FALMOUTH – For the first time since 2012, the Wareham Gatemen are moving on to the Cape Cod Baseball League Finals. Wareham’s offense used a five-run fifth inning to extend their lead to 6-0 in a game they ultimately won 7-4 over Falmouth Commodores.
“It’s a byproduct of hard work for all these kids and young men. It is really neat to see them being rewarded for that,” Gatemen manager Don Sneddon said.
“They have worked their tail end off and they have been here a long time battling. It’s a nice reward for them to know they can play with the best and play at this level.”
Throughout the course of the season, 53 different players have suited up for the Gatemen and gotten them to where they are today: two wins away from a championship.
One of those 53, RHP Alex Stiegler, has an arrival story to Wareham quite like no other.
Stiegler, who tossed four innings of relief to earn the win in the series clinching game over Falmouth, barely made it to Wareham on time to be on the postseason roster, let alone win a playoff game.
In order to be postseason eligible for the CCBL playoffs, players need to be on the roster by the end of the regular season, Aug. 2. That is exactly the date when Stiegler was added to the Gatemen roster.
Alex Stiegler came up big for the Gatemen when it mattered most going four innings to record the win against Falmouth (via Caroline O'Connor).
Stiegler began his summer in the Alaska Baseball League (ABL) where he played for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. The ABL is made up of five teams that play in four different cities and towns around Alaska, with two teams in Anchorage.
For their playoffs, the 1 seed plays the 4 and 2 seed plays the 3. Therefore, one team misses the playoffs each summer. This year, it just so happened to be the Glacier Pilots.
Since his club missed the playoffs, Stiegler’s season in the ABL ended on July 30. If not, his season would have gone until at least Aug. 2, meaning there would have been no way to be added to the Gatemen roster.
In fact, had the Glacier Pilots not lost their last two games, they would have advanced to the playoffs also extending the season for Stiegler.
Instead, as fate would have it, he ended up in Wareham.
“That’s a great story. This kid literally has to get on a plane from Alaska to get here on the very last day to be eligible for us to pitch. I just happened to know a coach whose son happens to be coaching up there and he said, ‘hey this guy has been throwing strikes’ and we needed an arm,” Sneddon said.
The final line for Stiegler read four innings pitched, five hits, one unearned run, four strikeouts, and no walks allowed.
“Our coaches have been letting me know I am on call for every game and I finally got the call today and I was ready to go. I just trusted my stuff and believed in myself,” Stiegler told the Gatemen Baseball Network after the game.
Stiegler entered the game for Wareham in the sixth inning when the team was up 7-3 and he left the mound after the final out was recorded in the ninth and his new team had won 7-4.
“Coming in out of the bullpen, no matter what inning it is, I expect to finish that game,” Stiegler said. “With that mindset, you don’t have to worry about if I get in trouble, I have a safety net. “
Stiegler pounded the strike zone throwing 49 strikes on 71 pitches in his second outing for Wareham. The win was his second all summer as he recorded only one in the ABL.
“These are stories that need to be told. It was awesome. He is a competitor he mixes up his pitches and you like him on the mound. He’s an ex-infielder too. You can just see it in him. Great performance,” Sneddon said.
Before handing Stiegler the ball with the lead, Wareham had to get him one.
The Gatemen wasted no time scoring runs as they got on the board in the first inning when Austin Shenton homered to put Wareham up 1-0.
“I felt like I was on that first fastball he threw me. Then I got to a 2-1 count and I kind of thought he’d come back with another fastball there and I was ready for it,” Shenton said.
Shenton’s hot run in the postseason continues as he is now hitting .600 (9-for-15) over four games with three home runs and six RBIs.
“It’s kind of the same mindset I came into the beginning of the season with: full confidence in myself. I am just trying to put a good swing on every pitch and be on time,” Shenton added.
Once Wareham got their 1-0 lead, starter Nathan Florence came to the mound. Florence, who entered play yesterday having allowed one run over his last seven innings, tossed four scoreless innings for the Gatemen and left the game in the top of the fifth with his club still ahead 1-0.
“That’s what we wanted right there. He got us four innings,” Sneddon said. “We would have liked to have gotten five, but we got four so that was the plan. He did exactly what he was supposed to do.”
Florence’s outing was not pretty, but he managed to work around bases runners, particularly in the second. In that inning, Florence lost control and walked back-to-back hitters with one away. He proceeded to balk which advanced the runners up to second and third respectively.
Florence struck out Davis Sims for the second out of the inning before getting Herbert Iser to fly out to deep center field and ending the threat.
The Commodores got a runner on base in both the third and fourth, but they were erased when Luke Roskam threw them both out trying to steal second base.
Now entering the fifth, Falmouth starter Scott Politz took the mound again with his team trailing by a single run. By the end of the inning, his team would not be trailing by one. Instead, they’d be facing a daunting 6-0 deficit.
The first seven hitters of the inning would reach base for Wareham and five runs would come around to score in the inning.
Isaac Collins highlighted the attack for Wareham by hitting his second RBI triple of the playoffs, this one bringing in two runs to extend the lead to 3-0. Jakob Goldfarb and Drew Millas would drive in runs with RBI singles in the inning as well.
“From one through nine, I think we are all doing a good job of putting the ball in play, especially with two strikes. We are not backing down,” Shenton said. “I think it’s important to put the ball in play because sometimes you find holes and it puts pressure on the defense which we capitalized on today.”
In the bottom half of the fifth, Falmouth would scrape two runs across of MacGregor Hines, who relieved Florence. The Gatemen would bounce back with a run of their own in the top of the sixth to make it 7-2.
Hines wound up giving up one more run in the sixth. Stiegler then relieved Hines in the same inning and allowed one run of his own before shutting the door on an eventual 7-4 Wareham win.
Final: Gatemen 7, Commodores 4
Next up: The Gatemen will play for the CBBL championship beginning either on Saturday Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. or on Sunday Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at home in Wareham.
They now await the conclusion of the East Division Championship Series before finding out who their opponent is and when their next game will be. Stayed tuned for updates.