WAREHAM – Duke University versus Franklin Pierce University. Precisely the pitching matchup fans would have expected in Game 1 of the West Division Finals.
Falmouth’s starter, Adam Laskey, needs no introduction to anyone who was a fan of the Cape League this summer. Laskey, a Duke Blue Devil, won Cape League Pitcher of the Year as he was 5-0 in six appearances to go along with a 1.18 ERA in 30.2 IP. He gave up just four runs and only one of his six outings did he give up multiple runs in the regular season.
From the other dugout, Zach Hart took the mound out of a small Division 2 college called Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Hart has been one of the unsung heroes of the Gatemen staff this summer. He has a 1.54 ERA in 23.1 innings in 11 appearances for Wareham.
“It gives you more incentive to go out there and pitch as hard as you can,” Hart said about facing Laskey and the Commodores. “When you’re going up against good competition, and I would say these guys are the best in the league besides us, that it gives the extra edge and pushes you more. You can’t be scared of anyone because that shows weakness.”
Despite their different paths to the Cape League, the Division 2 starter matched the Cape League Pitcher of the Year pitch-for-pitch in a 4-3 Wareham victory. Their final stat lines read as follows:
Laskey: 6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K’s, 91 pitches (55 strikes)
Hart: 6 IP, 2 ER 6 H, 1 BB, 5 K’s, 84 pitches (60 strikes)
“Great pitching. Hart, for his second start of the year, gave us six innings. That was clutch. They got a couple runs off him and he was able to come back,” Don Sneddon said.
Hart gave up two runs in the third inning when Maverick Handley tripled with two away to give the Commodores a 2-0 lead. After that, Hart did not make any more mistakes as he tossed three more scoreless innings before ending his night.
Despite a lefty-heavy lineup, the right hander Hart was able to do just enough to keep his team in the low scoring affair.
“They have a lot of lefties and I do not like to throw to lefties too much. It was a good thing the changeup was working today because that keeps them off balance. The slider late in the game was working more,” Hart said.
“I talked to G [Gian Martellini] and he said throw it more. Pretty much everything was working. They were rolling over on a lot of balls.”
Both pitchers would exit the game with the score tied 2-2 in the seventh. In the top half of the inning, reliever Joey Baran shut down the Commodores in order. Falmouth’s reliever, Cal Coughlin, was not as fortunate.
Ryan Kreidler, who homered in his last at-bat in the fifth inning, greeted Coughlin by crushing a leadoff double on the first pitch of the inning he saw to get the Gatemen rally started.
Ryan Kreidler rounds the bases in the fifth inning after hitting a solo homer to cut the Falmouth lead to 2-1 (via Caroline O'Connor).
On a 2-1 count, Kreidler rolled the dice on the base paths. Coughlin’s pitch missed up high for ball three and Kreidler was off with the pitch and swiped third base on a very close play. Skyler Hunter then hit a bloop single into shallow left field and Kreidler came in to score the go-ahead run, something that would not have happened if he was not on third base.
“Kreidler got his home run and broke out of it big time. And he had a double and stole third. Hell of a game,” Sneddon said.
Isaac Collins then came to the plate and put a ball into the left-center field gap and Hunter came around to score from first and Collins flew into third base with a standup triple.
After an Oliver Dunn walk, Coughlin would dial in and stranded Collins at third to limit the damage to just two runs and a 4-2 Wareham lead.
In the top of the eighth, the Commodores fought back and cut into the Wareham lead. Three singles had Falmouth with runners on the corners and the lead trimmed to just on run. With two away, Logan Davidson came to the plate for the biggest at-bat of the game.
Baran, like he has done many times this summer, worked out the jam and got Davidson to strike out swinging and strand the tying run at third base, just 90 feet away.
To begin the ninth, Baran came back out to the mound to begin his third inning of work. After retiring the first two hitters in the inning, the Commodores had two infield singles to put men on first and second base.
Baran then proceeded to get Maverick Handley to ground out to Ryan Kreidler as the Gatemen shortstop came in charging to field the grounder and get the final out at first.
“Baran has to be the toughest luck pitcher in this league. Guys get more hits on broken bats, bloops, and bad hops. He’s a tough kid. He came in and stayed with it, give him credit,” Sneddon said.
Baran ended up scattering five hits over his three innings of work to record the win and allow just one earned run in the process.
With the win, the Gatemen are now just one win away from advancing to their first Cape Cod Baseball League Finals since 2012, their last title as a franchise.
“These guys just amaze me,” Sneddon said. “This series is far from over with.”
“We are just going to have to keep doing our thing. Our hitters are looking pretty good right now, we are getting hot. I think we have to go into next game and not try and do too much,” Hart added.
Final: Gatemen 4, Commodores 3
Next up: The Gatemen travel to Guv Fuller Field in Falmouth to play the Commodores in Game 2 of the best of three series. Wareham leads the series 1-0 and first pitch is at 6 p.m.