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WAREHAM — After advancing just one runner beyond second base in the first four frames, the Wareham Gatemen had filled the bases in the fifth and were on the verge of breaking a scoreless tie. Austin Shenton (Florida International) — who ranked third in league with a .349 batting average during the regular season but was hitless on the night — rested his tan slab of lumber on his left shoulder and stepped to the plate.
After taking a ball, the West Division All-Star smoked a two-out line-drive to the right-center field gap. Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) tried to come down with the catch but collided with the fence, tearing an advertisement banner halfway off the wall. He collected the ball and fired it to the infield. By the time he did, three runs had scored, and Shenton was pumping his fist on second base.
The three-run double proved to be the difference as the Gatemen (5-0) outlasted the Anglers (4-1), 5-3, to take Game 1 of the Cape League Championship Series on a gloomy night at Clem Spillane Field in Wareham. The Chatham loss marked its first of the postseason after sweeping through the first two rounds and means the A’s will face elimination in Game 2.
Just as Chatham’s batters did to Brewster’s pitching staff in Game 2 of the East Division Championship Series on Friday, the Gatemen batters frustrated Austin Bergner (North Carolina) with stretched-out at-bats by constantly fouling off pitches.
It started in the first inning when Shenton saw two strikes fly past him before fouling off five pitches and taking three balls. Bergner concluded the 11-pitch at-bat with a heater that evaded the Shenton’s big swing. By the end of the first frame, the right-hander had already thrown 21 pitches.
“I just had to continue making pitches,” Bergner said. “Nothing changed mentally."
On the night, Bergner had 10 different at-bats last five pitches or longer. Of the 10, seven ended in outs (two strikeouts), two in hits and one with a runner reaching on an error.
His hardest-fought inning came in the bottom of the fourth, when four-straight Gatemen batters — Shenton, Jeremy Ydens (UCLA), Drew Millas (Mississippi State) and Gian Martellini (Boston College) — worked at-bats lasting beyond five pitches. Bergner threw 25 pitches in the frame.
“I felt a little fatigued in the fourth, but once I went out for the fifth I felt pretty good,” Bergner said. “I felt like I could get the job done, but I came up a little short.”
By the start of the fifth inning, Bergner had already thrown 70 pitches. He began the inning emphatically, striking out Lael Lockhart Jr. (Houston) on four pitches before his struggles began.
Oliver Dunn (Utah) laced a one-out double down the right-field line. On the next pitch, Bergner plunked Ryan Kreidler (UCLA) on the left shoulder to put two runners on. That brought Isaac Collins (Creighton) — Wareham’s leadoff hitter — to the plate, whose hard-hit grounder put Bergner in the most trouble he had been in all night.
Collins struck a grounder directly at Jones, Chatham’s shortstop, who opted to fire to third to force out the lead runner. Jones’ throw was high and wide of the target — Ben Ramirez’s (Southern California) glove — and brought the third baseman’s right foot off the bag. Dunn emerged from a cloud of stone dust with a rip in the back of his right pant leg, spreading his arms to indicate he was safe. Third base umpire Rick Emerson agreed, setting up the opportunity for Shenton.
"[Bergner] gave us what we needed to win,” Anglers manager Tom Holliday said. “If we don't make that error, it's probably 0-0 after five and he probably goes out for a sixth inning. That's a blatant error, it was a routine play."
Shenton’s three-run double broke a scoreless deadlock and lulled the first-base grandstand filled with Anglers supporters. Bergner was relieved by Zack Noll (Point Loma Nazarene) after the fifth inning.
The Gatemen built Shenton’s three-RBI double in the seventh when Jakob Goldfarb (Oregon) drove in Collins with an RBI triple and Goldfarb crossed home on a Jeremy Ydens (UCLA) sacrifice fly.
Although Wareham was the first team to score, Chatham had created several run-scoring opportunities through the first five innings. However, Gatemen starter Ryan Garcia (UCLA) delivered in the key moments to keep the East Division Champions off the board.
“That has a lot to do with the "show-and-go" thing,” Holliday said about the A’s inability to execute with runners in scoring position. “No BP on the field, you show up and you play, it's a big game. There was no big game atmosphere about it. The atmosphere did not exist.”
In the top of the second, John Rave (Illinois State) clubbed a one-out double down the left-field line, advancing Drew Mendoza (Florida State), who worked a leadoff walk, to third. But consecutive strikeouts from Ramirez and Jones left the Anglers without anything to show for it.
Two innings later, a Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) single, Mendoza walk and Jones hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with two outs, but Kyle McCann grounded out to the shortstop for the third out. On the game, the Anglers left ten runners on base, seven of which were in scoring position.
In the top of the seventh, Torkelson demolished an Easton Lucas (Pepperdine) 3-2 fastball, sending it onto the sparsely-filled metal bleachers beyond the left-field fence to put the A’s on the board. Two frames later, Tristin English (Georgia Tech) whacked a pinch-hit two-run homer that energized the Chatham crowd and dugout.
When Blake Sabol (Southern California), the next batter, reached base after an error by the first baseman Lockhart, it looked as if the A’s were about to pull off a spectacular comeback.
Torkelson stepped to the plate with no outs, but flew out to right on the first pitch of his at-bat. After Michael Busch (North Carolina) struck out and Simpson grounded out the first to end the game, the once-hopeful Chatham crowd was silenced, as its team had fallen for the first time since the final day of the regular season.
"I don't think we're done yet,” Bergner said. “I think we have a good chance to beat them tomorrow, especially with [Manoah] on the mound. We have a guy like that on the mound, we always have a chance to win."