It was not quite a 12-3 thumping, or a two run ninth inning collapse, but of all the rough losses the Gatemen have experienced so far this season, Saturday night’s may just sting the most.
Down 2-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Gatemen rallied against Brewster Whitecaps ace Connor Pilkington to tie the score at two and in the bottom of the eighth and ninth found themselves with opportunities to come away with a dramatic victory.
The Gatemen, however, were unable to break through, and in the top of the tenth the Whitecaps made them pay, scoring three runs to come away with a 5-2 extra innings win over Wareham at Spillane Field.
Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein said while he liked the fight out of his team, the lack of execution proved to be fatal.
“We battled back and then we did not do a very good job of coming through on the mound or at the plate for that matter when we had a chance to win the ball game,” said Weinstein.
For the first six innings, Whitecaps starter Connor Pilkington was nothing short of superb.
The left-hander out of Mississippi State used a combination of a fastball that sat between 90 and 92 miles per hour as well a sweeping slider to make Wareham’s hitter look silly.
Through those six frames, the Gatemen managed just two hits, one a bunt base hit off the bat of Colton Shaver.
Adrian Tovalin changed all that in the bottom of the seventh with one swing of the bat.
The third baseman gave life to the Gatemen offense in addition to the crowd at Spillane Field when he belted a solo home run well up in the bleachers in left field to cut the Wareham deficit to 2-1.
“He just gave me a fastball middle in and I looked to do what I do best and provide some power in this lineup,” said Tovalin.
Robert Garcia entered in relief for Brett Conine and tossed in his best outing of the season. Garcia went 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing the Gatemen offense an opportunity to tie the score and potentially take the lead.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Cole Freeman extended his hitting streak to eight games, lofting a fly ball double down the left field line with one out. Moments later, Joey Bart and pinch hitter Gavin Sheets worked back-to-back walks, loading the bases with two men down for Dominic Miroglio.
On 1-1, Whitecaps reliever Wyatt Burns uncorked a fastball that went wide, allowing Freeman to scamper on home with the tying run.
Burns, however, bore down and struck out Miroglio swinging at a high fastball to retire the side.
“Adrian absolutely smoked that baseball, but we just never could fully capitalize on the opportunities that we were given,” summarized Weinstein.
The Gatemen, though, soon saw themselves confronted again with a golden opportunity, this time to win in walk-off fashion.
Alex Destino lead off the bottom of the ninth by earning a walk, putting him on first base representing the winning run.
Weinstein elected to call on Tovalin to get down a sacrifice bunt, but Tovalin was unsuccessful, popping it straight up into the air for the first out.
Preston Grand Pre proceeded to go down on strikes before Joey Bartosic was hit-by-a-pitch, moving the winning run into scoring position.
Up came Freeman, looking to add a walk-off base hit to his first half all-star worthy credentials.
This time around, the Brewster bullpen was not going to let Freeman beat them. Whitecaps reliever Hansen Butler retired Freeman by inducing a groundout to second base, ending the threat.
Brewster made sure the Gatemen paid for the lack of timely hitting, striking for three runs in the top of the tenth to take a 5-2 advantage.
With Ryan Gridley standing on second and one man down, Julian Infante hit one back up the middle towards Cole Freeman at second base. As the ball took a high hop off the mound and out behind the bag, Freeman appeared to lose it in the lights, causing him to put his hands up to shield his eyes.
The distraction caused the ball to go bouncing past Freeman and into center field.
Gatemen center fielder Joey Bartosic charged in to scoop up the slow dribbler, and noticing that Gridley was being waved around, fired a rocket towards home plate
Bartosic’s throw, however, hit the lip of the grass in front of home plate and popped up over and behind the catcher Miroglio allowing Gridley to score and Brewster to take a 3-2 lead.
From that point on, the floodgates opened up.
An RBI double off the bat Nicholas Dunn increased the Whitecaps lead to two, and Brent Rooker capped off the three run outburst with a flair into right that gave Brewster a 5-2 edge heading into the bottom of the tenth.