June 25, 2023 11:53 pm | by Joanna Dwyer
The Gatemen dugout looked out into McKeon Park as their outfielders disappeared out of sight. Every few seconds, an arm waving or legs running would signal that there were in fact players still out there. It wasn’t the typical Cape League summer day with bright skies and not a single cloud.
Instead, fans and players alike could barely see what was going on as sheets of fog covered the field and forced the Gatemen’s matchup against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks to end in a 2-2 tie.
Fog is nothing new for manager Ryan Smyth, but for others, they’ve never seen anything like it.
“Some of these guys have never experienced this before,” Smyth said. “I’ve seen it obviously being out here but a lot of guys had no idea that it could get like this or even worse.”
The game started off with the good weather as Josh Stevenson (LSU) stepped into the box as the leadoff hitter. Two pitches later and he was on first with a single. Stevenson’s single increased his hitting streak to four games and gave Nick McLain (Arizona State) the chance to get to work early on. McLain launched the ball deep into the outfield as it sailed over the wall for his third Gatemen home run of the season and made the score 2-0 to start the game. McLain now is tied for the team lead in home runs and owns the highest Gatemen batting average at .393. Smyth views the two as a force to be reckoned with at the plate.
“He’s (McLain) been a spark plug,” Smyth said. “With Josh Stevenson’s been hitting well in the leadoff spot and swinging a really confident bat right now. We bumped up McLain from the three spot to the two spot and I just think stacking those two guys have been a little bit of a catalyst for us and got us going and it paid off tonight.”
The Harbor Hawks immediately struck back with a solo home run off starting pitcher Mark Manfredi (Dayton). After giving up the run, Manfredi settled in on the mound and worked through five innings while giving up three hits and the one run.
“He’s been awesome since he got here,” Smyth said. “Extremely hard worker and stuck to a routine, was religious about it, was open to some changes that he did make in his last bullpen and I think he saw the benefits of it tonight.”
Wareham’s defense came through for Manfredi with a big third out play by Tommy Splaine (Arizona). Splaine got the start at first after not making a single start at the position in the spring collegiate season and came up clutch for the Gatemen. Splaine tracked the ball into the edge of foul territory and made the grab for the third out to close out the third inning.
As the fifth inning rolled around, the Harbor Hawks looked to create some positive momentum for their team. The Hyannis batter cracked the ball off the end of the bat deep into center field and created a difficult play for Stevenson.
“Honestly off the bat, I didn’t really see it too well,” Stevenson said. “I kind of knew the general area where it was gonna be so I took off for it and ended up finding it. Leaping catch, smashed into the wall a bit. The wall kind of broke but I was able to bring it in.”
Stevenson trotted in from the outfield as the top piece of the outfield fence dangled down after the collision.
The sixth inning highlighted some huge plays for the Gatemen pitching staff. James Hepp (UCLA) stepped onto the mound to make his Gatemen debut in relief for Manfredi. Hyannis put a runner on via a walk and added another with a single. The fog’s impact was put on display with a missed throw and the Harbor Hawks took advantage and pushed the runners to second and third with one out.
Hepp battled in the at-bats and forced the next two batters to send the ball right back to him for the putouts to Splaine at first.
The fog was blanketing the field as the Gatemen took the field in the bottom of the seventh. The Harbor Hawks smacked a leadoff double off reliever Yoel Tejeda (Florida State). Fans watched on as the players quickly got consumed by the fog coming in. The next Harbor Hawk batter stepped up and popped the ball into the sky. Right after it left the bat, the ball was instantly out of view. Stevenson stood in the outfield with his arms raised as he attempted to find the ball, but instead it dropped into centerfield and tied the game up.
“I saw it off the bat for, I don’t know, point one of a second and it was gone. Completely gone,” Stevenson said. “I knew as soon as the ball would get put in the air, nobody’s gonna see it and that’s what happened.”
Smyth stepped out of the dugout and after a meeting with the Hyannis coach and umpires, the game was sent into a delay.
After what felt like an eternity, the group met again at home plate and the final decision was to end the game in the tie.
The Gatemen travel back home to Spillane Field to face the Brewster Whitecaps, gaining a point in the process. Although not the desired outcome, Stevenson said, they’ll take the positives from the Sunday night matchup into Monday.
“We end in a tie, but I felt like that game didn’t reflect on what we actually did,” Stevenson said. “So it is what it is and we’ll get them tomorrow.”