Ever since Cole Freeman put on a Wareham uniform, the Gatemen have become an entirely new ball club.
Freeman has been nothing short of an “energizer bunny” for Wareham (11-8-1) as he has used his speed, ability to hit to all-fields, and his gold-glove like fielding at second base to enhance the Gatemen’s play in all facets of the game.
So, it came as no surprise that as Sunday night’s 4-2 Gatemen win over Bourne (11-8-1) reached its tipping point in the bottom of the eighth inning, Freeman was the one involved in the contest’s most important moment.
Trailing 4-2, Bourne loaded the bases with one man down in the home half of the eighth off Gatemen reliever Jake Matthys.
On an 0-2 pitch, Connor Wong sawed off an inside fastball, causing him to hit a weak pop up just over the mound. Freeman, playing at double play depth, came charging in before going into a slide to pick the ball off out of the air.
That was not the end of Freeman’s magnificent play, as after reeling in the pop up, Freeman quickly got up and fired to first, doubling off Jake Mangum for the final out of the inning.
“I saw him get jammed, saw it go straight up, and initially I did not think I was going to get to it. I thought it was going to drop,” said Freeman on his game saving catch. “My plan was to have it drop, run through it and then go (home) with it. I really wanted to make sure I would not have had to lay out, I wanted to make sure of at least one (out).”
Warehan coach Jerry Weinstein said Freeman has simply done it all since his arrival.
“Oh my gosh, its unbelievable,” said Weinstein on watching Freeman play. “Everyone who sees him play, both offensively and defensively, wow.”
With the win, Wareham pulls into a tie with Bourne atop the Western division.
Brett Conine got the start for the Gatemen, and immediately found himself in a hole. A single to left off the bat of Wong and two wild pitches mixed around a fielder’s choice groundout gave Bourne a 1-0 advantage after one inning.
The Gatemen struck right back in the top half of the second.
Harrison Wenson drilled a one out single to left, bringing up Adrian Tovalin with an opportunity to do some damage.
This past spring, Tovalin hit 22 home runs for Azusa Pacific. On Sunday night, Tovalin displayed some of that power as he launched a 2-1 fastball well over the fence in left for a two-run home run and a 2-1 Gatemen lead.
Bourne tied the score in the bottom half of the second on a double play off the bat Connor McVey but just as they did the first time, the Gatemen responded in the following half inning.
Freeman singled, stole second, and Alex Destino walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. A wild pitch moved the two runners along, allowing Colton Shaver to lift a sacrifice to left, bringing Freeman in and putting Wareham back on top, 3-2.
Two batters later, Luke Bonfield provided some insurance for Wareham, lining a single to left that brought in Destino with Wareham’s fourth run of the ball game.
“We caught the ball really well but we also pitched great,” said Weinstein. “We attacked the strike zone, did a great job of throwing strike one, and that makes it much easier on the defense.”
For the second straight night, the Gatemen bullpen was dominant.
Robert Garcia relieved Conine after four innings of work and turned in his best outing to date this Cape Cod Baseball League season.
Garcia – out of University of California Davis – tossed three innings of shutout ball, surrendering just one hit, walking no one, and striking out three.
“(Garcia) threw a lot of innings back at school so he came in and probably needed some time off,” said Weinstein of Garcia. “He is finally starting to get his feet wet, get his confidence back, and with each outing he is improving.”
As the game turned to the bottom of eighth, Matthys came on in looking for the two inning save, but within a few moments ran into trouble.
McVey singled to center, pinch-hitter Willy Yahn lofted a single to left, and Mangum reached on an error by Gavin Sheets, loading the bases with one out.
Freeman, however, made sure the Gatemen went home with a share of first place in the Western division.