SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
WAREHAM, MA: Wondering what makes a good Cape League game? Just ask Wareham Head Coach Cooper Farris.
“We’re defending a lot better and pitching a lot better,” Farris said. “These are starting to look like Cape League games now and hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Well, for the second consecutive game, the Gatemen (9-17) excelled in both aspects of the game on their way to a well-earned 2-0-shutout victory over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks Friday night. With the win, Wareham moved within two games of the Harbor Hawks for the final playoff position in the Western Division.
The all-around impressive team win started and ended with the effort of starting pitcher Ryan Olson (San Diego). Olson tossed 6.0 shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk, while striking out four Hyannis batters. The San Diego right-hander exhibited excellent command on the mound, retiring 10 consecutive batters between the first and fourth innings.
The only trouble Olson ran into occurred in the top of the fifth when Hyannis third baseman Austin Slater (Stanford) led off with a double to the right field wall and first baseman Carl Wise (Charleston) walked. Olson calmly worked out of the sticky situation by retiring the next three hitters, one by way of the K, and stranded the two Harbor Hawks on base.
In the top of the seventh, the Harbor Hawks put runners at second and third with two outs against reliever Liam O’Sullivan (Saint Leo). With the Gatemen leading 2-0, catcher David Houser (Tennessee) represented the go-ahead run in the batters box, but O’Sullivan got him to pop out to centerfield to escape the threat.
After a rough stretch that saw the Gatemen record multiple errors per game, the Gatemen have now played four consecutive games without a defensive miscue. With Hyannis threatening to rally, the defense came up big for the Gatemen in the top of the ninth. Right fielder Donnie Dewees Jr. (North Florida) led off the inning with an infield single off reliever Jason Richman (Georgia Southern).
Pinch hitter Ben Delusio (Florida State) then hit a sinking line drive to the gap in right-centerfield that Wareham right fielder Anderson Miller (Western Kentucky) got a great jump on. Miller made an impressive sliding catch to record the first out of the ninth. Had Miller not caught up to the ball, Hyannis would have had the tying run on base with no outs. Farris was satisfied with his team’s ability to back up their pitchers with clean defense in the field.
“We got in a couple of bad situations that we would have screwed up in the past couple of weeks,” Farris said, “but now we’re starting to make plays and understanding that we need to help guys get out of trouble.
“In the past, we’ve kicked the ball around a bit. You can see when guys make errors, they look like deer in the headlights or squirrels in the middle of the highway. We’ve tried to solidify the idea that every ball can be hit at them and if they’re ready for the ball then they can make the play.”
Scott Effross (Indiana) entered the ballgame with one out in the ninth and recorded back-to-back groundball outs to earn his third save of the summer. Effross has developed into one of the most reliable arms in the Wareham bullpen and now has a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings of work for the Gatemen.
The Gatemen have now scored four total runs in their last two games, both of them wins. For a team that has lost games after putting up five or six runs, the Gatemen will take wins any way they can get them.
Wareham jumped on Hyannis starting pitcher Blake Hickman (Iowa) to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Second baseman Kramer Robertson (LSU) and designated hitter Keaton Aldridge (Memphis) both singled to put runners at the corners with one out. Catcher Chris Chinea (LSU) picked up his team-leading 14th RBI of the season with a sacrifice fly that plated Robertson.
The Gatemen added their second run in the bottom of the fourth with timely two-out hitting from first baseman Nick Halamandaris (UC-Berkeley) and centerfielder Jake Little (Memphis). Halamandaris doubled down the right field line with two outs and came around to give Wareham a 2-0 lead on an RBI single to left field from Little.
Wareham’s woes with leaving runners on base continued Friday night as the Gatemen stranded eight more men against Hyannis. In the bottom of the sixth, they loaded the bases with one out but were unable to plate any additional runs. Fortunately, for the third consecutive game, the pitching was dominant. Olson and Co. took their two runs of support and delivered with a big win for the Gatemen.
With their second consecutive win, the Gatemen are now only two games out of playoff position. Effross summed up the importance of the victory over Hyannis following the game Friday night.
“This is a good win,” Effross said. “We’re chasing Hyannis right now to catch back up to them in the division. It’s two in a row. We’ve had timely hitting and played good defense. We’ve got some big games coming up and anything can happen once we get in the playoffs.”
The Gatemen have another great opportunity to make up some ground when they travel to Lowell Park Saturday for a matchup with the Cotuit Kettleers (5 p.m. ET). A third-consecutive win, this time over the third-place Kettleers, would show the rest of the league that the Gatemen have what it takes to make a postseason run.
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.