So far in the early going, it seems nothing can go wrong for Colton Shaver.
Led by four more hits out of Shaver, including his second home run of the year, the Gatemen (2-0) pounced on Cotuit (0-2) early and often, going on to beat the Kettleers 8-0 on a cool Sunday night at Spillane Field.
The Gatemen staff was stellar for a second straight contest, retiring the last 23 batters they saw, and ultimately facing the minimum. Cole Stapler out of Nicholls State threw five perfect innings out of the bullpen, displaying a terrific sweeping breaking ball coupled with a low 90s four-seam fastball.
Gatemen coach Jerry Weinstein said overall, that was about as well as a team can play on a given night.
“You won’t see a better game played in the big leagues in terms of throwing strikes, running the bases well, making the plays, and getting big time hits,” said Weinstein. “Today we set the bar pretty high for ourselves and we will go from there.”
For the second straight game, the Gatemen jumped all over their opponent in the early going, scoring twice in the bottom of the first.
Joey Bartosic reached on an error, advanced to second on a single through the right side by Trevor Ezell and a Robbie Metz bunt moved the two up to second and third with one out.
After Kettleers’ starter Matt Ledrech induced a pop up from Nick Buentello for the second out, Shaver came up with a big two-strike two-out single to center for a two run single to put the Gatemen up 2-0 at the end of one.
The Kettleers – whom the Gatemen staff dumbfounded for most of the night – picked up their lone base hit in the top of the second, an infield hit up the middle by Jake Bivens. Immediately, however, Bivens was erased as Shaver caught him stealing with a perfect throw for the second out of the inning.
All evening the Gatemen flashed the leather in the infield, handling the tough hops that Spillane Field brings. Shortstop Nico Giarratano made multiple plays in the hole, throwing off his back foot for the out. Meanwhile, first baseman Nick Buentello snared two liners down the first baseline to save extra bases.
Shaver said the flawless defensive performance allows the pitchers on the mound to relax.
“It allows us all to settle in and gives our pitchers a huge confidence boost knowing that if the opponent puts the ball in play, we are going to pick them up and get the job done,” said Shaver.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the Gatemen still clinging to a 2-0 lead, Shaver gave his team some breathing room. On 1-2, Shaver waited back on a 12-6 curveball and belted it over the centerfield fence for his second home run of the year, and give the Gatemen a 3-0 advantage.
“So far things have been going pretty well,” said Shaver with a smile. “I have been able to stay back on some of the off-speed stuff that’s come my way. Hitting a home run in your first two games down here, its pretty cool.”
Finally, the Gatemen blew the game wide open in the bottom of the seventh that saw them score four runs on six hits. Brett Netzer began the rally with a double down the right field line. Two batters later, with Netzer now on third, Bartosic drilled a triple over Cal Stevenson’s head in centerfield to bring in Netzer for the Gatemen’s fourth run of the game.
Weinstein proceeded to put on a suicide squeeze, and Ezell executed it to perfection. Ezell’s bunt went just between the catcher and pitcher’s mound, causing confusion and scoring Bartosic. Buentello brought in Ezell with the Gatemen’s sixth run on an infield single, and Shaver capped off the four run outburst with a pop fly single to center putting the Gatemen on top 7-0.