For Darrien Ragins, the opening act was quickly followed by a roaring ovation.
With all 1,285 fans at Spillane Field on their feet, and the tying run on second with one man down, Ragins entered the ball game and recorded consecutive strikeouts of Trevor Larnach and Austin Langworthy as the Gatemen defeated the Falmouth Commodores, 4-3, to advance to the Western Division Finals in an exhilarating contest.
The save is Ragins first of his career with Wareham and it comes in just his third appearance as a member of the Gatemen.
Wareham entered the ninth inning leading 4-2, but a one out double off the bat of George Janca and a walk to Alec Bohm ended the day for Gatemen reliever Jordan Britton (2.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2).
Cody Smith entered, and instantly gave up a first pitch RBI single to Joshua Breaux cutting the Gatemen lead and moving Bohm, representing the tying run, into scoring position.
Gatemen pitching coach Jim Lawler exited the dugout and signaled to Ragins who came on in and instantly put any hopes of a Commodores comeback to bed.
First, he retired Larnach throwing four consecutive sliders – first two on the inner half, then a pair low and away – to retire the Oregon State product for the second out of the inning.
Then came Langworthy who got ahead in the count 2-0, but Ragins battled back on a pair of fastball to even it up at 2-2.
On 2-2, Ragins snapped off his most devastating slider yet, firing one down and away well out of the reach of Langworthy who swung and missed to finish off the Gatemen’s series sweep of Falmouth.
Wareham catcher Willie MacIver said he told Ragins to trust his breaking ball.
“I told him that we had a couple lefties coming up and the first one is someone I knew in (Trevor Larnach) so I told him to trust his slider,” said MacIver. “The second lefty (Langworthy) was not biting on the slider, but he threw two great fastballs to get even in the count and then threw his best slider of the day.”
The two sides were tied at two entering the bottom of the eighth, and after receiving consecutive singles by Jarren Duran and Joe Drpich to begin the frame the Gatemen seemed on the verge of letting a golden opportunity slip away.
Jake Anchia, however, came through in the clutch flying a single to center field that brought Drpich home just ahead of the tag to give Wareham a 3-2 lead.
Moments later, MacIver provided some insurance grounding an RBI base hit just over the third base bag to put Wareham on top 4-2 after eight.
Gatemen head coach Don Sneddon said his team seems to be catching fire at the right time.
“Everybody is coming together right now,” said Sneddon. “Everyone is having a great time playing together and its nice to win a series.”
Ever since the All-Star Game, Noah Zavolas has emerged as Wareham’s ace and on Sunday he pitched like any front of the rotation starter would.
The right-hander out of Harvard struck out nine and did not surrender a walk as part of a six-inning performance in which he allowed just one run and allowed seven hits.
That lone run came in the top of the first as Clayton Daniel, Bohm, and Breaux all singled to give the Commodores an early 1-0 lead.
Outside of that Zavolas was in control throwing 88 pitches, 63 of which were strikes.
The only time Falmouth threatened off Zavolas after the first inning was in the top half of the fifth.
Janca and Bohm strung together consecutive base hits, but Zavolas came back to induce a lineout off the bat of a Breaux before striking Larnach out via the changeup to get through the frame unscathed.
“(Zavolas) with just a real gutty performance,” said Sneddon. “I wish there was no pitch limits and he was our guy so I could leave him out there for nine but just a terrific job.”
Next Up: The Gatemen travel to Bourne to take on the Braves for game one of the Western Division Finals. First pitch from Doran Park is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8th, at 6pm.