August third will not be the final day of play for the Gatemen.
Trailing 3-0 entering the top of the ninth against the Brewster Whitecaps on Tuesday evening, Wareham strung together three runs on three hits to even the score. After Jake Matthys worked around a two out walk in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, Dominic Miroglio launched a sacrifice fly to center-field that brought home Robbie Metz with the go-ahead run as the Gatemen notched their seventh straight victory, winning 4-3 in 10 innings.
The win clinches a spot for Wareham in the 2016 Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs. They join the Falmouth Commodores as being the only two teams to date in the Western Division to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein said he could not be more impressed at how his team has handled both focusing on development while also winning games.
“When you win, it’s a lot easier to develop,” said Weinstein. “It’s a lot easier to develop, and get kids to buy in and develop when you win. So, we have been able to develop these kids but also win. As a byproduct of working through the process on a daily basis, we have had success on the field.”
For the first eight innings on Tuesday, the Gatemen lineup was simply dominated.
Whitecaps starter Zachary Lowther came into the game with 45 strikeouts through 25 innings of work so far this season and effortlessly added to his total during his start.
The left-hander out of Xavier struck out eight over his 6.2 innings of work, scattering five hits, and walking no one.
Lowther featured pinpoint command of his fastball that hovered around 90 miles per hour for the most of the evening, as well as a disappearing change-up to coincide with a sweeping curveball.
In total, Lowther threw 69-percent of his fastballs for strikes as well as 80-percent of his curveballs.
Once Lowther exited, however, the Gatemen pounced.
Whitecaps reliever Tyler Zuber was able to get the first four batters he faced, but in the top of the ninth faced immediate trouble.
Joey Bartosic (3/5, 1 R), lead off the inning with a line drive to single to center. Dominic Miroglio followed up by taking five straight pitches, the final one out of the zone for ball four, bringing Gavin Sheets up representing the tying run.
Instead of trying to tie the game up via one swing of the bat, Sheets elected to just keep the line moving, as his base hit through the right side loaded the bases with nobody out.
Out of the bullpen came Landon Hughes, but due in large part to a self-inflicted error, he found himself also incapable of stopping the bleeding.
Colton Shaver greeted Hughes by hitting a weak groundball to second base that brought in Bartosic with the Gatemen’s first run and moved Miroglio and Sheets into scoring position with one out.
Prior to Alex Destino stepping up to the plate, Ezequiel Sanchez popped out of the dugout and pinch ran for Sheets – a move that proved to be critical.
Destino, who had pinch-hit for Adrian Tovalin three innings prior and was looking to tie the score at three, fell behind Hughes 1-2. Showing his plate discipline, Destino laid off back-to-back breaking pitches to work the count full.
On 3-2, Destino fought off a down and in fastball, mustering it towards first base.
Whitecaps first baseman Beau Jordan fielded the ball and flipped it to Hughes covering the bag. Hughes, however, could not handle the toss, as it slipped out of his glove and trickled away.
Miroglio, who was going to score anyway, crossed the plate, but right behind came Sanchez sliding headfirst into home plate with the game-tying run.
“We executed big time in that ninth inning. We got great base running,” summarized Weinstein. “Sanchez comes up with that huge play, he has proven that he is not afraid.”
In the top of the tenth inning, Wareham’s offense went right back to work.
Robbie Metz reached on an infield single to begin the inning, and advanced to second on an infield hit off the bat of Cole Freeman.
Bartosic, in an attempt to move the runners along, dropped down a perfectly executed bunt single, loading the bases for the second straight inning.
With just a simple sacrifice fly needed to produce the go-ahead run, Miroglio came up and drilled the first fastball he saw deep into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Metz with the game-winning run.
“(Miroglio) has not played much,” said Weinstein. “He is getting better everyday considering that he is not really game ready due to the fact of how long he has been out.”
Now, with more than week ago until the playoffs, the Gatemen have the ability to not worry about fighting for a playoff spot.
Bartosic notes, however, the importance of going into the postseason on a high note.
“We definitely do not want to back into the playoffs,” said Bartosic. “We want to keep the momentum going, we want to keep this rolling, and who knows maybe we’ll never lose again.”