SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
WAREHAM, MA: With their backs against the wall, the Gatemen found a way to stay alive.
Behind eight strong innings from starting pitcher Liam O’Sullivan (Saint Leo), the Gatemen (13-25-1) picked up a huge 3-2 win over the Eastern Division-leading Harwich Mariners. With only five games remaining in the regular season, the victory moved the Gatemen within three games of Cotuit for the final playoff spot in the Western Division.
For the second consecutive week, O’Sullivan turned in a phenomenal outing on the mound against a high-powered opposing offense. After tossing 6.2 innings of two-run ball against the Orleans Firebirds on July 21, O’Sullivan outdid that performance Tuesday night with 8.0+ innings of work against the Mariners.
O’Sullivan allowed just two runs and five hits, while striking out three Harwich batters and working into the ninth inning of a ballgame that the Gatemen desperately needed to win. O’Sullivan’s battery mate, catcher John Bormann (UT-San Antonio), had nothing but high praise for the Saint Leo right-hander after the victory.
“He’s a strike thrower,” Bormann said. “He throws three pitches for strikes. He was a lot more dominant than it seemed. We weren’t getting a lot of calls at the plate, but he kept his composure and threw really well.
“He was the player of the game. He has had great back-to-back outings, and it’s fun to work with guys like that.”
After the Gatemen took a 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice bunt from shortstop Blake Lacey (USC), the Mariners responded against O’Sullivan in the top of the sixth. Harwich put runners at first and second with one out as designated hitter Ian Happ (Cincinnati) stepped to the plate. Happ launched a 3-2 pitch to deep centerfield that looked like it would be catchable for Charlie Warren (Rice). Instead, Warren slipped and the ball sailed to the centerfield wall, allowing two runs to cross the plate to give Harwich a 2-1 lead.
To their credit, the Gatemen responded in a big way to regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Singles from first baseman Nick Halamandaris (UC-Berkeley), left fielder Kyri Washington (Longwood), and designated hitter Danny Rosenbaum (Louisville) loaded the bases with one out. Into the batter’s box stepped an unassuming hero for the Gatemen- John Bormann. The UT-San Antonio catcher delivered in a crucial spot, lining a two-run single off Harwich starter Zach Erwin (Clemson) to left field to give Wareham a 3-2 lead.
After the Gatemen squandered opportunities to plate runs earlier in the ballgame against Erwin, Wareham Head Coach Cooper Farris believed that it was poetic justice for the quiet, competitive leader to come through for the Gatemen with such an important hit.
“Johnny just competes and anytime you have a guy competing, you have a chance to win,” Farris said. “He’s started three games in a row, and hit in all three games so I’m just excited for him. He’s a hard-working kid.”
In his third consecutive start behind the plate for Wareham, Bormann delivered yet again. He scored the Gatemen’s first run on Lacey’s sacrifice bunt in the fifth, and then drove in the game-winning runs with his sixth-inning single. After a tough stretch for Bormann and the Gatemen, the UT-San Antonio catcher was ecstatic to contribute so prominently in a must-win game.
“It felt great,” Bormann said. “I’m thankful for the opportunities I’m getting finally. For a couple weeks now, I’ve had people telling me I can’t hit, so that’s just kind of fueled the fire for me.
“I’m just having fun and going out there relaxed. I’m not caring about what other people think, I’m just trying to get the job done.”
Now with a 3-2 lead, O’Sullivan returned to the mound and made quick work of the Mariners in the seventh and eighth innings. After Happ led off the top of the ninth with a single, pitching coach Jim Lawler made the call to the bullpen for left-hander Sean Adler (USC), but not before O’Sullivan was given a standing ovation from the crowd at Spillane Field.
Adler did his job to pick up three consecutive outs and the save, and was fired up as his teammates joined him on the diamond at the conclusion of the game. For Farris and his team, the final five games of the season must remain business as usual.
“The biggest thing I told them is that now we’re going to find out who the real players are- who keeps moving and who quits,” Farris said. “This is a good indication of who they are as people.
“We can only control what we do. We just need to not put any pressure on them, and let them go out and play.”
Bormann held a similar outlook to that of his manager, and said he relishes opportunities like those still to come in the final week of the season.
“We just have to show up focused to the park each day and just have fun with it,” Bormann said. “We’re playing really well as a team. We’ve had great pitching and some timely hits, so it’s starting to come together in this final week.
“It’s been fun the whole time and it’s getting really fun now, so I look forward to the rest of the week.”
The Gatemen travel to Brewster on Wednesday night for a matchup with the 14-24-1 Whitecaps (5 p.m. ET). With both teams desperate for a win to stay in the playoff hunt in their respective divisions, fans should expect a highly competitive ballgame at Stony Brook Field.
As always, you can watch the live stream of the game by accessing our “Gatemen Pressbox” page. The pre-game show begins around 4:40 p.m. Like the Wareham Gatemen Baseball Facebook page and follow @WarehamGatemen for all the latest news on the team.