Aaron Hernandez’s fiery facial expression told it all – the Gatemen were back in the win column.
Hanging on to a 6-5 lead over Orleans in the bottom half of the ninth inning, Wareham saw the tying run get 90 feet away as Cesar Salazar launched a double to right center and moved to third on a groundout.
Hernandez, who came on in relief to begin the fifth inning, settled in and picked up a huge strikeout via his high fastball before inducing a groundout to second to seal a 6-5, come-from behind victory for Wareham over Orleans on a picture perfect Sunday night at Eldridge Park.
The win puts an end to a seven game losing streak for the Gatemen and keeps them two points ahead of Hyannis for the final playoff spot in the Western Division.
Wareham, due to a pair of injuries and a family situation, played shorthanded with only nine position players active.
Gatemen coach Don Sneddon said he was proud of how the team came out in played.
“We came out and we could have easily rolled over and we didn’t,” said Sneddon. “Against the best team in the league we got some clutch hits and Hernandez did just a great job.”
Trailing 5-1 after five innings of play, the Gatemen stormed back to jump in front.
Wareham’s journey on the comeback trail began in the top of the sixth as they struck for three.
Kyle Kasser led off the frame with an infield single, and a Jarren Duran ground rule double put two runners in scoring position. John Toppa made a productive out and knocked in Kasser with a sacrifice fly before Jake Anchia came through with the key at bat of the day.
Down in the count 1-2, Anchia launched a monster two run blast well over the scoreboard in left to pull the Gatemen within 5-4.
Hernandez kept the Firebirds off the board in the bottom of the sixth, and one half inning later the Gatemen offense went right back to work.
Ben Baird singled up the middle, Steven Kwan walked, and Robbie Metz laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the two into scoring position.
For the second consecutive the Gatemen were able to get a run in via an out as Kasser drove a sacrifice fly to left to even the game up at five.
Finally, Duran capped off the long road back with an RBI single to right to put Wareham in front for good, 6-5.
Baird, who came into the game struggling as of late, broke out with three hits to go with a run and an RBI.
The University of Washington shortstop said he is just trying to stay relaxed.
“It’s been kind of tough due to spotty at-bats but it’s all about just trying to stay fresh,” said Baird. “I was just trying to work counts in my favor, look for my fastball and I was able to do something with it.”
Wareham grabbed their first run of the game in the top of the second. Toppa doubled, and later in the frame Baird tattooed a single to right push the Gatemen in front, 1-0.
Jordan Britton made the start for the Gatemen and turned in four quality innings allowing just three earned runs and striking out five.
The only blemishes off Britton came in the bottom of the fourth as Stephen Scott hit a two run shot to right off a hanging slider and Kevin Stroschien hit a solo blast to left.
Hernandez, in his longest relief outing of the year, took over in the bottom of the fifth and slammed the door on the Firebirds allowing just two runs on three hits over his five innings of work to give the Gatemen offense a shot for a comeback win.
Next Up: Wareham hosts Cotuit for the final time this season. First pitch from Spillane Field is scheduled for 630p.