WAREHAM -- Thanks to a sterling pitching performance by Yarmouth-Dennis starter Aaron Blair (Marshall University), the 2012 Cape Cod Baseball League season all comes down to one game.
Blair and the Red Sox staved off elimination, turning back Wareham 5-1 and setting up today's winner-take-all championship finale. A capacity crowd is expected for the 4 p.m. contest at Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth.
Blair pitched seven shutout innings, limiting the hard-hitting Gatemen to just two hits, striking out 10 and walking four. The crowd of more than 3,000 at Clem Spillane Field witnessed clutch performances by Blair and Y-D reliever Rick Knapp (Florida Gulf Coast University) as each pitched out of two-on, two-out jams, in the seventh and eighth innings.
Y-D scored single runs in the second and fifth to take a 2-0 lead. Stanford's Alex Blandino (2-for-2, two RBIs) doubled home Zak Blair (Mercyhurst College), who had singled in the second. In the fifth, after successive singles by Sean Dwyer (Florida Gulf Coast University) and Sean McHugh (Purdue), and a sacrifice bunt by Morgan Mickan (Texas State), Carlos Asuaje (Nova Southeastern University) grounded out to score Dwyer.
Blair continued to cruise through the middle innings, using an effective curveball and some timely fielding from his mates.
In the sixth, Wareham got two men in scoring position with two outs, but Blair responded by getting Mott Hyde (Georgia Tech) to ground out to third.
In the seventh, the Gatemen mounted a two-out threat against Blair when Ethan Gross (Memphis) reached on an error and moved to third on a single by Cole Sturgeon (Louisville). Once again, the gutsy right-hander induced a fly ball to left for the third out.
Gatemen starter Barrett Astin (Arkansas Fayetteville) pitched very well, but after giving up a leadoff single in the eighth, he was removed for Nick Rumbelow (LSU). Y-D took full advantage and plated three insurance runs, highlighted by a daring bases-loaded squeeze that caught Wareham completely by surprise.
Armed with the extra runs, Knapp gave up a run in the eighth and pitched an eventful ninth. But like his predecessor, he had the out pitch with men in scoring position. The frustrated Gatemen couldn't get their customary timely hit when they needed it most. Right-hander Alex Gonzalez (Oral Roberts), coming off three days' rest, is scheduled to start today's game for the Red Sox. He is 1-0 in the playoffs, beating Orleans 10-3 on Monday with a 6.2-inning two-hitter. He was 3-2 in the regular season.
Fans of both teams have had much to cheer about in this series and the final game is likely to provide a contest to remember.