After eight weeks, numerous preseason games, a pair of doubleheaders, one terrific Cape League All-Star Game, a Fenway workout, and 44 regular season games the Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs are upon us.
The Wareham Gatemen, who finished the season 18-25-1, enter the postseason as the fourth seed in the Western Division and will take a trip to Falmouth to take on the Commodores in the first round.
Largely buoyed by a late-season five game winning streak, the Gatemen were able to qualify for the postseason despite losing their top three starters in Miller Hogan, Joey Matulovich, and Griffin Roberts all within a weeks time.
Now, however, all attention will turn to this weekend where Wareham will try to advance to the Western Division championship series for the first time since 2012.
So, without a further-ado, here is a breakdown of the Gatemen’s matchup with the Commodores.
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Runs Per Game: 5.1
Runs Allowed Per Game: 4.61
Players to Watch: Alec Bohm, 1B/DH; Clayton Daniel, 2B; Hunter Steinmetz, OF; Marty Bechina, OF; Trevor Larnach, OF/1B; Brian Gadsby, RHP; Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP; Derrick Adams, LHP;
Overview: For the second straight season the Commodores are champions of the regular season Western Division title. After getting off to a slow start, Falmouth took off in the second half of the season going 12-3 in their final 15 games. Always known for the high-powered offense, the Commodores have a lineup 1-9 that can compete with anyone in the Cape League on any given day. Clayton Daniel finished the regular season leading the Cape League in hits, while Trevor Larnach and Alec Bomh provide prolific power in the middle of order. What makes Falmouth so dangerous, however, is the depth of their offense with Hunter Steinmetz, Joshua Breaux, and Cameron O’Neil all providing extra base hit abilities towards the bottom of the lineup.
On the mound, the Commodores are not quite as strong as they possessed a 4.07 regular season ERA. Regardless, Falmouth still has the arms to shut down any opposing lineup. Will Ethridge has emerged as a reliable middle reliever, while Derrick Adams, Ryan Zeferjahn, and Brian Gadbsy all can get the job done in the late innings.
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Runs Per Game: 4.18
Runs Allowed Per Game: 4.36
Players to Watch: Aaron Hernandez, RHP; Noah Zavolas, RHP; Brett Conine, RHP; Grant Wolfram, LHP; Willie MacIver, C/3B; Steven Kwan, OF; Jake Anchia, 1B;
Overview: Wareham is making their consecutive postseason appearance, but if they are to claim their first postseason victory in five seasons they will have to do it on the backs of their starting pitching. Aaron Hernandez is expected to get the start in game one and after a bevy of short relief outings, Hernandez proved he is more than capable of being stretched out as he fired five innings of two run ball this past Sunday against Orleans. Behind Hernandez are right-handers Noah Zavolas and Justin Montgomery who both have turned in solid seasons. One year after being only on a temporary contract, Zavolas has compiled a 0.63 ERA over 28.1 innings of work.
Offensively, the Gatemen will be heavily reliant on their table setters in Steven Kwan and Kyle Kasser to be the catalysts. All season long Wareham has been lacking in the power department, but if Kwan, Kasser, Robbie Metz, and Jarren Duran can consistently find themselves on base it may open the door for the Gatemen to manufacture the runs necessary to squeak by.
Gatemen’s Keys to the Series:
(1) One + Two = Six
If the Gatemen hope to compete with the slugging Commodores then the top of the order will have to deliver. Kwan, Metz, Duran and Kasser have been productive all season long, but will have to catch fire to put pressure on Falmouth. While the Gatemen don't hit for extra bases consistently, they have shown an ability to steal a base in a game's biggest moment, pull off a successful hit and run, and sacrifice bunt. No matter who is in those two top spots come Friday night, if the Gatemen hope to keep up on the scoreboard, they need the table settlers to reach base at least six combined times.
(2) Grant Wolfram and Jordan Britton
From day one, Grant Wolfram has been one of the more depended upon arms in the Wareham bullpen while Jordan Britton has surged up the depth chart the second half of the season. Each of their success is rooted in their fastball command before turning to their secondary pitches – most notably their changeups – to retire the opposing hitter. Above all else, however, Wolfram and Britton both are left-handers as well as slated to back up game one starter Aaron Hernandez and game two starter Noah Zavolas.
Pitching coach Jim Lawler has only deviated once from his six inning per start limit for his pitchers, and that came in Miller Hogan’s final outing of the season. Despite the calendar turning to the postseason, it would come as a shock if Lawler changed those guidelines now making the roles of Wolfram and Britton all that more important. Hernandez and Zavolas should do their part to keep the Gatemen in the game, and if Wolfram and Britton can do the same against the likes of left-handed threats Trevor Larnach and Hunter Steinmetz, then the pathway to victory for Wareham becomes that much easier.