Gunner Leger’s final showcase was all too similar to his others.
In his seventh and final outing for the Gatemen, Leger dealt four innings of shutout baseball, lowering his ERA to 0.41 for the season. The Gatemen at the plate, meanwhile, broke out for five runs including three off one swing of the bat from Joey Bart, as Wareham won their eighth in a row, defeating Hyannis 5-0 on a blisteringly hot Wednesday at Spillane Field.
Due to an innings limit, Leger will now head home as he gets ready for his junior season at Louisiana Lafayette.
Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein said Leger’s attitude off the field, as much as on the field, is what made him so successful
“The guy gave up one earned, walked one guy, but it’s not so much how he pitched but how he carried himself,” said Weinstein. “A true professional, great work ethic, just a great person in every which way.”
Tied at zero as the game turned to the bottom of the fifth, the Gatemen (21-14-3) put up a four spot to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
Preston Grand Pre drew a walk to lead off the frame, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Robbie Metz.
Cole Freeman proceeded to get hit by a pitch, and a Joey Bartosic infield single loaded the bases with one out.
Up to the plate came Joey Bart, who in his first at-bat had drilled a fly out to the center-field wall.
This time, when Bart clobbered one into the left center-field gap, there was no one in the vicinity to catch it.
On 1-0, the catcher out of Georgia Tech launched a fastball that one hopped the wall, scoring Grand Pre, Freeman, and finally Bartosic to tie give the Gatemen a 3-0 lead.
Moments later, Gavin Sheets lofted a sacrifice fly to left that brought home Bart with the fourth run of the inning.
“On both sides of the ball Bart has been terrific for us,” said Weinstein. “He manages the game extremely well behind the dish and also gives us a big bat in the middle of the lineup.”
The Louisiana Lafayette sensation in Leger made his final start for the Gatemen, and has he has done all season long, made hitters look silly from his opening pitch.
The left-hander showed off that same disappearing changeup that has befuddled the opposition ever since he first pulled the string on it back on June 16. In total, Leger finished with four shutout innings, striking out six, surrendering just four hits, and walking only one.
Leger’s dominance was never more apparent than in the top half of the fourth inning.
Cody Henry began the inning by hitting a fly ball down the left field line that sliced away from Robbie Metz for a leadoff double.
The Ragin’ Cajun portrayed no signs panic.
On his first offering to Chris Hudgins, he induced a weak groundball to shortstop that moved Henry over to third with one man down.
Two batters later, with Hudgins still at third and now two out, Leger unleashed what appeared to be his two most daunting change-ups of the season to Trey Truit.
Down 3-1 in the count, Leger was able to come back by getting Truitt way out in front on back-to-back pitches, leaving Henry on third base.
Joey Bart said catching Leger has been the most unique opportunity he has had while playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“Me and Gunner grew pretty close, he quickly became my best friend on the team,” said Bart. “It’s sad to see him go. It was really a treat for me to catch him this summer. He is one of those guys you just dream of catching. We are going to miss him for sure.”
Nick Sprengel, meanwhile, may have solidified himself as the Gatemen’s most reliable arm heading into the postseason.
Sprengel, who had been struggling with his command as of late, was nothing short of spectacular, tossing five shutout innings while scattering three hits.
He overpowered hitters via a fastball that lived between 91-94 miles per hour to coincide with his notorious late breaking slider.
“Unbelievable,” said Weinstein. “He pitched great, pounded the zone, and set himself up to start a game in the playoffs.”
With Leger leaving and Ethan Small having headed home on Wednesday due to an injury, however, there is no question that the Gatemen are short on arms.
Weinstein said he expects help to be on the way.
“On Friday at Falmouth we are going to throw two guys who have not thrown,” said Weinstein. “Our General Manager Andrew Lang is working on getting us some guys from some other leagues. We definitely are short handed we are down six players. Hopefully in the near future we have some new kids come in here, mesh well with the other players, and it works out well for us.”