ORLEANS – On a night Wareham would route the Orleans Firebirds 11-2, the Gatemen were not even sure they would get the opportunity to play.
Mid Saturday afternoon, a wicked rain storm came crashing through the Cape and the Gatemen team bus was right in the thick of it.
“This was an unusual game. Driving down, we went through the biggest rainstorm we have seen this year and we didn’t even think we are going to play,” Don Sneddon said.
“I was concerned. We almost had to stop on the highway because the rain was coming down so hard.”
However, as the team approached Orleans, the rain eventually subsided and the game was not postponed.
The east side of Cape Cod, where Orleans is located, was not hit as hard as the west side. Even still, Orleans received rain during the afternoon and preparations on the field needed to be made to make the game playable.
“Then we get here and it wasn’t bad as bad yet we couldn’t hit on the field, so we had to hit in the cages. We couldn’t take infield outfield either,” Sneddon said.
“It’s a challenge when you don’t have your same routine. I am very proud of what they did.”
And what did the Gatemen do? Yes, they won 11-2 over the Firebirds but that was not the biggest story of the night. By defeating Orleans, Wareham clinched a spot in the 2018 CCBL playoffs.
Ryan Stoudemire pitched the final four innings to secure the 11-2 win for Wareham (via Caroline O'Connor).
In the Cape League, four teams in each division make the playoffs out of five. In the West, the Gatemen are in first place and now have 47 points. They can earn eight more points this season as they have four games remaining (2 points for a win, 1 for a tie, 0 for a loss).
The Bourne Braves, who lost last night 9-6 in extra innings, have 35 points and can only earn eight more points since they too have four games remaining. Therefore, the Braves cannot pass the Gatemen in the standings.
“It’s awesome. We all work really really hard all summer to try and get better,” Gatemen outfielder Jeremy Ydens said postgame. “It’s the fruits of our labor. We just don’t want to make the playoffs, but we want to win the whole thing. That’s important to us. It’s a step in the right direction.”
The Gatemen got themselves off and running towards that playoff spot when Lael Lockhart Jr. hit a two-out ground slam to give the Gatemen an immediate 4-0 lead in inning number one.
“We were able to string a bunch of hits together which is really good, that first inning especially. With two outs, a couple of guys got on base and Lael put one out,” Ydens said.
“The last couple of games we were not able to do that. I thought everyone did a really great job of stringing hits together.”
The home run for Lockhart Jr. was his second of the year and the first home run hit by the Gatemen since July 13 when Sahid Valenzuela homered. In addition, the grand slam was the second one for the team this season and the first since Andrew Vaughn hit one on Opening Day back in Chatham on June 12.
In the bottom of the first, the Firebirds made things interesting and almost knocked Gatemen starter Tyler Keysor out of the game. Keysor threw 32 pitches in the inning and 15 of them went for balls.
Orleans scored two runs off two walks and two singles and certainly looked in position to push more across. With one away and men on first and second, Keysor got the next batter to strikeout and the final batter of the inning to fly out to right.
“Wow, he was that close to coming out. We had somebody warmed up,” Sneddon said.
In the top of the next frame, the Gatemen scored two more of their own, making it a 6-2 game and denying Orleans a shutdown inning.
Oliver Dunn, who would record four hits on the night, had his second in as many innings and drove in the fifth Gatemen run with an RBI single. After Austin Shenton walked, Ydens grounded out to first base, but in the back door came across the sixth Gatemen run of the evening.
Keysor came back out on the mound to start the second inning and he got exactly what he needed. Keysor threw a 1-2-3 inning and just used nine pitches to do so.
In the third, one base runner reached via an error, but Keysor worked around it and tossed his second scoreless inning in a row.
“Keysor made a great adjustment,” Sneddon said. “He went to his fastball and started challenging guys. That’s how quickly it can change if you just get out of that one inning. Almost every pitcher has a tough inning and you have to bear down on it and get through it.”
With the Gatemen now ahead 7-2 in the fourth, Keysor found himself in trouble once again. Three straight singles with one out had the bases loaded for Orleans as they looked to cut into the 5-run Gatemen lead and make it a ballgame.
Instead, Keysor got Pat DeMarco to ground out into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat and leave Orleans scoreless in that half inning.
Back out for his fifth inning of work, Keysor sent the Firebirds down in order in his final inning and got a little help from his defense in order to do so.
JJ Bleday led off the inning and smoked a ball deep to left field that was ticketed to be a homer. Not on Jeremy Ydens’ watch. The Gatemen left fielder ran back towards the wall, crashed into it, and made the play to rob Bleday.
“He hit that really well and it’s kind of a short porch out there. I didn’t really know the fence was there,” Ydens said. “I kind of knew it was coming up and I was like ‘I’m just going to go for it’ and I hit the fence hard, but I bounced back and luckily I didn’t come out injured.”
After the catch, a bevy of his Gatemen teammate gave Ydens a tip of the cap and saluted him from the dugout.
The next two Firebirds were retired to end the inning and Keysor’s night was done after five innings of work. He picked up his second win of the summer and did so by allowing just the two runs he gave up in the first.
In the sixth and seventh innings, the onslaught for the Gatemen offense continued. Wareham pushed another run across in the sixth to make it 8-2 when Ydens hit a sac fly to drive in Dunn for his second RBI on the night.
In the seventh, the Gatemen scored three more runs, two of them coming off the bat of Ryan Kreidler on a homer to make it a 10-2 Wareham lead. The big fly for Kreidler was his second of the summer and first since July 9.
The last Gatemen run of the night came later in the inning when Dunn slapped an RBI double of the day to finish off an outstanding night at the plate. Dunn went 4-6 with two doubles and two RBI. Over his last five games, Dunn is 9-16 (.563) with four extra-base hits.
“Dunn did well. Obviously for him sitting on the bench for a while and to come out and do something like that and answer the bell is impressive,” Sneddon said.
“We don’t have many guys on our bench, but everybody is getting a shot to play as we role down the line here.”
All in all, the Gatemen offense scored their 11 runs on 16 hits. Every hitter in the Gatemen lineup reached base and all but one had base hits. For good measure, five of the eight Gatemen with hits had at least one go for extra-bases.
“It takes team moral up,” Sneddon said referring to the offensive outburst.“The bottom guys have been struggling but it shows we can score some runs. We don’t win too many games where Shenton doesn’t get a hit. That doesn’t happen very often.”
With a plethora of runs being scored, almost lost in the shuffle was the four inning save pitched by Ryan Stoudemire.
Stoudemire entered the game in relief in the sixth and he took it all the way home. Stoudemire allowed only two base runners (one hit and one walk) over his four innings. To end the night, Stoudemire recorded back-to-back strikeouts to bring his total to four for the game.
With the win, the Gatemen have achieved what they set out to do from the get-go: make the playoffs.
“That was our goal from the beginning,” Sneddon said. “Now our goal is to get home field advantage. We are still playing for that, so these games still mean a lot.”
Final: Gatemen 11, Firebirds 2
Next up: The Gatemen (23-16-1) return home tonight to play the Hyannis Harbor Hawks (21-15-3) at Spillane Field in Wareham. First pitch at 5:30 p.m.