HARWICH ─ What do you do when it's your last home game of the 2017 Cape League season and you want to give fans something to celebrate? If you're the Harwich Mariners you groove to the music playing over the PA system, give the game your all, and come away with a 7-4 victory against Brewster.
In his final appearance with the Mariners, top-notch hurler and Cape League All-Star Tyler Baum earned the win by throwing six strikeouts while allowing eight hits and just three runs in a little more than five innings as he and his team thoroughly enjoyed their last outing at Whitehouse Field on Aug. 2.
After the Whitecaps pushed across the game's first run in the top of the second, the game sat scoreless until the fourth when Brewster took a two-run lead before Harwich's Jake McCarthy narrowed that edge to one run when he raced home on a wild pitch to make it 2-1.
That was the beginning of the scoring for the home team, with Cobie Vance plating run number two at the bottom of the fifth on a Matt Vierling single to tie the game at 2-even. Then came a huge sixth inning that gave Harwich a very comfortable four-run lead.
It began when McCarthy was hit by a pitch and took his spot on first before advancing on a single to first from teammate Josh Smith. Next up was Nick Dalesandro who swung into what looked to all eyes like a long bomb of a homer, but became a ground-rule double when the ball bounced just in front of the fence before hopping over. Even so, the shot was enough to push across McCarthy, giving Harwich a one-run lead in the game.
Vance then swung into a fielder's choice, reaching third on an error by Brewster catcher Michael Curry. That same error allowed Smith and Dalesandro to come home, much to the delight of Harwich fans cheering wildly from the packed bleachers.
A putout from Jordan Verdon might have resulted in an out for the team, but it did the job of bringing in Vance, which gave Harwich a 6-2 edge at inning's end.
Unwilling to go down easy, the Whitecaps pushed across two more runs of their own in the seventh, bringing the score to 6-4, still in favor of the Mariners, who added one more to their tally in the eighth when Smith came in on a wild pitch.
Baum and Austin Hansen then set to work closing the door on their opponents in the ninth, with Baum recording the first two outs and Hansen earning the save when he forced Brewster's final batter, Michael Gasper, to strike out swinging, ending the game in celebratory fashion for the Mariners.
Though they would ultimately fall by one run to Brewster the following night, there was much to celebrate in the team's last home game of 2017, which not only included the win, but also a slew of awards.
Prior to the start of the early evening game, Jacob Billingsley was presented with the George Lane Sportsmanship Award, with teammate Brad Debo earning the Fred Thacher Unsung Hero Award. Tyler Baum was given the Marty McDonough MVP Award, and Max Burt took home the Fred Ebbett 10th Player Award.
Billingsley, a team pitcher, pitched 29.2 innings for the Mariners this season, recording 27 strikeouts en route to a 3.94 ERA, while Baum led the way on the mound with 41 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched for a 2.72 ERA. Debo, the team's catcher, had 28 hits for the Mariners that included seven doubles, one homer, and 13 RBIs, while Burt had 24 hits including four doubles, one homer, and four RBIs.
The League also presented the award for the John Wylde General Manager of the Year to Ben Layton for his tireless efforts with the Harwich Athletic Association.
After the final out it was time for one last round of autographs before team members began their farewells after what most dubbed an unforgettable experience.
“I've wanted to come up here my whole life,” said Vance, who grew up in Fayettville, N.C. as a fan of the Coastal Plain League. “I used to talk to players when I was younger and they used to be like, 'Dude, you want to be on the Cape.'”
Vance said his summer here would stay with him always, and had his own take on the season.
“It might not be what most would say,” he said. “But I learned how to fail. This game's all about failure and this league is a humbling league. It's humbled me a lot.”
Vance said his team's struggles helped him to learn how to deal with adversity, and added that his teammates were the best.
“Everyone's gotten along from day one,” he said. “There's been no outliers, no outsiders. Everyone's been a tightknit group and that's all I can ask from any team. It's just awesome up here.”
For Nick Dalesandro, the final game meant his second round of goodbyes after his second season with the team and another summer he enjoyed immensely.
“Obviously being here the last two years there's a lot I can take away, but this year I came back more mature and with a lot better mindset,” he said. “Dealing with the negatives and turning them into positives is what I think really helped me this summer. That's one thing I'm definitely going to take into school ball and hopefully the next level.”
After two seasons, Dalesandro holds a special place in his heart for Harwich, and for the overall league.
“The whole Cape League is like a second home to me now,” he said. “I wish I could spend every summer here. Everyone here has treated me so well and I have nothing but respect for everyone here.”
He's looking forward to maintaining the friendships he's built with his teammates.
“All these guys are definitely going to be playing at the next level so obviously we'll be able to build our relationships even farther moving forward,” he said. “But [I'll also remember] the good times we spent off the field, hanging out, the fun during batting practice.”
For head coach Steve Englert, the end of another season is always bittersweet, but he's looking back on 2017 with a smile, appreciating the way his team kept battling even with the playoffs out of reach, applauding the way his team “finished down the stretch.”
“I thought the kids played extremely well, played hard, the level was there, and they had fun,” he said. “I think a lot of kids improved a lot, and that's the number one thing in the summer, just to get better. And I'm proud of this team the way they finished.”
Englert acknowledged his team's bumpy season, but praised their determination.
“We got off to a slow start; the majority of the team wasn't here yet. But once they did arrive we really turned it up and competed every day,” Englert said. “They wanted to win. The desire was there, and they were striving to get better every day, and that's all you can ask out of them. They did a great job.”
Also enhancing the season, said Englert, were the many people behind the scenes and along the sidelines.
“The fans were tremendous,” he said. “I tell you, the whole community here, they really get behind us. Sometimes when we don't get into the playoffs, myself I feel like we let them down, but every year is a crapshoot. Some seasons it comes together and other times it doesn't work out, but the support in the community has always been there. We don't survive without the host families, and I can't say enough about the organization. I feel very fortunate.”