By SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
WAREHAM, MA: Hitless in 12 plate appearances this summer, pinch hitter Blair Beck stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the sixth with an air of confidence.
The first baseman from Kansas calmly blasted a 2-1 pitch from Chatham reliever Paul Covelle (Franklin Pierce) over the left field wall and into the bleachers at Spillane Field. Beck’s home run, which increased the Wareham lead to 7-3, seemed inconsequential at the time. However, the solo shot would prove to be the deciding run in a 7-6 win for the Gatemen (4-8) over Chatham in game two of a Sunday doubleheader in Wareham.
Beck was satisfied to not only get the monkey off his back with his first hit of the summer, but also to come up big in such an important spot for his teammates.
“It felt great,” Beck said. “I’ve been working with Coop on my swing. I’ve had some tough times, but I went to the plate pretty confident and it finally came together and felt good.”
The good feelings associated with Beck’s home run nearly dissipated in the top of the seventh when Wareham reliever Ryan Williamson (NC State) ran into some trouble with two outs. The Anglers brought across three runs, including two on a line-drive home run from right fielder Chris Shaw (Boston College), to cut the Gatemen’s lead to 7-6.
Head Coach Cooper Farris made the call to the bullpen for Scott Effross (Indiana), who had provided Wareham with 5.2 innings of solid relief work in two previous appearances. The Indiana right-hander got third baseman Landon Lassiter (UNC) to ground out to the shortstop and sent home Gatemen fans with a win and a big sigh of relief.
In his first appearance since joining the Gatemen a few days earlier, left-handed pitcher Drew Harrington (Louisville) turned in one of the strongest starts of the season when the team desperately needed it. Harrington was fantastic on the mound and showed excellent command of his breaking ball, striking out five Chatham batters over 5.0 innings while only allowing three base hits. The Anglers picked up their lone run off Harrington in the fourth on a pass ball that allowed Shaw to cross the plate. Farris was very impressed with the performance of the latest newcomer to join his team.
“Drew did a great job tonight,” Farris said. “He just got here and has been taking it all in. I thought he pounded the zone pretty good and his breaking ball was outstanding.
“We need to minimize our pitch counts and see if we can extend these guys deeper into the ballgame. It’ll make it a lot easier on the bullpen if we can get good innings like we did tonight from Drew.”
With Harrington backing them up on the mound, the Gatemen offense got back to business following a disappointing three-hit performance in their 4-2 game one loss to Chatham. In game two, Wareham tallied 11 hits and scored a pair of runs in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings.
Third baseman Andrew Knizner (NC State) continues to come up with clutch hitting for the Gatemen and gave the team a 2-0 lead with a two-out, two-run double to the left-centerfield wall in the bottom of the third.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, second baseman Willie Calhoun (Arizona), catcher Keaton Aldridge (Memphis), and centerfielder Jake Little (Memphis) all reached base with singles. Left fielder Kyri Washington (Longwood), who had broken through a tough hitting slump in the past two days with a pair of pinch-hit singles, stepped into the box with the bases loaded and the Gatemen leading by one. Washington lined a 2-0 pitch from Chatham reliever Jeff Gelinas (Maine) into left field, bringing in Calhoun and Aldridge to give Wareham a 4-1 lead and some breathing room. Farris was pleased to see Washington’s efforts pay off in a big way for the Gatemen.
“We’ve tried to work a little bit with Kyri,” Farris said. “He’s been shortening up a little bit, and he’s got tremendous power. He’s doing a great job of taking it all in and listening.
“He’s here every day for early outs and figuring everything out with his swing. We made a little adjustment with his swing, and it paid off today.”
Wareham plated two more runs to take a 6-1 lead in the fifth on an RBI single from shortstop Justin Brock (Franklin Pierce) and a pass ball by Chatham catcher Nick Collins (Georgetown). The Gatemen nearly gave the game away in the closing innings, but overall the team responded with a great all-around win following back-to-back tough losses. Washington saw the win as a big momentum shift for the team.
“It was huge,” Washington said. “This win is going to matter down the road. This is the turning point in our season. I think we’re picking it up.”
The Gatemen get a well-earned day off on Monday, and then are back in action Tuesday night at Harwich to face the Eastern Division-leading Mariners (7 p.m. ET). Victors now in three of their last five games, the Gatemen will look to continue to ride their momentum and rattle off some more W’s.
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.
Gatemen Player of the Game – Drew Harrington
“Coop’s Scoop” – Postgame Interview with Manager Cooper Farris