By SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
CHATHAM, MA: With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the second inning, Keaton Aldridge stepped into the batter’s box for his first at-bat with the Wareham Gatemen this summer. The catcher from Memphis crushed a 1-1 pitch from Jeff Burke (Boston College) over the right field fence and onto the hill surrounding Veterans Field in Chatham, giving the Gatemen an early 2-0 lead. Aldridge’s two-run blast was a pleasant sign of good things to come from the Wareham offense.
The Gatemen (1-1) defeated the Chatham Anglers, 13-3, to pick up their first victory of the season. The bats were on full display in Chatham as the Gatemen lineup combined for 17 hits, including at least one hit from each batter.
Most teams consider it a success when they grab a couple of two-out runs in a game. However, on this night, an incredible 10 runs were scored with two outs by the Gatemen offense. Wareham Head Coach Cooper Farris was thrilled with the team’s offensive performance.
“The two-out hits with runners in scoring position are going to win ballgames for you and we had several of those tonight,” Farris said. “I was really excited about that and hopefully we’ll stay within ourselves and continuing doing it.
“We just kept preaching quality at-bats. ‘Don’t give your at-bats away.’ I thought we did a really good job with that tonight. I tell them all the time that a ground ball to second base can be a good thing, and we had a couple of those that helped us score some runs. They’re buying into it and we will see what happens.”
The Gatemen lineup responded nicely after a difficult start to the summer in the season opening loss at Bourne. Six Gatemen had multi-hit games, including Aldridge, who was 2-5 with 3 RBIs and a run scored. First baseman Nick Halmandaris (UC-Berkeley) was 3-5 with a pair of RBI singles. Farris praised his team’s ability to quickly move past the opening day loss to Bourne.
“I think the guys had a short memory from the past and came back and really worked on some things with the coaches,” Farris said. “I thought we had some real quality at-bats tonight and we pressed the ball really well all night.”
Centerfielder Jake Little matched his Memphis teammate’s effort with a solo ninth-inning home run that capped off the game for the Gatemen. Little finished 3-5 and was on base four times, scoring three runs.
Little’s heads-up, aggressive base running was key to setting the tone for the Wareham offense. After the Anglers tied up the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth- due in some part to Little misplacing a ball in centerfield- he led of the fifth with a single to right-centerfield. He then stole second base, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice from second baseman Willie Calhoun (Arizona), and scored the go-ahead run on an RBI single from third baseman Andrew Knizner (NC State). The Gatemen did not look back after that, batting around in the inning to take a 7-3 lead.
Little again led off the inning in the sixth, this time reaching base after beating out a throw from Chatham shortstop Garrett Hampson (Long Beach State) for an infield single. Heads-up running allowed Little to come around and score all the way from first on Calhoun’s RBI double to deep left-centerfield. For the second consecutive inning, the Gatemen batted around, plating another five runs, including three more with two outs, to take an 11-3 lead. Little was satisfied that his efforts on the base paths paid off in a big way for the Gatemen.
“I try to get myself in position to score every time,” Little said. “I just try to be really aggressive on the base paths no matter what. Just moving a runner from second to third can really change the game.”
The offense provided the Wareham pitchers with a nice cushion to work with, but the pitching staff turned in a solid performance of its own. Starting pitcher Nick Fuller (UMass-Dartmouth) showed some jitters in his first Cape League appearance, loading up the bases in the bottom of the first. However, he got Chatham right fielder Chris Shaw (Boston College) and designated hitter Patrick Mazeika (Stetson) to strike out and escaped the inning unscathed.
Fuller ran into some more trouble in the fourth inning after a couple of fielding miscues and a pair of RBI singles from catcher Nick Collins (Georgetown) and left fielder Nick Gunsolus (Gonzaga). A sac fly from centerfielder Donnie Cimino (Wesleyan) tied the game at 3-3, but Fuller settled down and was able to escape further damage. In 4.0 innings, he allowed five hits and three runs (two earned), while striking out three Anglers batters.
The Wareham bullpen acquitted itself nicely, beginning with Connecticut pitcher Anthony Kay, who came on in relief for Fuller. The southpaw struck out three Chatham batters while allowing only one hit in 3.0 innings of relief, and picked up the win. Right-hander Ryan Olson (San Diego) saw his first action in the eighth inning and showcased excellent command, getting three Anglers to strike out looking on pitches that painted the outside corner.
Southpaw Ryan Williamson (NC State) closed out the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to clinch the Gatemen’s first victory of the season. There was a lot to like for Farris as the Gatemen executed nearly flawlessly in every facet of the ballgame.
“I told them last night, we have 43 more of these games,” Farris said. “I know it’s a cliché, but you can’t play the 30th one until you play the third one. We’ll see what happens, but hopefully these guys will step up and do their job.”
Gatemen fans will have an opportunity to see if their lineup can back up their production Friday night when they travel to Cotuit to take on the defending champion Kettleers at Lowell Park (5 p.m. ET). If they can even match half of what they accomplished Thursday, the Gatemen will be giving their fans something to cheer for.
As always, you can watch the live stream of the game by accessing our “Gatemen Pressbox” page. The pre-game show begins around 4:40 p.m. Like the Wareham Gatemen Baseball Facebook page and follow @WarehamGatemen for all the latest news on the team.
Game Hightlights from the Gatemen Broadcast Team
“Coop’s Scoop” Post Game Interview with Coach Farris
Gatemen Player of the Game Jake Little and Keaton Aldridge