\SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
WAREHAM, MA: For the entire night, it felt like the Wareham Gatemen were hanging on by a thread. They led the Falmouth Commodores for the first eight innings of the ballgame despite being outhit thirteen to seven. The Wareham pitchers worked some magic to escape jams in the middle of the game to maintain the Gatemen’s slim lead, but ultimately the Commodores offense would be too much to handle.
Trailing 5-4, Falmouth broke through with three runs in the top of the ninth to claim a 7-5 lead and would go on to defeat the Gatemen (12-25-1) by the same score. The late-inning collapse devastated a Gatemen team that has been desperate to string together wins and make a late-season playoff push.
After back-to-back Falmouth batters reached base by way of walks to start the top of the ninth, shortstop Kevin Newman (Arizona) laid down a bunt to load the bases with no outs. Third baseman Connor Hale (LSU) capped off an incredible 4-5 performance with a two-run double to deep left-centerfield off Keaton Aldridge (Memphis) to give the Commodores a 6-5 lead. Falmouth increased its lead to 7-5 when designated hitter Austin Afenir (Oral Roberts) delivered an RBI single up the middle off Jason Richman (Georgia Southern).
For Wareham Head Coach Cooper Farris, the loss to Falmouth was a disappointing end to an already frustrating ballgame.
“The walks killed us there in the last inning,” Farris said. “It’s just the same thing that’s been happening all summer. I don’t know, I really don’t. They had 16 hits tonight and they just had good at-bats. They got in there and put the ball in play.”
For the first time in a long time, the Gatemen actually jumped out to a multi-run lead in the first inning. Second baseman Kramer Robertson (LSU) led off with a bloop single down the right field line and moved up to second base on a sacrifice bunt from shortstop Blake Lacey (USC). Designated hitter Willie Calhoun (Arizona) brought home Robertson with an RBI single to right field to give the Gatemen a 1-0 lead. Calhoun then came in to score on a bloop RBI single from left fielder Corey Ray (Louisville).
Despite grabbing the 2-0 lead, the Gatemen would find themselves disappointed with their first inning output. After first baseman Nick Halamandaris (UC-Berkeley) walked to load the bases with one out, Falmouth starting pitcher Kyle Zimmerman (Wayne State) settled down on the mound. He recorded back-to-back swinging strikeouts to escape the jam and limit the damage.
The Gatemen loaded the bases again with one out in the bottom of the second as third baseman Jose Cuas (Maryland) stepped into the batter’s box. Down 0-1 to Zimmerman, Cuas lined a two-run single up the middle that plated centerfielder Charlie Warren (Rice) and Robertson to increase the Wareham lead to 4-1. However, for the second consecutive inning, the Gatemen would leave the bases loaded as Zimmerman picked up yet another big strikeout to avoid further trouble. The six runners left on base in the first two innings would eventually come back to bite the Gatemen later in the ballgame.
Wareham grabbed an insurance run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth off Falmouth reliever Donnie Murray (Holy Cross). Back-to-back pass balls from Commodores catcher Shawn Chase (Oregon) allowed catcher John Bormann (UT-San Antonio) to come in to score to increase their lead to 5-3. Bormann led the Wareham offense with two hits on the night, but the Gatemen were unable to hold off the red-hot Commodores.
Starting pitcher Jake Kalish (George Mason) gave up ten hits over 5.0 innings, but he only allowed three runs and left with a 4-3 lead. Ryan Olson (San Diego) was excellent in relief of Kalish, tossing 3.0 innings while allowing only three hits and picking up five strikeouts. The Commodores did cut the Wareham lead to 5-4 off Olson in the top of the eighth after Chase launched a high fly ball to left field that Ray misplaced.
As Falmouth rallied with four runs in the final two innings, the Gatemen left nine men on base. Farris speculated how the game could have turned out differently had his players altered their approaches at the plate.
“They’ve been getting big,” Farris said. “They want their names in the paper. We haven’t hit many home runs this season, so I don’t know why we’re doing it now. When we stay within ourselves and take the at-bats we are given, we’re pretty good.”
The Gatemen now trail the Cotuit Kettleers by eight points for the final playoff spot in the Western Division. With only six games remaining in the regular season, the margin for error for Wareham is growing slimmer by the day. Following Sunday’s All-Star Game and Monday’s off day, the Gatemen face a tough task in a must-win scenario Tuesday night when they welcome the Eastern Division-leading Harwich Mariners to Spillane Field (7 p.m. ET).
As always, you can watch the live stream of the game by accessing our “Gatemen Pressbox” page. The pre-game show begins around 6:40 p.m. Like the Wareham Gatemen Baseball Facebook page and follow @WarehamGatemen for all the latest news on the team.