Cape League Down To 1 Game
By: Rich Maclone
Yarmouth-Dennis starting pitcher Aaron Blair (Marshall) may have had to play second fiddle to Hyannis’ Sean Manaea (Indiana State) during the regular season, but the Red Sox ace showed just why he was considered the second-best starter during the regular season with a dominant showing in game two of the Cape League championship series last night in Wareham. Taking the hill in a potential elimination game for his Red Sox, Blair was superb as he twirled seven stellar innings for Y-D to lead them to a decisive winner-takes-all scenario this afternoon back on their home field in Yarmouth at 4 PM.
Blair struck out 10 Wareham Gatemen and had their big bats, who had already collected 10 postseason homers, swinging at air for seven innings. Blair carried a no-hitter into the sixth and allowed just a pair of hits over seven frames, while walking four and hitting a man.
“I didn’t know (I had a no-hitter going). They told me when I came back to the dugout after the sixth,” Blair said. “I was just trying to go out there and get outs, nothing else.”
Blair was overpowering at times, and pitched smartly throughout his outing. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings and got himself out of jams in his last two frames.
The Red Sox gave their hurler the lead to work with early on. Robert Blandino (Stanford) stung an RBI double to the deepest part of the ballpark in the top of the second to score Zak Blair (Mercyhurst), who had reached on a soft single to left earlier in the frame, to give Y-D the lead. Then, in the fifth, the Sox tacked on an insurance run when Carlos Asuaje (Nova Southeastern) delivered a hard hit groundout off the first baseman that allowed Sean Dwyer (Florida Gulf Coast) to score from third. Dwyer had led off the inning with a single off of Wareham starter Barrett Astin (Arkansas-Fayettville).
Astin was quite good for the Gatemen. The starter got through seven innings of work and was not lifted until giving up a leadoff hit to Asueje to lead off the eighth. He was charged with three earned runs on the night, with eight hits allowed, four K’s and two walks.
Nicholas Rumbelow (LSU) came on to try to keep the deficit intact at two, but the Red Sox had other ideas. Y-D introduced him to the game by loading the bases, thanks to a double by Robert Pehl (Washington) to left and then an intentional walk. Blandino pushed across a run when he was struck by a Rumbelow offering on the hand, making it 3-0. Rumbelow got the next hitter to hit into a force out at the plate, but then Y-D manager Scott Pickler went into his bag of tricks.
Pickler called on Justin Shafer (Florida) to lay down a suicide squeeze, and the infielder did it perfectly. Blair easily scored from third and then Rumbelow’s throw to first sailed wide of the bag, allowing the Sox’ fifth run to cross the plate.
Wareham attempted a comeback in the eighth, but it fell well short. The Gatemen knocked around reliever Rick Knapp (Florida Gulf Coast) for three straight hits to load the bases with no outs, but squandered their big chance, scoring just once. Mott Hyde (Georgia Tech) plated a run with an RBI fielder’s choice, but then Knapp knuckled up and escaped with a flyout and a strikeout. Knapp got through the ninth without allowing a run, and Y-D lived to play again.
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