By SEAN TENAGLIA (Gatemen Beat Writer)
WAREHAM, MA: After a disappointing last-place finish last summer, the Wareham Gatemen are looking for a return to the level of play that brought home a championship in 2012. Head Coach Cooper Farris, now in his 14th season at the helm of the Gatemen, recognized a key difference between the two squads.
“In 2012, we had a great mesh of guys and they loved being around one another and competing,” Farris said. “We had some great kids last year and I loved working with them, but I just don’t think the chemistry was quite where it needed to be.
“That was partially my fault, but we didn’t get a lot of our guys until later in the season. I think the big thing is the chemistry of the team and how quickly these guys get adjusted to one another and become friends.”
With only a handful of players returning from last year’s team, the task of creating chemistry seems even more daunting for Farris and his coaching staff this summer. However, the veteran Wareham skipper thinks he is up for this task.
“The biggest thing is blending these guys together really fast,” Farris said. “They’ve got to like each other and want to be around each other. Any time you bring guys from around the country and put them in an environment that they aren’t used to, you have to make them feel as comfortable as you can, as quick as you can.
“We want them to feel comfortable and we want to let their abilities flow and try not to over-coach. We, as coaches, try to help them out along the way.”
With the College World Series and Team USA selections taking place in a matter of weeks, early season rosters in the Cape Cod Baseball League can be confusing and constantly-changing documents. Nevertheless, the anticipated 2014 lineup for the Gatemen looks to feature some of the top talent from across the nation.
After playing the 2013 season without a natural first baseman, the Gatemen are looking to UC-Berkeley’s Nick Halamandaris for some much needed stability at the position. Kramer Robertson, who started 30 games for LSU as a freshman this spring, and Arizona infielder Willie Calhoun, who blasted a home run in Wareham’s preseason game against the Newport Gulls, are expected to handle second base in Wareham. With second-year player Danny Rosenbaum playing in the College World Series in Omaha with Louisville, North Carolina State third baseman Andrew Knizner will see a lot of playing time in the coming weeks at the hot corner. Mississippi’s Errol Robinson has started at shortstop for the Rebels from day one of his freshman season, and should provide a consistent presence at the position for the Gatemen after the College World Series.
In the outfield, the Gatemen have an athletic group of players who are expected to make an impact both in the batter’s box and on the field. Rice freshman Charlie Warren saw a lot of action in centerfield for the Owls this spring and figures to become a fixture in the Wareham outfield. Anderson Miller led Western Kentucky with a .335 batting average and 33 RBIs this season and should provide a consistent bat in right field. Corey Ray has had a fantastic freshman season with Louisville, hitting .347 with 17 RBIs. With Ray competing with the Cardinals in the College World Series, Memphis’ Jake Little, Longwood’s Kyri Washington, and Kansas’ Blair Beck will see increased playing time in the outfield early in the season.
With a combined 11 seasons of collegiate experience among four catchers, the Gatemen could have one of the league’s best units behind the plate. UT-San Antonio backstop John Bormann was with his teammates at Spillane Field on Saturday when he received word thathad been selected in the 19th round of the MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels. Bormann will remain with the Gatemen this summer and should be a familiar sight behind the plate for Gatemen fans. Rice’s John Clay Reeves was named the C-USA Newcomer of the Year after hitting .317 with six home runs and 41 RBIs for the Owls and should add some pop to the Wareham lineup when he joins the team in the coming weeks. Chris Chinea of LSU and Keaton Aldridge of Memphis add to the team’s depth at the catcher position.
Talent and question marks seem to be the defining features of the Wareham pitching staff entering the 2014 campaign. Keegan Thompson, who was 5-3 with a 2.01 ERA in his freshman season at Auburn, was projected to lead the Gatemen’s rotation before a line drive broke his ankle. Southeastern Louisiana’sAndro Cutura was named the Southland Pitcher of the Year and was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Twins. As a result, he will not be joining the Gatemen for a second summer. Arkansas ace Trey Killian and Kentucky star Kyle Cody are returning to Wareham for another season, but potential Team USA consideration could limit their impact.
UC-Irvine southpaw Elliot Surrey has been electric for the Anteaters, earning clutch victories in both the Regionals and Super Regionals. He should make an immediate impact when he joins the team after the College World Series. Connecticut starters Anthony Kay and Andrew Zapata will also help round out the rotation. Oregon State’s Max Englebrekt, Mississippi State’s Myles Gentry and Indiana’s Scott Effross can provide valuable late-game experience to help close out games in relief. Farris is confident that first-year pitching coach Jim Lawler will have the staff ready to go for the summer.
“Coach Lawler has worked miracles before, so we’ll see what he’s got up his sleeve,” Farris said. “That’s what wins up here — pitching and defense — so hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
Despite any potential roster concerns, Farris remains positive about his team’s chances this summer.
“I always come in trying to win it all and win every game,” Farris said. “Last year, I told the guys we were going to win and told them to concentrate on doing what you can to help the team win. That’s what I try to do as a coach, and that’s what I try to get them to do every day as players. It’s not about me and my stats — we’ve got to be able to do it all. The quicker they learn that, the faster we progress.
“The thing I’m looking forward to is trying to win every game. I know it’s not going to happen, but that’s what we’re trying to do every day. And we’re trying to make them good people, too.”
The Gatemen will open up their 2014 campaign at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Doran Park against the Bourne Braves. On Thursday they will travel to Chatham to take on the Anglers at Veterans Field at 7 p,m. Friday night will feature a matchup with the defending champion Cotuit Kettleers (5 p.m.). The Gatemen will finally play their home opener at Spillane Field Saturday night against the Harwich Mariners (7 p.m.).
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