ORLEANS –The shutdown inning proved to be elusive Friday night as the Gatemen fell at the hands of the Orleans Firebirds 10-3.
Wareham scored runs in the second and seventh, but failed to stop the Firebirds from scoring in the next half innings immediately following. The Gatemen went 0-2 in recording shutdown innings.
“We just didn’t get a stop. We were one pitch from getting a stop and we didn’t make the pitch and their big lefty comes up and gets a clutch base hit. We didn’t do a very good job after that,” manager Don Sneddon said.
In the seventh inning, it was still anyone’s ballgame. With two outs in the inning, two-way player Lael Lockhart came in to pitch for Wareham versus Logan Wyatt with a runner at third and the game tied 3-3. Sneddon had the lefty-lefty matchup he wanted, but the results did not follow.
Wyatt hit a go-ahead RBI single to left field, giving the Firebirds and 4-3 lead and the floodgates opened.
Orleans would score four more runs in the inning, giving the Firebirds an 8-3 cushion. They would also tack on two more runs in the eighth, extending the lead to seven runs which made it a 10-3 game. In total, 17 hitters came to bat for Orleans over these two frames.
The Gatemen bullpen allowed nine runs in just four innings pitched. Photo by Caroline O'Connor.
“We got to make a great pitch. We got to get that one guy. We can’t walk the guy and escalate the whole thing,” Sneddon said.
The Gatemen also ran into some tough luck hitting due to the dimensions of Eldredge Park. This field in Orleans, like all parks on the Cape, has very unique measurements as all of the fields play differently.
Eldredge Park plays very big towards the middle of the field as it’s 350 feet to left center, 359 to right center, and a crazy 434 feet to dead center field. The center field at Eldredge Park is larger than any center field in any Major League stadium.
Most notably, the Gatemen felt the park effects when they had a runner on second base with one out in the fourth. Skyler Hunter and Luke Roskam each put a good swing on the ball but had nothing to show for it as the center fielder made the plays on the fly balls.
“They know how to play this field. They play on it 22 times, we play on it twice. That’s the advantage of having a home field. They play their yard well,” Sneddon said.
“They didn’t hit too many balls to center field. They went to the opposite field or pulled the ball. I’m sure they’re hitting and working on that.”
Before the Firebirds took the lead in the bottom seventh, the Gatemen had to tie it first in the top of the seventh.
To begin that inning, Wareham was down 3-1. Bryson Stott hit a leadoff single and Bryant Packard reached base two batters later on a walk. This brought Hunter to the plate with one down.
This time, the field played to Hunter’s advantage. Hunter pulled an RBI double down the right field line which scored a run.
Roskam now came to the plate with runners on second and third with one out. Yesterday in the postgame, Sneddon stressed the importance of getting runs across without getting a base hit.
Roskam did just that. On the first pitch, Roskam hit a ground ball to shortstop. The Firebirds shortstop Quincy McAfee was playing back and this allowed the Gatemen to score their second run of the inning and tie the game 3-3.
“That’s what we have to have. That put us back into it and I thought we had some momentum at that point,” Sneddon said. “Give them credit they took it right back.”
Scoring these two runs were huge for a struggling Wareham offense. The Gatemen went 1-7 with runners in scoring position. This comes on the heels of a game yesterday in which the Gatemen left seven runners in scoring position in a 1-run loss.
Contrary to the Gatemen failed attempts at shutdown innings, the Firebirds recorded shutdown innings three times out of four attempts. The one time they didn’t, the top of the seventh, they responded right afterwards with the five-run rally in the bottom of the frame.
“Our staff has to come in and do that. It tough to do. We don’t have a real overpowering staff, we have enough to throw strikes and get some people out,” Sneddon said.
Lost in the shuffle tonight was the performance given by RHP Ryan Garcia from UCLA. Garcia made his Cape season debut and struck out nine Firebirds. Seven of the nine strikeouts for Garcia were swinging. He also allowed one run on three hits and one walk.
“Garcia’s going to be a good pitcher for us, and that’s going to be the key for us,” Sneddon said. "He's one of the premier pitchers in the league."
Due to pitch limits and inning restrictions, Garcia only went four innings despite pitching extremely well and dominating the Orleans starting lineup.
“This is what’s different than college ball. We are only going to get five innings out of a kid, so our bullpen has to hold runs,” Sneddon said.
All in all, Sneddon knows that tonight was just another night in the Cape league where each game comes down to one at-bat with so much talent on both sides.
“This game ebbs and flows. We came back into it, they came back into it. One pitch can change a whole complexity of a game, one at bat one hit. The score doesn’t indicate that right now,” Sneddon said.
Final: Firebirds 10, Gatemen 3
Next up: The Gatemen (7-4) are back home Saturday night and will play against the Brewster Whitecaps (3-6-1) at Spillane Field in Wareham at 6:30 p.m.