By: Maura Sheridan
WAREHAM, MA- Entering the top of the fifth inning trailing 5-4, the Brewster Whitecaps needed a spark.
When the moment called for it, Whitecaps right fielder Chandler Taylor (Alabama) delivered, crushing a two-run home run to left field and giving Brewster a 6-5 lead over the Wareham Gatemen at Spillane Field.
While when the final out was recorded, the scoreboard read 8-7 Whitecaps, it was Taylor’s home run that gave a Brewster a lead they would not relinquish.
“I just wanted to see a good pitch,” Taylor said. “I put a good swing on it and let the rest fall.”
It was Taylor’s eighth home run of the season, putting the Montgomery native in a three-way tie for the league lead in long balls with Cotuit’s Griffin Conine (Duke) and Falmouth’s Marty Bechina (Michigan State).
With the win over the Gatemen, the Whitecaps moved to 17-19-2 on the season. With the Harwich Mariners’ loss to the Bourne Braves at Whitehouse Field, Brewster officially clinched its playoff spot, meaning all four spots in the Eastern Division have been claimed.
“We went all in,” said Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik. “We wanted to lock this thing down as quickly as we possibly could.”
The Gatemen certainly did not make it easy for the Whitecaps, as Brewster used six different pitchers to battle their way to the victory.
After the Whitecaps got out to an early 4-0 lead in the top of the second thanks to a two-run Taylor double, an RBI-single from A.J. Graffanino (Washington), and Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) scoring on a wild pitch, the Gatemen responded with four runs of their own.
Brewster starting pitcher Pauly Milto (Indiana) had trouble with his command and after retiring the first two batters of the inning, surrendered a single, walk, walk, single, hit-by-pitch, and double before the final out of the inning was made.
Milto lasted just two innings before Shevchik turned the ball over to the bullpen.
Joe Demers (Washington) was the first Whitecaps arm to enter in relief, but after working a perfect third inning, DeMers allowed an RBI-double from Kyle Kasser (Oregon) which gave Wareham the 5-4 lead.
After Taylor’s two-run blast, the Whitecaps took charge offensively.
Brewster extended its lead in the top of the seventh when Marty Costes (Maryland) brought Mickey Gasper (Bryant) home with an RBI-triple, his first of the season, giving the Whitecaps a 7-5 advantage.
Graffanino tacked on what turned out to be a very important insurance run with a sacrifice fly, extending Brewster’s lead to 8-5.
Trying to close the game out with a plethora of bullpen arms, Shevchik turned to newly signed and activated reliever Zach Schneider (Florida Atlantic) for the seventh and eighth frames.
Schneider held the Gatemen scoreless, but when the righty was removed, Wareham mounted a rally.
In another debut appearance for the Whitecaps, Connor McNamara (Marist) came on in the ninth to try and close the game out.
Wareham knocked McNamara around for two runs on two hits, making it a one-run game.
Matthew Beck (LSU) was called in to try and get the final out of the ballgame and after allowing an inherited runner to score, making it 8-7, Beck struck out Ben Baird (Washington) looking to end the threat and the game, picking up his second save.
“The next couple of days we can breathe a little bit,” said Shevchik after the win. “We were going to do everything to win this game.”
DeMers (1-1) earned the win for the Whitecaps, while Sam Bordner (Louisville) pitched two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, while striking out two and lowering his season earned run average to 1.59.
Tanner Dodson (California) took the loss for the Gatemen, surrendering two runs over three and two-thirds innings.
Perhaps what was most surprising, however, was the success Brewster found off Gatemen starter Justin Montgomery (Cal Baptist).
Montgomery, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.11 earned run average and was the starting pitcher for the Western Division in Saturday’s All-Star Game, lasted just an inning and a third, giving up four runs on three hits and walking two.
In seven previous appearances this season, Montgomery had only given up a run in one of them.
Taylor finished his day 2-4 with four runs driven in and a walk, while Graffanino drove in two runs of his own, giving him five RBI in the last three games.
WHAT’S NEXT: Brewster hits the road again on Friday, traveling to Doran Park in Bourne for another interdivision matchup. First pitch between the Whitecaps and Braves is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.