FALMOUTH, MA: In perhaps the most exciting game of the season, featuring 5 lead changes, a homerun record and a dramatic 9th inning blast, the Wareham Gatemen outlasted the Falmouth Commodores; winning 9-8 in the final regular season matchup between the two Western Division rivals.
Heading into the game, the focus was on playoff seeding as the 2nd place Commodores and 3rd place Gatemen are both heading to the 2012 CCBL Playoffs. It was also the first of three chances for Gatemem single season homerun record holder Tyler Horan (Virginia Tech) to not only extend that record but to try and tie the all-time, wood bat homerun record in the Cape Cod Baseball League. As it turned out, the game delivered on those fronts and a whole lot more.
After a scoreless first two innings, Cole Sturgeon (Louisville) started the fireworks with a 2-run homer in the top of the third inning as the Gatemen jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
The Commodores responded with a big inning in the fourth that started off with a solo homer by Jake Rodriguez (Oregon State) off of Wareham starting pitcher Jared Ruxer (Louisville). Things turned a little sloppy for the Gatemen – and perhaps because most of the Gatemen infield were playing in positions they haven’t been in all season such as Cole Sturgeon at 1B, Mott Hyde (Georgia Tech) playing 3B & Kyle Schwarber (Indiana) playing 2B – but after a hit batter and a couple of infield errors, Falmouth tied the game 2-2.
Kaiana Eldredge (Kansas) then delivered the biggest blow of the inning – a 2-run single that put the Commodores ahead 4-2.
As they would all night long, the Gatemen responded with the long-ball. With one out in the 5th inning, Kyle Schwarber hit his 8th homer of the season which ties him for 6th all in franchise history alongside the likes of former CCBL MVP and Major League star Carlos Pena. His blast tied the game 4-4 and that score wouldn’t hold for long.
One batter later, Tyler Horan hit a no-doubter and in the process tied the All-Time Cape Cod Baseball League wood bat homerun record with his 16th of the season. That ties him with 1988 CCBL MVP Dave Staton who played for the Brewster Whitecaps. The All-Time homerun record is held by Corey Snyder who hit 22 for Harwich in 1983.
The Gatemen sent newly signed pitcher Chris Huffman (James Madison) out to face the Commodores in the bottom half of the 5th inning and Falmouth picked up where they left off in the prior inning. Highlighted by a Kaiana Eldredge homerum, Falmouth scored 4 runs for the second consecutive inning and took an 8-5 lead.
After Falmouth brought in former Gatemen Luke Farrell (Northwestern) in from the bullpen to lead off the 6th, his former teammate Cole Sturgeon greeted him with a 1-out homer; his 2nd of the game, and Wareham once again responded. Later in the inning, Mott Hyde continued his own recent hot streak and knocked in his 26th run of the season to get Wareham to within one run at 8-7.
To everyone’s surprise, Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech), one of Wareham’s top power hitters and MVP in the recent CCBL All-Star game, who had presumably been given the night off, took the mound to pitch the 7th. While he did make 5 appearances for Georgia Tech this past season, this was his first appearance on the mound for the Gatemen. Falmouth did load the bases with 1 out but Palka got out of the jam and kept the Gatemen within a run.
Aided by a terrific 1-6-3 double play in the 8th inning, Palka sat down the Commodores in order; setting the stage for a dramatic 9th inning.
Falmouth reliever Johnny Magliozzi (Florida) was given the ball in the 9th to close out the game for the Commodores. After a 9 pitch walk to Mott Hyde, Daniel Palka stepped to the plate. Coach Farris had moved Tyler Horan from DH to LF in place of Ty McFarland and Palka took his spot in the batting order. Palka crushed the first pitch he saw over the centerfield fence; his 11th homer on the season and rbi #33 & #34, giving Wareham a 9-8 lead.
Palka returned to the mound in the 9th where he got the first two outs before surrendering a walk. Palka was replaced by Dan Tobik #UT-Martin and returned to the dugout to a standing ovation from the Wareham crowd that made the drive to Falmouth.
Tobik walked the first batter he faced but then closed out the game with a strikeout to put an exclamation point on what turned out to be the most exciting and dramatic game of the 2012 season.
The win keeps Wareham’s chances for 2nd place alive in the Western Conference. If they win their final two games and Falmouth loses their remaining two games, the Gatemen would win a tie-breaker over the Commodores because of their 4-2, head to head record. Meanwhile, the Gatemen end the season as they do most seasons; with a home and home series against 4th place and playoff bound Bourne. The first game is tonight at Doran Park at 6:00pm and the regular season finale is on Tuesday night at Spillane Field at 7:00pm.