The Wareham Gatemen snapped a four-game losing streak with a thrilling 2-1 ten-inning victory Saturday night against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.
After a one-out triple to deep left-center in the tenth, John Sternagel stood at third base representing the winning run for the Gatemen. With shortstop Preston Grand Pre coming to the plate against a new pitcher in Aaron Civale, Cooper Farris made the gutsy decision to call for a suicide squeeze.
“We had been having trouble scoring,” said Farris after the game. “We had talked about it [during the pitching change] and I had the second pitch set up.”
Grand Pre got a tough pitch to bunt, but was able to get it down and bring home the winning run. Sternagel left early, and may have stolen home even if Grand Pre hadn’t been able to put bat to ball.
“Literally, all I was hearing was footsteps, and I was thinking if I don’t get this bunt down right now I’m getting trucked by John so it’s a win-win,” said Grand Pre. “We win by me getting trucked, or I get a bunt down.”
The squeeze play was just the last in a long sequence of exciting events that made for an intense evening at Spillane Field. Emotions ran high, especially in the late innings.
After Dakota Hudson pitched 6.1 innings of shutout ball for the Harbor Hawks, he turned the game over to Kevin Roy (L, 1-1) with runners on first and second and one out. After loading the bases with a walk, Roy got big strikeouts of Charlie Warren and Sternagel to seemingly end the inning. But strike three to Sternagel bounced past catcher Jake Rogers and Jay Jabs came home to give the Gatemen a 1-0 lead and end a 24-inning scoreless streak for the team.
But then in the top of the eighth, Evan Hill (W, 4-0), who had entered the game in the sixth in relief of starter Ian Hamilton (5 innings, 0 runs, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts), threw a first-pitch fastball up and in to right fielder Austin Hays. The pitch hit Hays and prompted him to confront Hill in front of the mound. Benches cleared, but cooler heads prevailed and no ejections were made.
Hays got his revenge quickly, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild throw by catcher Andrew Knizner. He came around to score an unearned run on a two-out single by Jacob Noll to tie the game up at 1-1.
Things were quiet again until the bottom of the tenth, when Sternagel blasted his triple just shy of the center field wall. That marked the end of the day for Roy, and Civale’s night lasted just two pitches before the walk-off squeeze.
The win came at an opportune time for the Gatemen, who had struggled in recent weeks. Losers of 9 of their last 10, they had seen their place in the standings fall from second to fourth.
“I’m just excited for those guys,” said Farris. “It’s like a big gorilla was lifted off their backs.”
The Gatemen travel to Cotuit on Sunday to face the last-place Kettleers as they try to climb their way back towards the top of the Western Division. First pitch is at 5 p.m. and the radio broadcast will be available at gatemen.org/pressbox.