“I think it’s just getting comfortable,” said Bishop. “I’ve said that a lot, but I think it’s just finally growing into myself and finally getting a consistent approach. I was changing a lot at the start of the season so now it’s just getting a consistent approach and finally figuring it out.”
“Hunter, we’re just waiting for that kid to click all year long,” said Shevchik. “He’s got some unbelievable tools and more ability than anybody that I’ve seen. When he gets to be good, he’s going to be really good. So, to see him thriving here in the playoffs is important.”
Bourne cut the lead to 3-2, however, in the very next frame, when Triolo looped an RBI-double down the left field line.
After trading zeroes, the Whitecaps tacked on what turned out to be a very important insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on a bizarre sequence of events.
With one out, Darius Hill (West Virginia) singled, and after a strikeout, A.J. Graffanino (Washington) lined a two-out single to right.
Hill tried to move to third on the play and while the throw from Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) beat the Mountaineer to the bag, it got away from Triolo, ricocheting out of play and allowing Hill to score on the second, and final, Bourne error of the game.
Bourne had multiple chances to put more runs on the scoreboard, but a mix of bad luck and great Brewster defense kept the Braves offense silent.
In the top of the fifth, with runners on second and third, Lin chopped a ball towards third and Palacios broke towards home. Brewster third baseman Kyle Datres (UNC) fielded it cleanly, delivered an accurate throw home, and Brewster catcher Mickey Gasper (Bryant) slapped the tag down to prevent the run from scoring.
Then, with two outs and a runner on second, Triolo singled to right field, but Williams tried to score on the hard-hit liner and Taylor fired a laser-beam of a throw right into the mitt of Gasper at home, catching Williams, who represented the tying-run, and ending the inning.
In a break for Brewster, after the game was tied, bad baserunning potentially cost the Braves a run in the top of the tenth.
A single and a walk put runners on first and second with one out for Witherspoon, who lined a single to right. Braves manager and third-base coach Harvey Shapiro, not wanting to test Taylor’s arm again, held Jameson Hannah (Dallas Baptist) at third on a ball that, in most cases, scores a run. Bourne designated-hitter Kevin Radziewicz (Fairfield), not recognizing Hannah was held, rounded second and sprinted towards third. Witherspoon moved to second, trapping Radziewicz between the bags, before he retreated towards second. With both players stepping on second, Radziewicz was allowed to stay on the base and Witherspoon was called out, before Palacios grounded out to end the inning and give Brewster an extremely fortunate break.
The Whitecaps used five pitchers to cover the ten innings, with Troy Miller (Michigan) earning the win.
Tony Locey (Georgia) made his final start of the season, going five innings and allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out one.
In a one-run game, Shevchik showed once again how much confidence he has in Zach Schneider (Florida Atlantic), who turned in an outstanding performance in the clinching game in the series against Y-D.
Schneider held the Braves to just three hits over three innings, while striking out two, before giving way to Bordner in the ninth.
“He’s got some stuff,” Shevchik said with a smile on his face. “We got him out of there early enough today, too. That’s something that’s working in our favor a little bit too, we’re going to be able to bounce him back in. He’s another kid, that if we get a chance to use him again, he’ll be fresh enough to get back in there and throw. The kid is impressive.”
Shane McDonald (Southern New Hampshire) recorded an out in the top of the tenth before Shevchik turned to Miller, who recorded the final two outs.
“Give the bullpen credit, coming in and getting us out of a handful of jams and then our offense worked the bases loaded and, destiny,” Shevchik said.
Bourne, on the other hand, turned to Brian Eichhorn (Georgia Southern) in game one.
The right-hander was solid, going five and one-third innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on just three hits and striking out seven.
Brewster was able to get a run off southpaw Jared Skolnicki (Kent State) in the seventh, though the Bourne lefty held the Whitecaps to just three hits in three and one-third innings.
Kyle Marman (Florida Atlantic) took the loss for the Braves, as he walked Dunn and Gasper to start the tenth inning before Leland entered.
In all, Marman recorded just one out and allowed one hit, two walks, and one run.
Finally, Brewster set a season high in attendance for game one with 3,004 fans making their way to Stony Brook Field, crushing the previous high of 2,137 set in game two of the Eastern Division Championship Series against Orleans.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps travel to Doran Park in Bourne on Saturday, trying to close out the series and win their first league championship since 2000. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.