Within the blink of an eye, Jake Matthys has turned into one of the Gatemen’s most dependable relievers.
Leading 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday night, the Gatemen allowed Orleans to get the tying run aboard courtesy of an error to begin the inning off a ground ball. Out of the dugout came Wareham head coach Jerry Weinstein, immediately calling on Matthys to relieve Gunner Leger.
Matthys threw back-to-back curveballs to Zach Kirtley to get ahead 0-2, and on 1-2 finished him off with a slider in the dirt for the first out of the inning. Up to the plate stepped Scott Hurst, a left-handed power threat, looking to send the birds home in walk-off fashion for the second time this week.
The right-hander out of Angelo State was un-phased, dealing three consecutive off-speed pitches, the last a change-up that induced a 3-6-1 double play to complete the save as the Gatemen (14-14-3) defeated Orleans, 2-1, at Eldridge Park.
Weinstein said Matthys has proven to be nothing short of a gamer.
“(Matthys) is a cool breeze, he does not let the situation get ahold of him,” said Weinstein. “He is in control.”
A pitcher’s duel from the outset, Gatemen starter Zachary Pop and Orleans starter Joe Ryan each displayed what has made them so dominant so far this season.
The two each threw up zeroes over the course of the first two innings, before the Gatemen offense was able to get to Ryan in the top half of the third.
Nico Giarratano lead off with a walk, Cole Freeman singled, and Robbie Metz worked a walk of his own, loading the bases.
Joey Bart stepped to the plate, and as he does all year, produced when called upon. The catcher out of Georgia Tech lofted a sacrifice fly to left center field, scoring Giarratano to put the Gatemen up, 1-0.
Pop over the course of his five innings of work kept the Firebirds’ offense at bay. The right-hander out of Kentucky mixed up his four-seam fastball and slider through his first two innings, before incorporating his changeup for the final three.
The combination of both his sinking fastball as well as his change helped Pop come up with 10 ground ball outs on the evening.
“Pop did not use his changeup early but was able to be effective with it late,” said Weinstein. “The humidity and heat got to him and it caused him to get tired. He had to go to his secondary pitches to be effective. It was one of those good, bad days, did not have his best stuff but had his best velocity in that last inning.”
Still on top 1-0, Colton Shaver began the top of the seventh for the Gatemen by lining a single to right field.
The Gatemen proceeded to turn to some small ball in an effort to scrape home an insurance run. Weinstein called on Harrison Wenson to lay down a sacrifice bunt, and the catcher out of Michigan got the job done, moving Shaver into scoring position.
Two batters later, Giarratano came up – this time from the right side of the plate against Firebirds left-hander Zach Logue – and for the second time in as many starts delivered for the Gatemen.
On 2-0, Logue left a fastball on the outer third of the plate, and Giarratano went with it, lining over the second baseman’s head and into right center field for an RBI single, giving Wareham a 2-0 edge.
Leger relieved Pop in the bottom of the sixth, and once again looked unhittable over his first two innings of work.
The Ragin Cajun’ showed off a devastating circle changeup, firing 10 of his 13 in the zone for strikes.
For the first time this year, however, Leger ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the 8th.
Brian Miller squared a ball up to begin the inning, launching an opposite field double off the left field wall.
Ethan Paul followed up by sacrificing Miller to third, and Riley Mahan hit a sacrifice fly to left center field to bring in Miller, the first earned run off of Leger this Cape Cod Baseball League.
The Firebirds put the tying run on base moments later, as Adam Haseley lined a single just beyond the reach of Giarratano at shortstop.
Leger made sure though that the damage stopped right then and there, picking off Haseley with ease to send the game to the ninth with Wareham on top, 2-1.