By SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
ORLEANS, MA: Every baseball team at every level of the sport has experienced one of those games where nothing seems to click. The bats go quiet, the pitching struggles, and at times even the defense can look shaky. For the Wareham Gatemen, Saturday night was simply one of those games.
The Gatemen (3-7) struggled from start to finish in their 7-0 loss at Orleans Saturday against the Firebirds. After a four-game streak of double-digit hits, the offense’s five-hit performance came as a bit of a shock to Gatemen fans.
Orleans starting pitcher Kolton Mahoney (BYU) pitched lights out over 6.0 innings of work, allowing only two hits to Wareham batters while striking out six. The Gatemen assembled their biggest threat against Mahoney in the third inning when second baseman Kramer Robertson (LSU) and left fielder Charlie Warren (Rice) both walked. However, Mahoney got centerfielder Jake Little (Memphis) to strike out swinging to end the inning and strand the two Wareham runners.
Wareham starting pitcher Kyle Cody (Kentucky) struggled with his command on the mound and the Firebirds capitalized in the bottom of the second. Catcher RJ Ybarra (Arizona State) crushed a pitch up in the zone off the right field wall for a leadoff double. After Cody walked second baseman Cole Peragine (Stony Brook), first baseman David Thompson (Miami) followed Ybarra’s lead by hitting a double off the wall in right, giving Orleans a 1-0 lead. A walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly gave the Firebirds a 3-0 lead and chased Cody from the game.
On came right-hander Liam O’Sullivan (Saint Leo), who has flourished in a long-relief role for the Gatemen. With the bases loaded and one out, O’Sullivan calmly got right fielder Timmy Robinson (USC) to ground into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Firebirds added another run in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead, when Thompson crossed the plate on a wild pitch. O’Sullivan, who has been among the most consistent arms in the Wareham bullpen, tossed 4.2 innings, allowing only one run and two hits while striking out four Orleans batters. The Saint Leo right-hander attributed his strong performance to his mental toughness on the mound.
“Baseball is a game that is going to beat you up every single day,” O’Sullivan said. “It takes the mental part to tell yourself, ‘If you put the work in, everything is going to pay off.’ For me, just getting back out there and having a short-term memory is the biggest thing. Going out there and throwing strikes is all I can do.”
Trailing 4-0, the Gatemen finally appeared to have something going in the top of the seventh against Orleans reliever Ryne Combs (Kentucky). An error, a walk, and a single loaded the bases with one out and brought the tying run, shortstop Blake Lacey (USC), to the plate. Swinging on the first pitch, Lacey grounded into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play that halted a potential Wareham rally in its tracks.
Right-hander Willie Kuhl (Cal State Fullerton) came on in relief for the Gatemen in the bottom of the seventh and walked the first two batters he faced. An RBI double from Robinson and a two-run single from third baseman Mitchell Tolman (Oregon) gave the Firebirds a 7-0 lead and effectively put the game out of reach. The swing in momentum was almost cruel to the Gatemen, who just minutes earlier had a chance bring a couple runs across and finally break through against Orleans. The seven-run deficit simply was too much for Wareham to overcome that late in the ballgame.
A bright spot for the Gatemen was the play of newcomer Corey Ray, who joined the team after competing in the College World Series for the Louisville Cardinals. Ray walked twice after working the pitch count against Mahoney and Combs, and also came up with a strike to home plate from right field. Head Coach Cooper Farris was impressed with the performance of his newest player.
“Ray is a good athlete,” Farris said. “He just needs to get his feet wet, which he did a little bit tonight. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll see some better things once he settles in.”
The Gatemen have a key doubleheader Sunday at Spillane Field with the Chatham Anglers, beginning at 4 p.m. Farris believed that pitching and defense would be the keys for the Gatemen to get back on track.
“We need to get good starting pitching in both games,” Farris said. “We’re thin in the bullpen and we need some guys to come in and throw some innings to hold the game for us.
“I also think the big thing for us is playing good defense. I don’t think we’ve had a clean game in the last four, so we need to make some plays.”
As always, you can watch the live stream of the game by accessing our “Gatemen Pressbox” page. The pre-game show begins around 3:40 p.m. Like the Wareham Gatemen Baseball Facebook page and follow @WarehamGatemen for all the latest news on the team.
“Coop’s Scoop” – Postgame interview with Manager Cooper Farris – Click below to listen to interview
Gatemen Player of the Game – Liam O’Sullivan
Gatemen Broadcast Team Game Highlights