By: Aodhán Doyle
BREWSTER, MA- In most games, an eighth inning two-run home run to extend a lead to five runs wouldn’t have much of an impact.
Thursday’s contest between the Brewster Whitecaps and Harwich Mariners at Stony Brook Field wasn’t like most games, however.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Brewster (21-21-2) designated hitter Michael Curry (Georgia) deposited a two-run home run into the trees in left field, giving the Whitecaps an 11-6 lead.
“I was 0-3 going into that at-bat and I just told myself to be loose,” said Curry. “I felt like I barely swung, really, and I just caught some barrel and gave it a poke.”
What was thought by many to just be icing on the cake, turned out to be so much more.
Harwich (15-28-1) came charging back in the top of the ninth, scoring four runs and capitalizing on a pair of Brewster errors.
The errors allowed two Mariners to reach base, setting the stage for back-to-back home runs from Josh Smith (LSU), his second of the game, and Cobie Vance (Alabama) to cut the Brewster lead to just one.
Drew Reveno (St. Louis) got Jordan Verdon (San Diego State) to fly out to left field, ending the game and making Curry’s home run the game winner.
The battle of division rivals featured plenty of offense, with Harwich recording 13 hits and Brewster 11.
“I think we’re just putting quality at-bats together at the right time and we’re being a cohesive unit,” said Brewster catcher Mickey Gasper (Bryant). “We’re just trying to get good pitches and we’re going to take our walks, but we’re going to get our hits when they’re there and we’re just trying to situationally execute.”
After falling behind 3-0, Brewster took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the second.
A.J. Graffanino (Washington) put the Whitecaps on the board with an RBI-single and then Chandler Taylor (Alabama), after falling behind 0-2 in the count, battled back to draw a bases loaded walk, cutting the Harwich lead to 3-2.
A wild pitch from Mariners starter Jacob Billingsley (Mississippi State) brought home Graffanino to tie the game and then Gasper delivered the big blow of the inning, a two-run triple to right-center, capping a five-run frame for the Whitecaps.
“I saw a couple people on base and I just wanted to shorten up and get a hit for the team, get some runs in,” said Gasper. “I got a good pitch to hit and I was just able to capitalize.”
Brewster’s other big inning came in the bottom of the fifth, when Harwich’s lack of control did them in.
Darius Hill (West Virginia), who went 2-4 on the day, tied the game at six with an RBI-double to center and advanced to third on a passed ball.
The Whitecaps retook the lead 7-6 when Hill scored on a passed ball, before Graffanino delivered again, this time tripling to right-center, scoring Zack Gahagan (UNC) and making it 8-6 Brewster.
Graffanino went 2-2 on the day with two runs scored and two runs driven in.
Brewster tacked on another when Kyle Datres (UNC) reached on an infield single that scored Graffanino.
“I’m just taking time when I’m sitting on the bench and going over my approach,” said Gahagan, who finished the day 2-3 with two runs scored on his 22nd birthday. “Reassessing the approaches that I struggled with at the beginning and just taking it into the game.”
“A lot of it at first was timing. I got away from the timing and just started to think about pitches. Right now I’m just hunting the fastball and I’m getting them. I’ve just got to make good contact and I’ve been able to get some hits and get on-base.”
Harwich would hit two batters in the inning, allow two passed balls, and throw a wild pitch.
Up until the top of the ninth, the Mariners’ only offense came in the form of two three-run innings, one in the top of the first and the other in the third.
The Mariners jumped on Whitecaps starter Matt Beck (LSU) early, with center fielder Antoine Duplantis (LSU) setting the tone from the get-go with a ground-rule double in the first at-bat of the game before scoring on a wild pitch.
A Nick Dalesandro (Purdue) RBI-groundout brought home Smith gave Harwich an early 2-0 lead, while Ryne Ogren (Elon) brought home the third Mariners run with an RBI-single.
Then in the third, Smith launched his first home run of the game off Beck, a two-run shot, which tied the game at five, before Harwich catcher Brad Debo’s (NC State) RBI-single gave the Mariners a 6-5 lead.
Neither starting pitcher lasted long, with Beck going just two and two-thirds innings and giving up six earned runs on six hits, while walking four and striking out just one. Billingsley, on the other hand, managed just two innings and gave up five earned runs.
Luckily for Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik, the Whitecaps won the battle of the bullpens, with Conor McNamara (Marist) and Reveno combining for the last six and one-third innings.
McNamara (1-0) was stellar, allowing just two hits in three and one-third scoreless innings, striking out one, and earning the win, his first in the Cape League.
After Christopher Gau (Jacksonville) tossed a perfect frame, Cole Aker (UNC), Theo Rodliff (Stony Brook), and Brian Christian (Northeastern) surrendered the final six runs for the Mariners, with Aker (1-4) taking the loss.
Before the game, the Whitecaps handed out their individual regular season awards.
Gasper, who finished the season batting .305 with five home runs and 30 runs batted in, which ranked second in the league, was named team MVP and received the Coaches’ Captain Award as well.
“It’s special. It’s an honor,” Gasper said. “I’m proud of myself, but I’m thankful for everyone that’s helped me along the way. The coaching staff, my dad’s been here all summer working with me. The coaching staff grinds, and there have been a lot of people along the way that have been helping me and it’s a really good moment in my life.”
Taylor, who tied for the league lead with nine home runs, was named the Offensive Player of the Year, while Graffanino received the Defensive Player of the Year.
Pitcher Tony Locey (Georgia) was named the Best Teammate/10th Man, and Joe Molettiere (Monmouth) took home the Opportunity Award, presented to a player who starts the season on a temporary contract and makes the most of their opportunity.
With the win, Brewster finished the regular season with a .500 record. Entering the game, the Whitecaps needed either a win or a Chatham loss to secure the number three seed in the Eastern division playoffs.
WHAT’S NEXT: With the regular season concluded, Brewster gets ready to face the three-time defending champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the first round of the Eastern Division playoffs. Game one is on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at Red Wilson Field.
“The pressure is on them, not us, going into the playoffs, that’s for sure,” said Shevchik. "If I had to choose anybody who's going to knock them off the throne, I'm happy that we're at least going to have a crack at it."
In six matchups, Y-D won the season series 4-1-1.