Seeking their first Cape League championship since 1980, the Falmouth Commodores moved as close to it as they’ve been in those 36 years Thursday night.
Swept in their five finals appearances since their win in 1980, the Commodores opened up a 1-0 series lead with a 5-4 win over Yarmouth-Dennis at Arnie Allen Diamond.
Cape League Pitcher of the Year Jeffrey Passantino (Lipscomb) had his worst outing of the summer but held tough through 6.2 innings, and Falmouth found a way to win, with a fifth-inning run that broke a 4-4 tie proving to be the difference.
Passantino hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any start this year, and that happened just once. Every other outing, he allowed one or zero runs.
This time, Y-D broke through early with a run in the top of the first then scored three in the fourth on one swing of the bat by Deon Stafford (St. Joseph’s), whose homer made it a 4-2 lead for the Red Sox.
To his credit, Passantino responded by retiring the next 11 batters he faced, and with his offense coming to life, he left with the lead.
The Commodores tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a home run by Tyler Lawrence (Murray State) and a Cadyn Grenier (Oregon State) RBI double.
The offense came against Y-D’s best starter, as Falmouth returned the favor on what the Red Sox had done to Passantino. Oliver Jaskie (Michigan) had a 0.98 ERA in the regular season and allowed just an unearned run in 6.2 innings in his first playoff start.
And Falmouth did one more bit of damage in the fifth. Deacon Liput (Florida) and J.J. Matijevic (Arizona) singled and Joshua Watson (TCU) bunted them to second and third. Tristan Gray (Rice) then singled to right to give Falmouth the 5-4 lead.
Stephen Villines (Kansas) relieved Passantino in the seventh and kept his team in front. He gave up two hits in the eighth before Corbin Martin (Texas A&M) came on and worked out of trouble. In the ninth, Y-D got a leadoff single from Matt Winaker (Stanford), who stole second to get the tying run into scoring position. Martin got two straight strikeouts and a groundout to end the game.
The teams will now head to Red Wilson Field at 4 p.m. today. That was the site of a Y-D finals series turnaround last year, when the Red Sox came back from a 1-0 series deficit on their way to the title over Hyannis. It was also the spot where Falmouth lost the 2014 Cape League championship series.