Gatemen walk it off again as Packard delivers game-winning knock
June 24, 2018 8:18 pm | by Andrew Lang
Gatemen walk it off again as Packard delivers game-winning knock
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WAREHAM – On a cold and misty night in southeastern Massachusetts, four out of five games in the Cape Cod Baseball League were postponed due to inclement weather. The only teams to play? The Wareham Gatemen and the Brewster Whitecaps.
The game took place in Wareham and the Gatemen spent numerous hours before game time getting their home field ready to play. After taking care of business by preparing the field, the Gatemen took care of business on the field and won the game 3-2.
“We needed that game right there, especially when we spent time getting our field ready. You hate doing that and then lose a ballgame. It makes all the work we put in to it worthwhile,” manager Don Sneddon said.
One main reason the Gatemen were able to get this game in tonight was due to their stone dust infield. Normally, most infields, including all other parks in the Cape League, have dirt infields. These classic infields are picture-perfect, but do not dry well in the event of rain.
Dirt infields tend to clump which turns into mud, making for an unplayable surface. On the other hand, the stone dust is more absorbent of the water and it does so without creating muds or puddles. The stone dust infield helped make tonight’s game playable.
Enough about the weather though, let’s get to baseball.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first, the Gatemen got on the board early thanks to one of the newest members of the Gatemen, 2B Sahid Valenzuela from Cal State Fullerton.
On the first pitch he saw at Spillane Field, Valenzuela got around on a fastball and deposited it over the left field wall, into the visiting bullpen.
His Gatemen teammates exploded in the dugout and went completely nuts. Screams of “the little guy” could be heard all the way up in the press box.
Valenzuela is the smallest member of the Gatemen. He is listed at 5 feet 9 inches and 165 lbs. on a good day. This home run was Valenzuela’s first since May 12, 2017. In his 114-game collegiate career to date, Valenzuela only had the one aforementioned home run.
“Sahid [Valenzuela] doesn’t have pop in his bat, he just got everything together at the right time,” Sneddon said. “He’s a good player. He knows what he can and can’t do. He’s a good little hitter. He knows how to play the game, he can run the bases and do some things.”
Valenzuela was a one-men wrecking crew for most of the night as he reached base four times (two hits and two walks). The rest of the Gatemen hitters combined for five walks and just one base hit.
Gatemen starter Easton Lucas was dominant in his five innings of work allowing just one run on three hits. Lucas struck out four and gave up one walk.
“That’s a great start for him after his first time out. I was very pleased,” Sneddon said.
Jared Horn came in to relieve Lucas and he had himself a solid outing as well. Horn threw three plus innings and surrendered just one run. This appearance was much needed for Horn as he had been tagged for multiple runs in each of his first two outings of the season.
Jared Horn provided the Gatemen with three plus innings of solid relief. Photo by Caroline O’Connor.
The Whitecaps also got outstanding pitching in this game as well. LHP Zack Thompson gave up two runs (one earned) in four innings. On the whole, the Brewster staff combined for eight strikeouts.
At one point, Whitecaps pitching had retired 14 straight Gatemen, including four 1-2-3 innings in a row. In addition, the Gatemen offense only had three hits all night and went six straight innings without one.
With the Gatemen clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth, the Whitecaps had the tying run on third base with two outs. 2B Mike Massey was the next scheduled hitter for Brewster.
With first base open, Sneddon elected to have Horn intentionally walk Massey and put the go-ahead run on base.
“There’s two books on that one. Do you put the winning run on base or not? He [Massey] was hitting well tonight and he’s their highest average hitter, so we thought we’d take our chances with the next guy,” Sneddon said.
As Sneddon mentioned, Massey is off to a scalding start on the season. He is the league’s leading hitter at .452 and already had two hits in the game at that point.
With runners on the corners, DH Conor Grammes stepped up to the plate. On a 1-2 count, Horn got Grammes to hit a fly ball and the center fielder Skyler Hunter had plenty of time to camp under it and record the final out of the inning.
“I could have had egg on my face if the next guy comes up and drives both of them in,” Sneddon said. “Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but I think it was a calculated move and I’m glad it worked out.”
Despite missing their chance in the eighth, the Whitecaps had another chance in the ninth and capitalized on it this time.
Horn stayed in the game to work the ninth and proceeded to walk the first two hitters he faced in the inning. Ryan Stoudemire came in out of the bullpen to try and secure the one-run lead.
On the first pitch Stoudemire threw, the ball went to the backstop and both runners moved up on the wild pitch. LF Dominic Canzone took the next pitch and hit a fly ball into center field. The ball was plenty deep enough and the runner from third tagged. Game tied 2-2.
Stoudemire wound up working out of the inning, stranding the go-ahead run at second.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Gatemen went down in order, sending the game to extra innings, the first such contest for Wareham this year.
Stoudemire came back out to pitch the top of tenth and also retired the Whitecaps in order.
In the bottom of the tenth, it was walk-off time yet again for the Gatemen. Valenzuela worked a one out walk and Andrew Vaughn reached base after being hit by the pitch.
Bryant Packard came to the plate and hit a seeing-eye single through the four hole and Valenzuela used his speed to coast into home with the game-winning run. The hit by Packard was the first Gatemen hit since the third inning and the first hit by a Gatemen not named Sahid Valenzuela.
“Packard’s a good player so that doesn’t surprise me. I wanted him up there. I also wanted Vaughn up there, but they hit him,” Sneddon said. “I felt comfortable the whole way through we could win this thing.”
The knock finished off an impressive night for Packard at the plate. Packard walked three times on the night and went 1-2 in hit official at bats. This comes on the heels of a tough week for Packard as he was just three for his last 15 (.211 average) with seven strikeouts over the past seven days.
The walk-off was the third of the young season for the Gatemen and already the second for Packard. He hit a walk-off sac fly in the Gatemen home opener back on June 13.
As two of the best Gatemen hitters, Vaughn and Bryson Stott, head off to Team USA, Packard knows the offense will need to step up their game in their absence. Packard knows he will need more nights like this as more of the offensive responsibility will fall on his shoulders.
“It’s like college again. Being one of the top guys on the team is very comforting, I like that role,” Bryant Packard said in the Gatemen Postgame show. “It’s very challenging but I like challenges. I’m excited.”
Final: Gatemen 3, Whitecaps 2
Next up: The Gatemen (8-4) will travel to Dennis-Yarmouth for a doubleheader against the Red Sox (5-4-2) at Red Wilson Field in Yarmouth. The first game begins at 2:30 p.m. and the second game begins 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first.