CHATHAM – The old adage in any team sport is that defense wins championships. Tonight, that is exactly what happened. The Wareham Gatemen won their first Cape League title since 2012 behind some clutch hitting, timely pitching, and outstanding defense. For the play of the night, look to right field in the third inning.
With Wareham ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and no outs, Chatham had a runner on third base. Gatemen starter Derek West got pop ups for the first two outs of the inning. He was now one pitch from stranding the tying run on base.
Tristin English, who entered play hitting .363 in the playoffs, smoked a ball to right field that sent Isaac Collins back towards the wall. The ball was hit high and was set to give the Chatham Anglers a 3-2 lead. Instead, Collins timed his leap perfectly and brought the ball back.
“Off the bat I knew I was going to catch this ball. But then the wind was blowing to right and it kept carrying and kept carrying I was like ‘oh I might have to get up against the wall here’ and I took a peak once I got to the warning track,” Isaac Collins said.
“From there it’s just instincts. Time my jump well and let my athleticism take over.”
In front of a massive crowd reported at over 7,500, English was in awe. The Gatemen bullpen, located a mere few feet from Collins, went berserk. Collins jumped around and celebrated with the swagger of Mookie Betts.
By the time he reached the dugout, the crowd was still going crazy. Upon his arrival, he was mobbed by his teammates before he could even enter the dugout. It had seemed like the Wareham Gatemen had just won the Cape League title, yet it was still the third inning. They may have well as won at that moment.
The Gatemen went on to win the 2018 CCBL by a score of 9-3 and completed their sweep over the Chatham Anglers.
“It’s awesome man. It is so crazy to say that we are Cape Cod League champions. There’s a ton of greatest players in this league. To say we’re the champs is pretty incredible,” Collins said.
The Gatemen gather for a team photo with the trophy after winning the 2018 CCBL title. Photo by Ian Vescera
The great defensive play summed up the 2018 Gatemen in a nutshell. Sure, it was an incredible play, but it was done by a guy just doing his job as the next man up. Collins began the season as a temporary player, not guaranteed to be with the team all season. He is a second baseman, not an outfielder. And yet, the play was made. The job was done.
“In this park, anything can go out. It comes back to Collins saving that 2-run homer and making a big play. This team did that. He didn’t have a good day at the plate, but he saved runs,” Gatemen manager Don Sneddon said.
After that play, the Gatemen found themselves up 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a pair of Lael Lockhart Jr. RBI singles.
Then, more adversity hit the Gatemen. Play was stopped last night because a large amount of fog had rolled in and covered Veterans Field making it look like a graveyard not a baseball field. After a half hour delay, the game was suspended and had to be resumed today at 1 p.m.
Despite this halt in momentum, Wareham powered though. Zach Hart came on the mound in the bottom of the sixth to relieve Carter Bach, who entered the game last night but did not throw a pitch because of the fog.
Bach had been scheduled to relieve Derek West. West tossed five innings last night allowing just one run to come across while striking out four hitters.
The Gatemen and Anglers would trade runs over the next two innings and Wareham led 5-3 heading to the top of the ninth. Like so many other times this postseason, the Gatemen put up a crooked number to end it.
With bases loaded and two away, Gatemen DH Drew Millas had the hit of the season as he drilled a line drive back up the middle to plate two runs and he advanced to second with the double. The RBI hit put Wareham up 7-3.
“I was just looking for something I could drive, just like every at-bat, nothing really changed,” Millas said. “He was getting me with his changeup all day, so I was suiting on that high fastball and I waited on it and I got it.”
Gian Martellini added insult to injury by hitting his own two-out, two-run RBI double to turn what was a close game into a comfortable 9-3 Gatemen lead. All four runs for the Gatemen in the ninth came with two outs and eight of nine runs scored for the game came with two down.
“It feels great never thought we’d be this far but here we are. It’s a team that grinds, grinds out at-bats, grinds out frickin’ pitches. It’s just amazing how far we have come,” Millas said.
“We were up six, so we knew we had to prepare for something, but at the same time it was just another game, just another half inning. We had to put them away.”
As the Gatemen took the field for the bottom of the ninth, Hart strutted back out for his fourth inning of work. He quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning before giving up a hit to Michael Busch.
Spencer Torkelson, the NCAA’s leading home run hitter, then came to hit hoping to extend Chatham’s season.
It was Zach Hart, from Division II Franklin Pierce, versus Spencer Torkelson, one of the nation’s best hitters.
On a 1-2 count, Hart put divisions aside and got Torkelson swinging on a slider low in the dirt. Strike three. Ballgame. The Wareham Gatemen are 2018 CCBL champions.
“You couldn’t say more about this group of guys. We were putting together one game at a time. We proved we're the best team in this league and as a team we gelled throughout this whole summer,” Millas said.
With the win, the Gatemen now have eight league titles and have secured their place in history. Since the playoffs changed to their current format in 2010, no number one seed had ever won the title.
Additionally, no team had ever swept through the playoffs and won six in a row. This Gatemen team did just that and ended the season on their longest winning streak of the year.
Did Sneddon think this group was capable of it?
“I didn’t know. The make up of this team changed so much with that. Once we had the core, they battled through it and stuck around. It was really special,” he said.
“Our motto when we started this thing was to win the last game. Only one team wins the last game and they won the last game. I didn’t think we’d put six of them together. I thought we’d be here playing for this thing for the next couple days. I’m just real excited it ended the way it did.”
Final: Gatemen 9, Anglers 3
The 2018 Gatemen are Cape Cod Baseball League champions