The 2011 Wareham Gatemen impressed both on and off the field last summer – highlighted by a 2nd consecutive trip to the CCBL Western Division Finals and being awarded the prestigious Commissioner’s Cup; given annually to the team that “demonstrates the highest level of integrity and professionalism on and off the field, ensuring and enhancing the championship caliber of the Cape Cod Baseball League.”
On the field, the “roller coaster” Gatemen finished with a 23-21 record; finishing in 2nd place in the Western Division and earning the team’s 26th playoff appearance since 1976 and Coach Cooper’s 6thplayoff berth since he arrived in Wareham in 2001.
NO REST EARLY ON
After opening game ceremonies that included Boston Red Sox PA Announcer Carleton E. Beane making his first of many 2011 appearances behind the John Wylde Pressbox microphone at Spillane Field concluded, the season got off to an exciting and incredibly fast start.
After an extra innings loss to eventual Division Champion Hyannis on June 10th, the Gatemen played over 20% of their regular season games by the time June 19th arrived as the previous summer’s rain had an effect even in 2011.
As a way to work more off days into the schedule and to provide for more flexibility in the event that the weather caused havoc yet again, the league scheduled double-headers as part of the 2011 schedule. Consequently, the Gatemen played 10 games in the first 10 days of the season; including two double headers.
Coming fresh off long college baseball seasons, the team found themselves with a 5-5 record before they could even catch their breath. The team was, however, able to establish one of the deeper and more stable starting rotations in the league right out of the gate.
Justin Amlung (Louisville), Brent Suter (Harvard), Luke Farrell (Northwestern), Matthew Grimes (Georgia Tech) and Josh Turley (Baylor) all cemented themselves as consistent and reliable starters during this stretch and stayed in the rotation for most of the summer. The highlight was RHP Luke Farrell being named by the Cape Cod Baseball League as the Week #1 CCBL Pitcher of the Week.
Leading the offense early on was leadoff hitter Brandon Thomas (Georgia Tech) who hit .419 during this stretch and established himself as one of the most talented and versatile leadoff hitters on the Cape. William Carmona (Stony Brook) also started off hot with 5 hits in the first two games; including a blast on opening night into the left field bleachers.
UCONN All-American and returning Gatemen LJ Mazzilli made his season debut on February 17th after his Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA tournament and gave a real spark to the offense. LJ went 6 for 13 in his first 4 games; giving a lift to a tired Gatemen team that concluded this early grind with a split of a double-header with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.
Mazzilli would soon leave the Gatemen to play for Team USA in the middle part of the summer only to return to the Cape later on to give his Cape League teammates another boost and a much need offensive and defensive presence in the lineup.
GATEMEN ROLL ALONG AT .500 – HYANNIS DOMINATES WEST
The Gatemen continued on an even pace heading towards the July 4th holiday – going on 3 game losing and winning streaks and never able to get above the .500 mark. Meanwhile, the Hyannis Harbor Hawks started off as the hottest team in the league by going 9-2 and never really looking back; ending the season on another strong run of 7-3 and finishing with a league best 56 points.
Meanwhile, the Gatemen played their first of what would prove to be three critical games against division rival Bourne on June 29th, July 3rd and the traditional July 4th game. Despite a tough offensive game against CCBL Pitcher of the Year Ryan Eades (LSU) on the 4th of July, the Gatemen took 2 of these 3 games from the Braves. John Andreoli (UCONN) was instrumental in lifting the Gatemen to both wins; picking up 6 hits against Bourne. Andreoli sandwiched in a 4 hit game against Hyannis during this stretch and lifted his batting average to .457 – resulting in the hottest streak any Wareham player would have all summer. In a stretch of 5 games, John was 12 for 19 and hit safely in 10 of his first 12 games since he arrived from the NCAA Tournament.
The roller coaster first half of the season would not end well for the Gatemen, however, as the July 4thgame started a 4 game losing streak; dropping Wareham to a 10-13 record. During this streak, they were outscored 28-9 heading towards the 2nd half of the season.
MAX MUNCY LIFTS GATEMEN
Already riding a 10 game hit streak that he would eventually extend to a season high 14 games, Gatemen INF Max Muncy (Baylor) delivered the most exciting moment of the 2011 regular season and at the perfect time for the slumping Gatemen. Looking at a 5 game losing streak and trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th inning at home vs. Chatham on July 9th, Muncy hit a 3-run, walk off homer to give Wareham a 6-5 win.
This win started the best stretch of the season for the Gatemen who would win 8 of their next 11 games. Playing their best baseball of the season, Wareham combined solid pitching and clutch hitting at this crucial part of the season.
LHP Josh Turley (Baylor) picked up two of Wareham’s 8 wins and was the 2nd Gatemen pitcher to be named the league’s Pitcher of the Week.
At the back of the Wareham bullpen, Konner Wade (Arizona) was slowly making a name for himself as one of the league’s top closers – picking up his 8th save of the season during this stretch. Offensively, Robert Refsnyder (Arizona), already one of Wareham’s top offensive threats, was climbing the league ladder and his .307 average was good for 7th in the league. Refsnyder, combined with Muncy, Mazzilli and Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) combined for a potent middle of the lineup heading into the stretch drive for the Wareham Gatemen.
Just as the Gatemen faithful thought their team had figured things out, another ride down the roller coaster was on tap. Wareham would lose their next 5 of 6 games heading into the All-Star break. The lone bright spot during this stretch was the starting pitching performance of Steve Perakslis (Maine). Making his first and only start of the season, Perakslis gave his team a lift and picked up a crucial win to not only stop the 5 game losing streak but begin an exciting and much needed season ending winning streak.
Despite losing 5 of 6, the Gatemen managed to clinch a playoff berth and the final 4 games would decide their positioning in the CCBL Playoffs.
GATEMEN MAKE STRONG SHOWING AT ALL-STAR GAME
Taking a 19-21 record into the CCBL All-Star break, Wareham had 4 players selected to the Western Division All-Star Team and they had the priviledge of playing at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Offensive leaders Max Muncy (Baylor) and John Andreoli (UCONN) were selected to the team alongside starting pitcher Justin Amlung (Louisville) and closer Konner Wade (Arizona). Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) participated in the pregame homerun contest.
Muncy and Andreoli were in the starting lineup for the West squad and batted 5th and 7th respectively. Justin Amlung signed a professional contract with the Cincinatti Reds prior to the game and did not participate.
Konner Wade pitched a scoreless 8th inning and was named the West Team’s MVP – the 2nd year in a row that a Gatemen has been selected and presented with this honor.
SEASON ENDING RACE TO THE FINISH
With 4 games remaining in the season, Wareham found themselves battling Bourne and Falmouth for 2ndplace in the Western Division. A final winning streak with wins over Chatham, Falmouth and twice over Bourne pushed the Gatemen into 2nd place and setup a showdown with division rival Bourne for the 2ndconsecutive season.
The Gatemen finished with a 23-21 record; 12 points behind division champion Hyannis. Bourne secured the 3rd spot in the West and Falmouth finished 4th; earning themselves a first round matchup with Hyannis.
In the East, the Orleans Firebirds finished the season winning 9 of their final 10 games; finishing 2 points ahead of Harwich with Brewster and Yarmouth-Dennis also qualifying for the playoffs.
FAMILIAR OPPONENT IN FIRST ROUND OF PLAYOFFS
Having just concluded the season with consecutive games vs. the Bourne Braves and playing them 6 games in total during the regular season; the Gatemen and Braves were assured of facing off two more times as the two rivals were paired in the first round, best of 3, CCBL Western Division playoffs.
To make this matchup more intriguing, Wareham won a first round matchup in 2010 2-0 over Bourne; one season removed from Bourne’s 2009 CCBL Championship.
Game 1 of the series tested Wareham’s resiliency as the Gatemen, behind a 2-run 8th inning, go-ahead double by Daniel Palka lifted the Gatemen to an eventual 6-4 win in front of 1,500 at Spillane Field.
Game 2 was perhaps the most complete, all-around game the Wareham 9 put together all season. Behind an impressive, complete game performance by LHP Brent Suter (Harvard) and their biggest offensive output of the season, the Gatemen defeated the Braves 12-3 on way to a series sweep and advancement to the Western Division Finals.
Suter’s complete game earned him CCBL Pitcher of the Week – the 3rd Wareham pitcher to be honored in 2011.
WESTERN DIVISION FINALS FOR 2ND CONSECUTIVE SEASON
After a roller coaster season and season concluding regular season and playoff showdown with the Bourne Braves, the Wareham Gatemen found themselves back in the CCBL Western Division Final for the 2nd consecutive season. In 2010, the Gatemen were defeated by the Cotuit Kettleers; the eventual CCBL Champions.
The 2011 opponent would be the surprising Falmouth Commodores; who defeated the heavily favored and division champion Hyannis Harbor Hawks in their first round match-up 2-1. Because that series went the distance and rain caused unplayable conditions in Hyannis, Wareham had to wait 4 days – their longest stretch of the season, before game 1 could begin vs. Falmouth.
One strike from a game 1 victory in game 1, the Falmouth Commodores tied the game in the 9th inning and went on to defeat the Gatemen 4-1. The Commodores took that momentum with them into game 2 and in front of their home crowd, swept the Gatemen and advanced to the CCBL Championship.
Falmouth would end up losing to eventual 2011 CCBL Champion Harwich 2-0 in the finals.
Konner Wade (Arizona) earned 12 regular season and 1 playoff save in 2011. The combined total ties him for the most all-time for a single season in Gatemen history.
The season ending CCBL All-League Team featured three Gatemen – UTIL Robert Refsnyder (Arizona), DH Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) and P Justin Amlung (Louisville).
The Gatemen team awards included Refsnyder and his college teammate Johnny Field (Arizona) sharing the Sylvia Bigelow Award for top positional player. The Albert Bigelow Award – giving to the top Wareham pitcher – was also shared; going to Josh Turley (Baylor) and Konner Wade (Arizona).
Brent Suter (Harvard), was honored with the organization’s Francis Tripp Award. This award is given annually to the player who made the most positive impact upon the Wareham Community on and off the field.
From a statistical perspective, the team’s leading hitter was Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) who hit .327 which was 7th in the CCBL. Max Muncy’s (Baylor) 23 rbi led the Gatemen for the 2nd consecutive season and was the 3rd most in the league.
Luke Farrell (Northwestern) and Josh Turley (Baylor) finished tied for the CCBL lead with 4 wins apiece. Justin Amlung’s 1.76 era led Wareham and was 3rd best overall on the Cape. Farrell led Wareham with 33 strikeouts. Gatemen reliever Daniel Feehan (UCONN) made more appearances out of the bullpen than any other pitcher in the league with 22 – meaning he appeared in exactly half of all the regular season games.
The Gatemen finished 5th in the CCBL with 68 stolen bases; lead by Robert Refsnyer’s 13 that put him in the top 10 among all Cape League players.
WAREHAM GATEMEN ORGANIZATION AWARDED THE COMMISSIONOR’S CUP
The proudest moment of the 2011 season for all of the organizational members, volunteers, host families, fans and players was when CCBL Commissionor Paul Galop presented the Wareham Gatemen Organization with the 2011 Commissionor’s Cup.
The only franchise to be bestowed with this honor 3 times since its’ inception in 2004, the prestigious Commissionor’s Cup is awarded to the team that exhibits professional behavior on and off the field while displaying the highest level of integrity.
Also, for the first time in 2011, a new award was established in the league to recognize the General Manager of the Year. The award honors the legacy of longtime Wareham Gatemen President and General Manager John Wylde and is called the “John Wylde General Manager of the Year”.