COTUIT – With a runner on first base and two outs in the sixth inning, Joey Matulovich came to the set on a hot muggy day from Lowell Park.
His first pitch to Cotuit 1B Zach Biermann was a fastball on the outside corner that was called for strike one. Matulovich received the throw back from his catcher Gian Martellini and toed the rubber. Once again, he came to the set and delivered a strike, this time of the swinging variety.
On the 0-2 count, Matulovich nodded home, came to the set, and paused to take a breath. He then kicked and fired a 91-mph fastball past Biermann for strike three on pitch number 83 of the evening. Matulovich began the slow walk off the mound as the Gatemen came to bat in the top of the seventh already up 2-0.
And with that final strikeout, Matulovich’s Wareham Gatemen career came to a close after two outstanding summers.
“I tried to stay in the moment and be there with the team, with the guys. That’s the fun part of it,” Joey Matulovich said. “You’re there with a bunch of guys who are going to be some of your best friends for life. I just tried to soak it all in.”
Throughout the whole draft process, Matulovich says his parents were his biggest supporters (photo by Caroline O'Connor).
On July 3, Matulovich made his final appearance for Wareham tossing six shutout innings in an 8-1 win over the Firebirds. On July 6, Matulovich signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Brewers after being drafted in round 20 of the draft this past June.
As if signing a professional contract was not cool enough, July 6 also happened to be Matulovich’s birthday.
“It feels good,” Matulovich said after inking the contract. “So far I’m having a lot of fun, I’ve already met a bunch of new guys.”
Matulovich exits the Cape after being one of the best performers over the past two summers in the nation’s top collegiate league. His career Cape League ERA sits at 1.48 over 54.2 innings for Wareham to go along a 4-2 record with 47 strikeouts to just 11 walks (4.27 K/BB).
As a west coast kid from Danville, Calif., Matulovich made the trek across the country last summer after his pitching coach at Cal Berkeley told him he’d be playing for the Wareham Gatemen come summer time.
“I was fired up because I knew the Cape was the place to be for summer ball,” Matulovich said.
Matulovich and his fired up energy were ready to go as he did not disappoint Gatemen fans. He posted a 2.34 ERA in 30.2 innings last summer and was one of the best Gatemen pitchers.
This summer, Matulovich took a different path to end up back in Wareham. In the midst of his junior year, Matulovich picked up the phone and gave Andy Lang, the Gatemen’s GM, a call.
Matulovich was not satisfied with how he was performing this collegiate season and wanted to come back out to the Cape for a second summer to get better. His final line at Cal Berkeley this season read 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 19 appearances (five starts) over 46.2 innings pitched.
The numbers were not stellar, but they were not terrible by any stretch of the imagination. Clearly, the Milwaukee Brewers had liked enough of what they had seen out of Matulovich to warrant selecting him.
Despite getting drafted, Matulovich still came back out to Wareham and did not sign right away.
“He has that drive to make himself better. He didn’t have to come out here this summer since it was his draft year, but he wanted to get better,” Sydney Malone, Wareham’s assistant GM said. “I think he proved himself out here. Not a lot of kids would come out on their own if they’re about to sign.”
To make it to the next levels, Matulovich says he need to improve his off speed command (photo by Caroline O'Connor).
With that final strikeout in Cotuit, Matulovich lowered his ERA to 0.38 for the summer, which still leads the whole league. In addition, Matulovich improved his record to 2-0 and turned in a quality start to give him three for the season in 24 IP.
Two of people that Matulovich will miss going forward and wants to thank for contributing to his on-field success in the Cape League are his manager, Don Sneddon, and pitching coach, Jim Lawler.
“Don has helped me more on the mental side of things and Lawler has helped me a ton on the pitching side of things, more than I thought anybody would at this point. I can’t thank both enough,” Matulovich said.
What else will Matulovich miss about Wareham?
“The guys, the team. I made some really great friends this year, some that will last a lifetime,” Matulovich said.
After spending two summers establishing himself as a premier pitcher in the Cape League, Matulovich has to do it all over again. He now leaves the Cape to join the Helena Brewers up in Mont. in the Pioneer League, a rookie ball affiliate.
“I am excited to compete at every level and just keep moving up. That’s my goal and expectations,” Matulovich said. “Just compete and pitch well. Whether or not they move me is out of my control, all I can do is pitch well.”
“He has that type of character where he pushes himself really hard and he knows what he needs to work on,” Malone said.
As one journey ends for Matulovich, his next chapter is just beginning.