11 August 2004
THIS WEEK IN THE CAPE LEAGUE
Cape League Intern Brian MacPherson
It’s the oldest cliché in baseball – pitching and defense win championships.
If their first-round series against Brewster is any indication, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox have all the ingredients for a run at the league title.
Behind strong performances from four pitchers and several outstanding plays in the field, the Red Sox earned a berth in the Cape Cod Baseball League championship series with a 3-1 win on Wednesday at Cape Cod Tech.
The most important defensive play of the game came in the bottom of the fourth. Brewster trailed by one run when a hit by third baseman Gaby Sanchez (Miami) and a walk to Andy Hunter (Minnesota) put runners on first and second.
Red Sox coach Scott Pickler called upon reliever P.J. Finigan (Southern Illinois) to put out the fire, and the righthander did just that. Craig Cooper (Notre Dame) bunted the new pitcher’s first offering, but Finigan whirled and fired a strike to third for a force play.
The next hitter, J.B. Tucker (Wake Forest), drove a hard single up the middle, a single that would have scored a run easily if not for Finigan’s heads-up defensive play. But center fielder Adam Davis came up throwing, delivering a strike to the plate to nail the hard-charging Hunter at the plate.
“That throw from Davis changed this game,” Pickler said. “That’s what this game is about – it’s about momentum. It took the momentum away from them and gave it back to us again.”
Designated hitter Ben Crabtree (Ohio) led off the top of the fifth with a double to left, and second baseman Joe Anthonsen (Campbell) came to the plate with two outs and a crucial runner still stuck in scoring position.
“I was just looking for a ball I could drive,” Anthonsen said. “There were two outs and a guy on second, and I wanted to get ahead in the count. I didn’t want to wait and get down in the count.”
Anthonsen took one pitch out of the strike zone and belted the second pitch to the wall in right-center field for a run-scoring triple, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
That provided all the support Yarmouth-Dennis pitchers would need, though Will Harris (Louisiana State) hit a sixth-inning home run to provide insurance.
Finigan retired eight of the nine batters he faced after Davis’ run-saving throw, but he ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on first and second, Brett Harker (College of Charleston) took over and allowed a base hit to Will Rhymes (William & Mary) for Brewster’s first run.
Harker struck out the next man he faced, though, and he then stabbed a ground ball up the middle to retire the side.
In the bottom of the eighth, Harker again flashed the leather to bail himself out of a jam. With Sanchez on third and two outs, Tucker blasted a line drive that appeared headed for center field to score a critical run. But Harker reacted in time to lift his glove and snare the ball for the third out.
“You talk about pitching and defense in this league, and he did both at the same time,” Pickler said.
The Red Sox’s defense, in the end, made the difference in the series.
“Winning comes down to pitching and defense,” Anthonsen said. “If you hit the ball, it helps, but a lot of it comes with pitching and defense because of the wooden bats.”
The win came just minutes before Mike Costanzo’s walk-off home run forced a third game in the West Division series, and that could give Yarmouth-Dennis an advantage in terms of pitching flexibility when the league championship series begins Friday.
“We’re fresh, and we’ve got enough pitching right now,” Pickler said. “Everybody’s ready except the two guys that went the past two days. But you get to this point of the year, you’ve got to have everybody ready.” -- By Brian MacPherson, CCBL Intern, email@example.com
John Garner, Jr.