If there was any doubt left before the game, there certainly was not any following it. Brett Conine is the Gatemen’s new ace.
After Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein announced during batting practice that Conine will start game one of the postseason, the right-hander out of Cal State Fullerton turned in a playoff like performance, going five shutout innings while allowing just two hits.
At the plate, meanwhile, Wareham jumped out to a 4-0 advantage, buoyed by a three run third inning, giving Conine all the insurance he needed as the Gatemen defeated Harwich, 6-0, on a muggy Saturday evening at Spillane Field.
Weinstein said Conine’s command was excellent all around.
“Conine was really good,” said Weinstein. “He has come a long way. He has a terrific change-up that keeps hitters off balance. He has been really really good for us.”
Conine cruised from his opening pitch, throwing 47 of his 70 pitches for strikes, including 32 of his 46 fastballs.
He only allowed one runner to reach scoring position – Kyle Davis in the third inning – and retried nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
Gavin Sheets continued his hot hitting in the bottom of the first, roping a base hit back through the box that scored Cole Freeman and put Wareham on top, 1-0.
“I’m not trying to do much at the plate,” said Sheets. “I have been working with coach Bob Prince on some things in the cage which has been good. It’s just all about focusing on my approach.”
The Gatemen (22-15-3) proceeded to load the bases with one out, but Mariners starter Shane McCarthy was able to induce to 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Alex Destino to keep the damage at just one.
McCarthy did not get as lucky in the bottom of the third, when Wareham came away with three runs to produce some breathing room for Conine.
Joey Bart and Colton Shaver each drew walks around Sheets’ second single of the day, filling up the bases with nobody out.
On a 1-0 fastball, Destino stretched the Gatemen lead to 2-0 lining a sacrifice fly to left field that brought in Bart.
After a Nico Giarratano moved Sheets and Shaver into scoring position, the bottom of Wareham’s order came through.
Third baseman Preston Grand Pre lined a base hit into left field scoring Sheets, and Robbie Metz flied a single into shallow centerfield to put the Gatemen on top, 4-0.
That was more than enough for Conine and Robert Garcia, who cruised through the first eight innings scattering just four singles.
“(Sheets) and some of our other guys have been focused on just getting on base and not pulling for power,” said Weinstein. “You’ve seen that benefit some of them in their attempts to pull the ball, especially with Sheets’ single to right field in that third inning.”
Wareham added lone runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to stretch their lead to 6-0.
Bart collected his 16th RBI of the season via a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth, before the Gatemen added their seventh and final run due to their base running aficionado – Ezeuqiel Sanchez.
Destino jump-started the bottom of the seventh with a line single to left. Sanchez immediately was called on to come into the game and pinch run for Destino.
Two batters later, and Metz now up at the plate, Sanchez took his lead off second base.
Noticing Sanchez dancing off the bag, Mariners reliever Maddux Conger spun around and attempted a pickoff throw.
His throw, however, hit Sanchez in the helmet, causing it to carom out towards shallow left center-field.
Mariners’ shortstop Max Burt ran out to retrieve it, and as he did was nothing short of startled as Sanchez made the turn and headed home.
Burt struggled to pick up the ball, but once he did it was nothing short of irrelevant, as Sanchez slid home safely to put the finishing touches on Wareham’s offensive output.
“There’s no such thing as rebounding as far as I am concerned,” said Weinstein in regards to Wareham coming away with a victory a day after falling to Falmouth. “Yesterday is in the past, and we competed in that game and that is all you can ask.”