Brett Conine’s final strikeout of the night washed away any late regular season struggles.
On Saturday evening, the Gatemen received a strong five-inning performance out of Aaron Hernandez, two shutout innings out of Conine, and a four RBI day out of Jake Anchia as Wareham defeated Falmouth, 10-5, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series at Guv Fuller Field.
The win is Wareham’s first postseason victory since they took home the championship against Yarmouth-Dennis in 2012.
Hernandez kept the Commodores bats at bay over his five innings of work, allowing six hits while walking and striking out one apiece.
The right-hander out of Texas A&M Corpus Christi fired home 75 pitches, 52 of which were strikes.
Gatemen coach Don Sneddon said the main thing that stands out about Hernandez is his competiveness.
“Just a gutty performance,” said Sneddon. “(Hernandez) wasn’t dominant but he was just gritty and got some big outs when we needed them.”
While showcasing a fastball that sat between 90 and 93 miles per hour, Hernandez also succeeded in pitching "backwards" to a deep Falmouth lineup. Throughout the middle part of his outing, Hernandez often started off the opposing hitter with either his change-up or breaking ball before returning to his fastball to finish off the batter.
Hernandez, however, was not without help from his defense as despite a couple of defensive mishaps in the final week of the regular season, the Gatemen flashed the leather all over the diamond on Saturday.
Jarren Duran saved runs on two occasions, first firing home to get Clayton Daniel at the plate off a backhand stop in the first inning before coming in with the bare hand and throwing on the run to retire Joshua Breaux to get Hernandez out of trouble in the fifth inning.
John Toppa also showcased his own defensive talents, laying out to make a terrific diving catch to take away an extra base hit in the bottom of the fourth.
“Those plays were huge,” said Sneddon. “The barehanded play by Duran was just wow. First, I didn’t think he should’ve barehanded it then the pick at first base. Just a couple big plays right here.”
Wareham jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Toppa reached on an error, and Kyle Kasser and Anchia smacked back-to-back doubles to put the Gatemen on top, 2-0. A throwing error brought home Anchia, and an RBI groundout off the bat of Steven Kwan gave Wareham their fourth run of the inning.
The Commodores chipped away with single runs in second and fourth innings, but in the fifth Anchia dealt the biggest blow of the game.
Joe Drpich and Kasser each singled, and on the first pitch Anchia saw from Falmouth reliever Ryan Lekich he launched a three home run to left field to give the Gatemen a 7-2 lead.
One frame later, it was Drpich who provided the big fly as the first baseman out of Sienna drove a two run blast over the fence in right center to push the Gatemen advantage to 9-3.
“That’s nice to get,” said Sneddon. “At this point in the season most clubs have lost their premiere pitching so you don’t expect a lot of 1-0 ball games. You have to be able to put some runs on the board and with the home run we were able to do that tonight.”
Falmouth refused to go away scoring two runs in the sixth off Wareham reliever Grant Wolfram to trim the deficit to 9-5. Barrett Loseke, though, came on to pitch the seventh for the Gatemen and recorded a pair of key strikeouts with men on base to keep Falmouth at a distance.
Up Next: Wareham takes on Falmouth in game two of the opening round series. First pitch from Spillane Field is scheduled for 630pm.