Playoff Preview: An in-depth look at all four Western Division playoff teams

On Wednesday, the Gatemen finished off their best regular season (record wise) since 2001. Their defeat of Cotuit, 6-0, gave them 25 wins for the season, surpassing any total from the last 14 years.

Now, Wareham will turn their attention to the postseason, where they will try to capture their first league championship since 2012.

While it is the second straight season that the Gatemen are making a postseason appearance, last season’s trip is one Wareham would like to forget.

After clinching on the last day of the regular season in 2015, Wareham was swept by Bourne.

One year later, the Gatemen hope to get revenge against the Braves in round one of the postseason.

Game one is scheduled for 630pm at Spillane Field, but even though Wareham may be the hottest team in the league right now, it is hard to make the case that they are the team to beat.

Between Bourne’s dynamic 1-2-3 of Willy Yahn, Jake Mangum, and Connor Wong, Falmouth star-studded lineup and pitching staff, and Hyannis’ powerful middle of the order, plenty of obstacles lay ahead if the Gatemen hope to bring a championship back to Wareham.

So, without a further ado, here is a preview of all four Western Division playoff teams.

 Falmouth Commodores

Record: 29-15 

Western Division Seeding: One

First Round Matchup: Hyannis Harbor Hawks

Players to Watch: Jeffrey Passantino, RHP; Corbin Martin, RHP; Michael Gigliotti, OF; J.J. Matijevic, INF; Tyler Lawrence, 1B/OF/DH; Tristan Gray, OF;

Overview: As hot as the Gatemen have been, they were barely able to pick up any ground on the first place Commodores in the closing days of the regular season due to Falmouth’s torrid pace. Over their final 20 games, Falmouth went 16-4 with two wins over Wareham, including one 12-3 romping back on July 18. They are the deepest team in the Western Division, supporting the lowest team ERA (2.66), the lowest WHIP (1.11), and highest OPS (.707). Jeffrey Passantino, the ace of the pitching staff, holds the lowest ERA in the league at 0.64, surrendering just one run since his first start of the year. Meanwhile, Corbin Martin has solidified himself as the top closer in the division, saving six games while scattering just eight hits over 15.2 innings of work.

Due to their ace-heavy staff, it may be easy to overlook Falmouth’s lineup, but that is a daunting mistake to say the least as Wareham found out earlier this season. Michael Gigliotti is arguably the best overall player in the league, showcasing power to all fields, speed, terrific range in the outfield, and a strong arm in centerfield. Combine Gigliotti with Arizona standout J.J. Matijevic and right-handed power threat Tyler Lawrence and the Commodores have their own lightened version of murderers row. Quite frankly the only thing that may be keeping Falmouth from representing the Western Division are themselves. The Gatemen saw a glimpse of that in the two’s last regular season matchup when the Commodores misplayed a pop up in shallow left field and threw a game ending double play ball into centerfield that put Wareham in position to win the game. If Falmouth’s bullpen headlined by Brendan King and Corbin Martin, and their infield defense maintains their top-level play, it will be a challenge for any team not just to beat them once, but twice.

Wareham Gatemen 

Record: 25-10-4

Western Division Seeding: Two

First Round Matchup: Bourne Braves

Players to Watch: Brett Conine, RHP; Nick Sprengel, LHP; Cole Freeman, INF; Colton Shaver, INF/DH; Gavin Sheets, 1B; Joey Bart, C;

Overview: If postseason success is reliant upon who is playing their best baseball at the right time, then Wareham is in for an exciting week. The Gatemen, after going 0-5-2 over one seven game stretch that dipped them under .500 for the first time this season, finished 12-2-1, a run that included an eight game winning streak. Jake Matthys has emerged as the team’s closer, saving seven games, six of which were one run games. From a pitching perspective, the Gatemen will rely on probable game one starter Brett Conine. Conine, after a bit of a rocky start, has developed a three pitch mix that includes a fastball that sits in the high-80s, an over the top slider, and a change-up. The biggest key of all when it comes to the Gatemen staff, however, will be how their left-handers such as Nick Sprengel and Ryan Wilson fair. Falmouth’s Michael Gigliotti and J.J. Matijevic are two power left-handed hitting bats, while Bourne’s Andrew Shaps provides an offensive boost for the Braves off the bench. Those two lefties in particular, Wilson and Sprengel, will need their breaking pitches to be at their finest if the Gatemen hope to keep their opponents offense at bay.

Its been a bit of a strange story for the Gatemen offense. Despite raw power threats such as Colton Shaver, Gavin Sheets, Alex Destino, and Adrian Tovalin, leadoff hitter Cole Freeman leads the team in OPS. Freeman, who quickly became one of the more flashy players around, finished the regular season leading the league in hitting (.374). Wareham has seen their team average rise to fourth in the league, and tied for tops in the Western Division (.257). They have largely gotten by with speed and singles. Joey Bartosic is second in the league in stolen bases, and Freeman and Robbie Metz each have recorded double digits in the stolen base category. Joey Bart and Sheets each had torrid second halves of the season, hitting above .300 and finishing with over 20 RBIs. If Wareham hopes to become a serious threat to Falmouth, however, they will need the power threats in their lineup to become extra base machines.

Bourne Braves

Record: 21-21-2

Western Division Seeding: Three

 First Round Matchup: Wareham Gatemen

Players to Watch: Mike Dibrell, RHP; Ross Rossomando, RHP; Connor Wong, C; Willy Yahn, INF; Jake Mangum, OF; David MacKinnon, INF;

Overview: On face value, one would assume the Braves are severe underdogs going into their first round series against the Gatemen due to their 0-5-1 record against Wareham this season. Once one dives deeper into the two team’s six matchups so far this season, the series becomes much more interesting. The two teams played two one run games during the season, and each matchup no team scored more than six runs, except once – when the two teams tied at seven in 12 innings. Mike Dibrell, who is the Braves probable game one starter, is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA, good for fifth in the Cape league amongst those who qualify. Behind him are the likes of Doug Norman out of Louisiana State University. Norman stifled the Gatemen offense twice this season, including in the two’s most recent contest where Norman allowed just one hit over five innings of work.

One major question for Bourne is their lack of ability to score in bunches. The Braves currently rank last in home runs with only eight this season, and tied for ninth in doubles with 51. Hyannis is the only team in the Western Division that scored less runs than the Braves, with Bourne combining to score just 169 times this year, 22 fewer runs than the Gatemen. Still, this is a team that strikes out less than any team in the Cape League. Should their bats that include Mississippi State standout Jake Mangum and former Gatemen stud Dave MacKinnon start to find gaps, they will at the very minimum give Wareham a run for their money.

Hyannis Harbor Hawks

Record: 17-27

Western Division Seeding: Four 

First Round Matchup: Falmouth Commodores 

Players to Watch: Garret Cave, RHP; James Harrington, RHP; Dylan Busby, OF; Zach Rutherford, INF; Chris Hudgins, C;

Overview: The biggest question when it comes to Hyannis is which Harbor Hawks team can one expect on that given night. On the one hand, Hyannis has shown flashes of a team that handled the Gatemen four of the six times they matched up against one another. But, there is also the Harbor Hawks team that finished the season quite literally backing into the playoffs. They lost their last eight, and ten of their last 13 leading to a -44 run differential. From a players perspective, they no longer have the staff that once consisted of Matthew Naylor, Alex Eubanks, and Mac Sceroler. Just last week the Harbor Hawks additionally lost second baseman Ford Proctor due to injury.

Make no mistake, however, this Hyannis team can do some damage. As the Wareham staff earlier in the season, the lineup that consists of Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game MVP Zach Rutherford and Dylan Busby has the ability to balls out of the ballpark, and if they get confident early, it could spell trouble for the Falmouth Commodores pitching staff. The main key for the Harbor Hawks will be scoring early and often, because if they allow the Commodores and Falmouth ace Jeffrey Passantino to find a groove, it could be a quick two and done for Hyannis

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