SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
FALMOUTH MA: “We’ve been in every game. It feels good to finally pull one out.”
These words from right fielder Corey Ray (Louisville) summed up the general feeling in the Wareham clubhouse after the Gatemen (10-22-1) pulled out a thrilling 2-1 win over the Falmouth Commodores on Sunday night. The victory halted a six-game winless streak and pushed the Gatemen within five points of playoff position in the Western Division.
Wareham starting pitcher Jake Kalish (George Mason) was phenomenal on the mound in a game that the Gatemen desperately needed to win. With a thin bullpen behind him, Kalish tossed 7.1 innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits while striking out five Falmouth batters. Wareham Head Coach Cooper Farris was at a loss for words to describe how important Kalish’s outing was to the team’s first win in over a week.
“I can’t say how good of a job he did,” Farris said. “He was real poised and polished. He didn’t lose his composure at all today, so it was really big for us. We needed that there.”
Kalish went toe-to-toe with Falmouth starter Matt Hall (Missouri State) as the two pitchers traded scoreless frames through the first five innings of the ballgame. The George Mason southpaw showed excellent command, allowing just one walk, and quickly worked out of troublesome situations on the mound.
“I’ve just been working with both Coach Lawlers [Jim and Travis] to try to get my delivery more consistent,” Kalish said. “I didn’t feel like I had my best stuff in the bullpen, but as I went along it just got easier to throw strikes.
“It really just came down to executing my pitches. I’ve been working on some verbal cues in the bullpen to really try to get myself locked in on a certain location with a pitch. Usually in situations where things blow up on you, you try to make a good pitch and you leave it over and it gets hit hard. In those situations today, I was able to really focus and it seemed to work out.”
The Commodores finally got to Kalish to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the sixth. Shortstop Kevin Newman (Arizona) led off with a double down the left field line and would come across to score on a sacrifice fly from designated hitter Austin Afenir (Oral Roberts). Kalish settled down and tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
The Wareham lineup had no answer for Hall, who was dominant through the early innings of the ballgame. Catcher John Bormann (UT-San Antonio) finally picked up the Gatemen’s first hit of the night with two outs in the top of the fifth. In 6.2 innings of work, Hall allowed just two hits and one run while striking out eight Gatemen batters.
That second hit and one run came off the bat of centerfielder Jake Little (Memphis) who led off the top of the seventh with a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1. Little’s line-drive homer barely cleared the left field wall, but it served as the rallying cry for the Gatemen.
“I honestly didn’t know it was going out,” Little said. “The wind was blowing in all day. I put a good swing on it and got lucky that it got out.”
With the game still tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth, Little delivered again for the Gatemen, this time with a one-out, ground-rule double to left field. After Jose Cuas (Maryland) popped out, Corey Ray stepped into the batter�s box in a familiar spot. On Saturday night, Ray hit what appeared to many fans to be the game-winning RBI single. However, Danny Rosenbaum (Louisville) was tagged out at the plate and the Gatemen went on to tie the Bourne Braves 3-3.
On Sunday night, Ray came through again with a single up the middle, although this time there was no doubt that the run would score. Little cruised across the plate as the Gatemen pulled ahead 2-1. Following the game, Ray said that he tried to approach the at-bat just like any other.
“I was just relaxed,” Ray said. “So many times, people in that situation try to do too much. I tried to just put a good swing on the baseball and it worked out.”
The Gatemen held on to the win courtesy of excellent relief pitching from their bullpen in the late innings. After the Commodores loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Andrew Zapata (Connecticut) picked up a big strikeout. Jason Richman (Georgia Southern) then got first baseman Jake Madsen (Ohio) to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice to maintain the 1-1 tie.
Keaton Aldridge (Memphis) took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and celebrated his birthday with a 1-2-3 inning to pick up the save and secure the win. In 4.0 innings of relief work this summer, the Memphis catcher has yet to allow a hit.
The mood in the Wareham dugout following the game was dramatically improved from the overall attitude following Saturday’s tie, as Kalish noted.
“It’s definitely good for us to know we can win,” Kalish said. “As a team, the tie was kind of demoralizing, but today the win was huge. Hopefully we can get rolling with it.”
The Gatemen will look to keep rolling Monday night when they welcome the red-hot Orleans Firebirds to Spillane Field (7 p.m. ET). Now three-quarters through the season, the Gatemen need to capitalize on their momentum to continue their playoff push.
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.