Gatemen reliever Robert Garcia shook off catcher Joey Bart once, then again.
Finally, the two decided on the 1-2 offering, a slider to Anglers’ left handed hitter Tanner Gardner. Garcia’s slider, however, instead of missing low away was left over the middle of the plate and down – a place where Tanner was more than capable of handling it.
Gardner did just that and more, belting the hanging breaking ball well over the fence in right for a three-run walk off home run as Chatham defeated Wareham 6-5 in 11 innings on Thursday night at Veterans Field.
Wareham coach Jerry Weinstein said he was surprised that a slider was the pitch that Garcia ultimately opted to throw.
“We let a left-handed hitter beat us to the pull side of the ball park where balls just fly out of here,” Weinstein explained. “We talked about it early in the game with our pitchers and catchers and then (Garcia) shook to breaking ball. There, a more experienced catcher goes out and says ‘here, there is only one place you can get beat and its to the pull side against a left-hander. You got to bury your slider or you have to throw a hard fastball away.”
In the top half of the 11th, with the two teams knotted at three, the Gatemen (12-10-1) managed to break through courtesy of some two-out magic.
Joey Bartosic reached on an infield single, stole second, and moved over to third on a passed ball.
Cole Freeman, noticing that Anglers’ third baseman Sean Bouchard was playing back, attempted to drag a bunt down the third base line only to see it go foul.
Three pitchers later, Freeman hit a chopper back towards third base that Bouchard had to back up on. Bouchard reeled in the grounder, but took his time setting himself and throwing onto first base allowing the speedy Freeman to beat it out, bringing in Bartosic and giving Wareham a 4-3 lead.
The Gatemen were not done there.
Jonathan Engelmann followed Freeman’s single with an infield hit of his own into the shortstop’s hole, and Preston Grand Pre provided Wareham some insurance via a base hit into right field that scored Freeman.
As the game turned to the bottom of the 11th, Garcia was called on to complete the save, but immediately ran into trouble as he walked the lead off hitter, Patrick Mathis.
Moments later, Gunner Troutwine laced a single into centerfield, giving Gardner an opportunity to send the Anglers’ fans home happy.
“We did not execute in some situations,” said Weinstein. “In the top half of the 10th we got a leadoff double and could not get him in. That cost us.”
Jake Walters got the start for Wareham in his last day as a member of the Gatemen.
Walters, out of Alabama, went five strong innings, striking out 10, scattering just three hits, and giving up one earned run.
What stood out most about Walters on Thursday night was the command he displayed of his breaking pitchers. In total, Walters spun in 22 curveballs and sliders combined, and of those 22, 17 were strikes.
“This is his last outing so he did not leave anything in the tank, he went right after them,” said Weinstein.
The two teams were tied at one in the top half of the seventh inning, until a hit by pitch put Robbie Metz on to start the inning. Metz proceeded to advance to second on a sacrifice bunt, steal third base with ease, and come home to score on a passed ball giving Wareham a 2-1 lead.
Chatham struck back quickly just one half inning later.
Troutwine earned his way on with a walk, and after Gardner put runners on the corners by singling to right field, Hagen Owenby tied the score at two as he drilled a single into the right center field gap.
Gardner was able to move all the way to third on Owenby’s single, which allowed him to score on the subsequent fielder’s choice groundout off the bat of Bouchard, putting Chatham on top 3-2 through seven innings.
Anglers’ reliever Kale Breaux seemed well on his way to a shutdown top of the eighth inning when he retired the first two batters he faced.
Joey Bart, however, helped begin a game-tying rally, collecting his fourth hit of the game with a base hit to center field. Two batters later, after Austen Wade moved Bart into scoring position, Metz came through once again for the Gatemen, this time singling through the left side to score Bart and tie the game at three.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” summarized Weinstein. “Bart played fantastic behind the dish and at the plate. Unfortunately, just one or two things did us in.”