The Gatemen sure enjoy making it interesting.
Leading Orleans 6-5 in the top half of the ninth inning with second and third and one out, Wareham Coach Jerry Weinstein elected to go to the bullpen. In came Ethan Small from Mississippi State to make his first appearance for the Gatemen. He made quite the first impression.
Small, down 2-1 in the count, came back to fan Scott Hurst on three consecutive fastballs for the second out of the inning. Payton Squier followed up by earning a four-pitch walk to load the bases and Small fell behind Logan Sowers 3-0 with no place to put him. Small, however, was able to battle back throwing three fastballs on the black to finish off the save and hand Wareham a 6-5 win on Sunday night at Spillane Field.
Wareham (6-3) is now 4-2 in one run games on the season.
Weinstein said he went with Small being that the situation called for a strikeout.
“We were facing a contact hitter at that point in time and I knew that Small had a good arm,” said Weinstein of the decision. “He was a little wild in the bullpen but I knew that with the way he throws if he got it over we had a good chance of getting a strikeout and a win.”
Orleans (5-4) pounced on the Gatemen staff for 11 runs in their meeting this past Wednesday, and on Sunday the Firebirds flexed their muscles early.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the third, the Orleans’ offense struck for four runs to take a 4-2 lead. Keegan McGovern led off with a walk, advanced to second on a walk by Brian Miller, and scored on a Riley Mahan double to cut the Gatemen lead to 2-1. Zach Kirtley followed up with a base hit to tied the game at two, and after Anthony Herron struck out Adam Haseley for the first out, Ethan Paul laced a single to left to give Orleans their first lead of the game.
Hurst capped off the four run outburst with a base hit down the left field line that scored Kirtley, giving Orleans a 4-2 advantage two and a half innings of play.
Orleans carried that same lead into the bottom of the fifth inning when, with one swing, K.J. Harrison woke up the Gatemen offense.
On 2-0, Harrison – out of Oregon State – launched a 2-0 fastball halfway up the bleachers for a solo home run, cutting the deficit to just one, 4-3.
The blast seemed to give the Gatemen offense a jolt of energy, as after Gavin Sheets was hit by a pitch, Colton Shaver reached on a fielding error putting two on with nobody out. Trevor Ezell was able to make a productive out, laying down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Sheets and Shaver along.
Moments later, after Joey Bart’s groundout brought in Sheets with the tying run, shortstop Nico Giarratano gave the Gatemen the lead back, lifting a base hit over short and into left. Finally, Adrian Tovalin drilled a triple off the wall in left centerfield, playing Giarratano and putting Wareham up 6-4.
“Baseball is a game of things averaging out,” said Weinstein on his team’s offense. “You are going to sometimes hit .600 and at other times hit zero, so things even out but its great to see Adrian (Tovalin) starting to get around.”