By: Koki Riley
YARMOUTH, MA- With one swing of the bat, the Brewster Whitecaps had their collective hearts ripped out of their chests.
Entering the ninth inning of game one of the best-of-three Eastern Division Semifinals leading 5-3, the Whitecaps let the lead slip away, with a walk-off three-run home run from Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox outfielder Carlos Cortes (South Carolina) serving as the final nail in Brewster’s proverbial coffin.
Despite being down to their final strike twice, Y-D scored five runs in the final frame to win 8-5 and take a 1-0 series lead.
“We played the right game today,” said Whitecaps coach Jamie Shevchik. “We made a mistake here-or-there, but we played the right game. The last inning beat us. When you play eight good innings and get beat in the ninth, that’s baseball.”
“We played a really good game and [the outcome] sucks, but we’re going to stick with it and try and get it tomorrow,” said Whitecaps catcher Mickey Gasper (Bryant). “If they let us stick around, I’ve got a lot of faith in us. They have to put us away tomorrow or we’re going to come back and take game three. Tomorrow’s a big day for us.”
Carter Pharis (UAB) got the inning started with a single to right, and after Whitecaps reliever Sam Bordner (Louisville) struck out the next hitter, but Y-D responded with another single, putting runners on the corners.
While at the time it was unclear, the next play served as a microcosm of the inning for Shevchik’s squad. Y-D pinch-hitter Jake Slaughter (LSU) chopped one towards third base, a potential game-ending double play, but the ball scooted under the glove of Brewster’s Kyle Datres (UNC), scoring Pharis and placing runners on first and second.
The very next play, however, Datres made a backhanded diving stab at a ball off the bat of Nico Hoerner (Stanford), stepped on third for the force out, before making a relay throw to first that was not in time.
Then, with two outs, two strikes, and runners on first and second, Kyle Isbel (UNLV) lined an RBI-single in between first and second to tie the game at five.
Cortes followed and two pitches later, the game was over.
“I know it’s a game that we should have won and it sucks the way we lost it, but one game doesn’t decide the series, that’s why it’s best-of-three,” said Shevchik. “We can get all mopey tomorrow if we get beat, but we plan on coming back here on Monday”
Brewster built its initial lead behind the man who, over the course of the season, has arguably been the team’s most consistent and productive offensive presence.
Gasper doubled home Chandler Taylor (Alabama) in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead before Marty Costes (Maryland) tacked on another run on an RBI-single that fell just out of the reach of a diving Isbel.
The Brewster catcher also worked a bases loaded walk as part of a three-run Brewster top of the fifth inning, tying the game at two. Gasper finished his day 2-4 with two runs driven in, a run scored, a walk, and a stolen base.
“I was just getting some good pitches to hit,” Gasper said. “I had a pretty good idea of how they were attacking us as hitters, so I was just trying to stay locked in.”
It was Y-D that drew first blood in the fourth inning, with a two-run Pharis single giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead after three innings of zeroes for each team.
Brewster responded, however, with Gasper’s walk being sandwiched in between an RBI-single from Nick Dunn (Maryland) and a Costes sacrifice fly, giving the Whitecaps a 3-2 lead.
The only other run in the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Hoerner doubled to center field, scoring Darin Trainor (Lewis-Clark State) and tying the game at three.
While when Cortes crossed home plate in the ninth there had been a combined 13 runs and 19 hits, the game initially started as a pitching duel.
Whitecaps starter Tony Locey (Georgia) and Y-D hurler Andrew Quezada (Cal State Fullerton) traded zeroes for three innings, and each turned in a quality start.
On 97 pitches, Locey battled through seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits, while striking out two and walking three.
Quezada tossed five innings of three-run ball on seven hits, while striking out six.
The Whitecaps managed to get to Brendan Nail (Western Carolina) for two runs in his only inning of work, before Karl Kauffmann (Michigan) came on in relief and held the Whitecaps to just one hit over the final three innings.
Bordner took the loss and surrendered six hits in an inning and two-thirds, but just one of the five runs he allowed was earned.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Whitecaps will try and stave off elimination at home on Sunday against the Red Sox. First pitch from Stony Brook Field is scheduled for 4 p.m.