By Ben Gainsboro, Stetson University
Photos by Josh Muir, Endicott College
July 31st, 2019
The Logistics: The #3 seed Cotuit Kettleers (19-19-4) do battle with the #2 seed Wareham Gatemen (23-18-2) in the opening round of the Cape Cod League playoffs. The series will be a best of three, starting Friday, August 2nd, and ending on August 4th at the latest.
Season Series-Game One: Wareham 6 over Cotuit 0-Wareham leads series 1-0
June 19th– The season series between these two divisional rivals started on a Wednesday at Lowell Park. Coming into the game, Cotuit was red hot, blasting out of the gates to a tune of a 4-2-1 record.
Oddly enough, Wareham had the same record entering the ballgame, and even though their manager from a year ago had retired, this was still the 2018 CCBL Championship team.
In game one at Lowell Park, they played like the champions. The Gatemen poured on thirteen hits, shutting down the runaway train that was the Kettleer offense and winning the game 6-0.
Braiden Ward (Washington) was the MVP of the game, pouring in three RBI on two hits. Brandon Pfaadt (Bellamine) was also sharp, pitching five innings and allowing just two hits (no runs) with six strikeouts.
Cotuit had a forgetful game all-in-all, but the relievers comprised of Richard Brereton (Emory), Matt Mervis (Duke) and Chris Holcolm (Tulane) combined for four strikeouts and zero earned runs.
Game Two: Cotuit (11) over Wareham (3)-Series tied 1-1
June 29th– It would be ten days until Cotuit saw its rival again, this one again coming at Lowell Park. Unlike game one, however, Cotuit came out firing on all cylinders.
Nick Gonzales (New Mexico State) had a classic “Gonzo” game, hitting a triple, home run, and single, landing him just a double shy of the cycle. The stud second baseman finished with five RBI on the day.
Cody Pasic (Maine) also contributed two RBI, raising his total, at the time, to four on the year.
Pitching wise, Reid Johnston (NC State-no longer on roster) shut down the Gatemen bats, limiting the hard-hitting squad to just two hits in five innings. Richard Brereton and Beck Way (Belmont Abbey) took the Kettleers home, allowing just two earned runs in the remaining four innings of action.
Wareham’s bats were quiet throughout, but Jacob Teter (Florida Southern) had a double and his eighth RBI on the year.
Game Three: Wareham (1) over Cotuit (0)-Wareham leads series 2-1
June 30th– The Kettleers finally got a taste of Spillane Field in Wareham, MA…and they didn’t react well. This was one of the quickest games of the season, lasting just one hour and fifty-six minutes for nine innings of ball.
It was a pitcher’s duel, with Jackson Wolf (West Virginia) and Ian Bedell (Missouri) going head-to-head for the majority of the night.
Funnily enough, this will also be the pitcher’s match-up for the opener (most likely) on Friday. The pitcher’s both went five innings, combining for eight strikeouts and just five hits. Neither started allowed an earned run.
In the end, it was a Benjamin Sems (Kansas) single off of Matt Mervis that broke the tie and sent the Wareham fans home happy with a 1-0 win and the series lead.
Game Four: Cotuit (11) over Wareham (5)-Series tied at 2-2
July 8th– The bats finally broke out at Spillane Field, something Cotuit had been waiting a long time to see over the past three seasons.
This was the Casey Schmitt (San Diego State) game, with the third baseman pouring in three hits and five RBI over four plate appearances on the night. He had two doubles and a home run, with his RBI total on the season jumping to fifteen in the process.
Mason McWhorter (Georgia Southern) also had two doubles, Robbie Martin (Florida State) had a triple, and Parker Chavers (Coastal Carolina) hit his fourth home run of the season to go along with Schmitt’s fourth.
Pitching wise, the Kettleers went 3-3-3, with Chris Farrell (William & Mary-no longer on roster) allowing one run through three, Matt Moore (Purdue) shutting down the bats through three, and Richard Brereton earning the save. The three arms combined for eight strikeouts on the night.
For Wareham, Braiden Ward doubled, Matt McLain (UCLA) doubled and brought home his twelfth RBI of the summer, and Tora Otsuka (San Diego-no longer on roster) tripled. The Gatemen staff struggled as a whole, allowing fourteen hits and eleven earned runs.
Game Five: Cotuit (6) over Wareham (1)-Cotuit Leads Series 3-2
July 26th– Oraj Anu (Kentucky) carried the Kettleers in this home game, launching a home run and bringing home three runs on the night.
Nick Gonzales and Coltyn Kessler (Kentucky) both doubled, while Braiden Ward’s RBI single was not enough to keep the Gatemen in this Friday night ballgame.
It was once again Johnston that was able to shut down the Wareham bats in this one, as he allowed just three hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Picking him up for the win was Casey Schmitt, who pitched 4.1 innings of no-hit baseball to close out the night.
The Gatemen bullpen was sharp, but it couldn’t overcome the rocky start from Lukas Veinbergs (Missouri), who allowed five runs in just four innings.
Game Six: Wareham (7) over Cotuit (2)-Series tied at 3-3
July 29th– The most recent (and most painful) game for Cotuit, the Kettleers really could’ve used this one to try and secure home field advantage over the Gatemen in the playoffs.
And while they got off to a hot start courtesy of Nick Gonzales, a brutal fifth inning was simply too much to overcome for Cotuit.
They actually outhit the Gatemen in this game, 6-5, but allowed eight walks to Wareham’s zero. Sean Sullivan (Cal) was as stellar as ever, but newcomer Nick Jones (Georgia Southern) struggled mightily with his command, walking six batters and ending the night with six earned runs.
Three Guys to Know-Wareham:
Ian Bedell-Missouri: Wareham’s likely game one starter has been absolutely brilliant for the Gatemen on the year. He sports a .58 ERA and 4-0 record, while also striking out 36 and walking just 3 over 30.2 innings pitched.
Jacob Teter-Florida Southern: Wareham’s leading RBI man (28) has been a tough guy to get out for opposing pitcher’s this season. He is hitting .301 with 47 hits and two home runs. Even more impressively, he has 17 walks and just 21 strikeouts, close to an even K/BB.
Braiden Ward-Washington: A lot of guys could fit into this last slot, but the honor should go to Ward. The Gatemen leadoff man has helped fill in for the loss of Darren Baker (Cal-no longer on roster). His average wasn’t quite as jaw-dropping as Baker’s, as it sits at just .293, but Ward does it all for Wareham. He’s flashed pop (3 home runs), has 41 hits, and is an absolute menace on the base-paths, leading the Cape with 27 stolen bases. While Teter is likely the best offensive player on Wareham, Ward is the motor that keeps the offense rolling.
Three Guys to Know-Cotuit:
Nick Gonzales-New Mexico State: There is no player more important to the success of his team on the Cape than Gonzales for Cotuit. When he is on, the Cotuit offense (usually) rolls. When he is off, Cotuit really, really struggles to score offensively. The star is hitting .347 with seven home runs and 32 RBI. He is a near lock for the MVP this season.
Matt Mervis-Duke: The big man was already a stellar pitcher early on in the season for Cotuit, and has continued to be one of the go-to arms for the Kettleers as the season has gone on (3.24 ERA). However, it’s been his bat that has shined recently. Mervis had a grand slam against Falmouth on Wednesday and is slowly becoming one of the team’s best power options.
Sean Sullivan-Cal: Though he will not be getting the start on Friday night having pitched Monday, Sullivan remains the team’s ace heading towards the playoffs. That is not a knock on the starter, Jackson Wolf, at all, but rather a testament to just how good Sullivan has been so far this season. The righty has a 1.96 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just 6 walks. He has not allowed a run in his last sixteen innings of work. He’s good, and Cotuit needs him to pitch like a stud in game two regardless of what happens on Friday night.
The Bottom Line: Cotuit and Wareham are two evenly matched teams that tied their season series at three games apiece. Cotuit is coming into the game slightly colder than Wareham, but anything can happen in the playoffs.
The rematch of last year’s opening round figures to be a heck of a series, and both teams should be eager and ready to go for the opener on Friday.