While Wareham did not walk away from Sunday night’s contest Yarmouth-Dennis with a win, they were able to grab ahold of a much bigger prize.
Behind six combined innings of shutout baseball from relievers Ryan Selmer and Jake Matthys, and a game tying, two RBI single off the bat of Joey Bartosic, the Gatemen tied the Red Sox, 4-4, clinching home field advantage in the first round of the postseason.
The game was called at the completion of the ninth inning due to darkness.
Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein said it was a classic ‘Wareham Gatemen effort.’
“It was a classic Wareham Gatemen baseball game,” said Weinstein. “We took our shovel and went to work, competed in every at bat, and really dug in.”
Early on, it appeared as though Yarmouth-Dennis was going to roll to their first win in five tries.
Zachary Pop made his sixth start of the year for Wareham (22-15-4), and ran into control issues from his opening pitch.
The right-hander from Kentucky struggled to locate his fastball, throwing a first pitch strike to just 44-percent of the batters he faced. What was most striking about Pop’s outing was his lack of fastball command. Pop fired home 34 fastballs, but just 15 of those were strikes, causing him to rely on his slider to get him through his three innings of work.
Weinstein said Pop just did not seem to have a lot of confidence in himself during his time out on the mound.
“It’s a trust thing and right now, that’s just lacking,” said Weinstein.
In the bottom half of the first inning, the Red Sox struck first without the benefit of a hit.
Matt Winaker and J.J. Muno each walked to open the frame, and Deon Stafford was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Down 0-2 in the count, Kevin Smith got the Red Sox on the board via a sacrifice fly to left field that brought home Winaker.
The Red Sox stretched their advantage to 2-0 one inning later, when Korby Batesole lead off with a walk, stole second, moved over to third on a Nick Brown singled, and scored on a Winaker sacrifice fly
The Gatemen got their first two runs of the day on solo shots off the bat of Adrian Tovalin and Colton Shaver.
Tovalin, who hit his in the top half of the third, belted a middle-in fastball to straight away center field for his third of the year and Wareham’s first hit of the day.
Shaver’s, meanwhile, came with two out and nobody on in the top of the fourth with Wareham now trailing 4-1. After getting ahead via his changeup Red Sox starter Oliver Jaysie elected to go back to it. This time, Shaver was all over it, pulling it right down the left field for his eighth home run of the year, pulling Wareham back within 4-2.
“Those at-bats from Shaver and Tovalin were just huge for us,” said Weinstein. “Those kept us within striking distance going into the later innings.”
Ryan Selmer came in for relief of Gatemen starter Zachary Pop and threw a scoreless bottom of the fourth to keep Wareham within a pair.
The right-hander out of Maryland was rewarded for his efforts just one half inning later, when the Gatemen scored two to even the score.
Tovalin drew a walk to begin the inning, and two batters later Cole Freeman lined a single to left field to put runners on the corners with one out.
On the first offering to Joey Bartosic, Freeman swiped second, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Immediately, Bartosic delivered the game tying hit, drilling a two run, opposite field single.
“I’ve been just focusing on going the other way,” said Bartosic. “Today it worked out pretty well for me and it has been recently.”
Wareham found themselves with an opportunity to take their first lead of the game in the top half of the seventh.
With one out, Tovalin knocked his second extra base hit of the day, this one a double down the left line.
Dominic Miroglio followed up Tovalin’s double by singling to right field, giving the Gatemen runners on the corners.
Freeman hit a slow chopper to Red Sox third baseman Will Toffey, and Tovalin broke to the plate on contact.
Toffey set his feet and fired a strike to catcher Brett Diaz, nabbing Tovalin in plenty of time for the second out of the inning
Moments later, Nathan Kuchta induced a shallow fly ball off the bat of Bartosic to retire the side.
That was not the final moment of the game, however, that Wareham seemed to be on the verge of jumping out in front.
Red Sox reliever Calvin Faucher came on in replace of Jared Janczak to begin the top of the ninth, and showcased the slider that he is notoriously known for.
Faucher was able to get Alex Destino to chase three breaking balls in the dirt for the first out of the inning, and get a pop fly off the bat of Nico Giarratano for the second out.
Tovalin reached base for the fourth time when he drew a two out walk, leaving him on first base as the go ahead run.
Out of the dugout came Gatemen “spark plug” Ezequiel Sanchez to pinch run, and within two pitches Sanchez found himself at second base due to a passed ball.
Dominic Miroglio, looking to get some revenge off his former team, worked the count full. On 3-2, Faucher spun home a slider that Miroglio hit on the ground to the left of Toffey
Toffey fielded the chopper and faked a throw to first base, causing Sanchez to round the third base bag and break for the plate.
The Red Sox third baseman, realizing the aggressive base running attempt, calmly turned and threw home, gunning down Sanchez to retire the side.
Weinstein said he has absolutely no problems with Sanchez’s attempt to steal the go-ahead run.
“That’s a terrific play I like that a lot,” said Weinstein. “I’d be pretty disappointed if we did not try and score there.”
Jake Matthys, who had come on for Ryan Selmer with two on in the bottom of the eighth and stranded both, worked a scoreless ninth to preserve the tie.