Tibbs shoulders the load, carries Whitecaps to crucial victory over Wareham

James Tibbs celebrates his home run in the sixth inning. As Whitecaps broadcaster Francesco Simone said, Tibbs “played the role of George Herman Ruth” in the Whitecaps’ 7-3 win over the Gatemen Wednesday. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

by Eamonn Ryan

BREWSTER—James Tibbs was antsy in the on-deck circle.

The Florida State rising junior licked his chops in between warm-up swings as Wareham righty Josh Lanham (Lenoir-Rhyne) loaded the bases with two walks and a hit-by-pitch in a 3-3 game in the bottom of the seventh.

He had already eaten starter Brett Wozniak (High Point) for dinner after launching a solo home run in the sixth inning, but he’d have to wait just a little longer for dessert. Wareham manager Ryan Smyth denied Tibbs of Lanham as he motioned for lefty Bryson Shaffer (Coastal Carolina) to enter to face the dangerous left-handed bat. 

Well, that didn’t matter. Tibbs knew that might happen.

“I kind of figured it was coming and I was looking down and seeing some funk come from the pen and you know, I wasn’t really sure how I was feeling about that,” Tibbs said.

Tibbs was feeling much better after the at-bat, however. 

He turned on the first pitch Shaffer offered and cranked it into the left-center field gap, scoring all the ducks on the pond and giving the Brewster Whitecaps (13-18-2) a 6-3 lead in their 7-3 win over the Wareham Gatemen (11-19-2) Wednesday evening at Stony Brook Field.

“I was looking to do damage, really try to get out in front,” Tibbs said. “It was definitely a best-case scenario and I’m very thankful for it.”

Tibbs has been one of the hottest hitters in the Cape League this season, as his solo shot was his second in as many days and sixth of the season, good for second in the league. His power has earned him an All-Star selection and the opportunity to participate in the Cape League Home Run Derby Saturday afternoon in Harwich.

More importantly to him, his production—combined with the bottomless bag of starter Austin Gordon (Clemson)—tipped the scales toward the Whitecaps in their second straight win and first one over the Wareham Gatemen this summer. 

Gordon reached deep into that bag of tricks as he dominated the Gatemen for the first four innings of the win.

Gordon made his final appearance for the Whitecaps and gave his best outing of the summer in his four-inning start. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

He wove through the Gatemen order masterfully the first time through, allowing just one walk in the first three innings. He ended the first inning with a strikeout of Michael Brooks (Kansas) on a cutter that nastily dipped away from Brooks’ outstretched bat.

In the third, Gordon posted two more swinging Ks, punching out Josh Stevenson (Ohio State) with a flaming inside fastball for the first out. The final strikeout of the inning was by the way of his daunting splitter. Bobby Boser (South Florida) took a hack at the pitch, thinking it would stay level and waved at air as the bottom fell out of it. 

“It feels great and I gotta give credit to Dylan Leach, he was great behind there all day. He had my back, we just did what we needed to do,” Gordon said. 

He ran into trouble in the fourth, as Brooks reached on an error and got to second on a wild pitch before Tommy Splaine (Arizona) singled him home. That would be the singular blemish on an otherwise spotless final line for Gordon, as he went four innings, allowing one hit, one unearned run and one walk while striking out four.

“It felt really good and I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Gordon said. “Just took a lot of time early in the day to kind of just focus on some mental stuff and get locked in. I think relying on my mental game really helped me today.”

In the bottom of the fourth, the Whitecaps needed a response, and in sailed Will Turner (South Alabama) to provide it.

Turner entered the contest with just two extra-base hits in his 82 at-bats this season, but the lefty center fielder pummeled a pitch from Wareham starter Brett Wozniak (High Point) over the right fielder’s outstretched glove and off the fence. He scored two runs and wound up at second base to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Will Turner makes a throw here, but he had a great day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBI on a double in the fourth inning. Photo credit Sadie Parker.

Tibbs’ solo shot came in the sixth, and there was no doubt about whether it would have the distance. The direction was another story. 

The ball was sent skyward and appeared foul, but it came back enough and landed over the fence with a more-than-comfortable amount of room to spare, giving Brewster a 3-1 lead.

The Whitecaps pitchers did not  allow the Gatemen to get comfortable at the plate, as Joey DeChiaro (Rutgers) followed Gordon and pitched 1.1 scoreless innings of work, with just one walk surrendered. Josh Sanders (Texas Tech) was the next arm out of the bullpen and worked for 2.2 innings, giving up two runs in the seventh that tied the game, but limited damage as he allowed no extra-base hits.

After Sanders finished his day in the eighth, the Whitecaps added an insurance run. Jared Jones (LSU), who went 2-for-4 with two singles, reached on an infield knock and later scored after Mason White (Arizona) picked up an RBI off a fielder’s choice, making it 7-3.

That left enough of a cushion for Fisher Jameson (Florida), the tall, overhand-throwing righty, to come in and shut the door. He walked the first batter he faced before punching out the next three opponents, pumping in a breaking ball for a called strike to end the game.

“Must win,” manager Jamie Shevchik said. “If we’re going to make a playoff run, we got to make sure that we get into the playoffs, so this was a good one.”

The Whitecaps hit the road for their penultimate West division away game Thursday night, as they travel to Bourne for a 6 p.m. matchup with the Braves at Doran Park.

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