Gatemen Take Giant Step

08/09/2001 12:10 PM -

This week in Baseball
Championship Series

9 August 2001

Gatemen Take Giant Step Toward Championship

WAREHAM - Up 3-2 in the top of the fifth inning, the Chatham A's had an edge over the Wareham Gatemen but it was an edge that would soon unravel before all eyes at Clem Spillane Field in Game One of the Cape League Championship Series.

Aaron Hill (LSU) receives a high five from Ben Crockett (Harvard) after belting a two-run homer in the first inning of Thursday night's Championship Game.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

     Starting Wareham pitcher Russ Bayer (Miami of Ohio) had settled down and in the top of the fifth struck out A's shortstop Drew Meyer (South Carolina) to start the inning. He then finished things quickly by getting first baseman Ryan Johnson (Wake Forest) and Michigan State's Bobby Malek to fly out. Then what began as a slow-but-sure rally for the Gatemen in the bottom of the fifth, soon turned ugly for the visiting squad.

     Chatham starter Ben Clayton (Wake Forest) gave up a single to Central Michigan's Mike Galloway, followed thereafter with a walk to right fielder Dave Murphy (Baylor). With no outs and men on first and second base, Liberty's Eric Butler then squared around and laid down a perfect bunt, fielded by A's catcher Luke Carlin (Northeastern). Carlin, who played brilliantly throughout the game - behind the plate and at second base - made but one mistake and fired the ball down the right field line, scoring Galloway for the tying run. Still with no outs, the score at 3-3 and men on first and third, leadoff man Eric Reed (Texas A&M) hit a high chopper off the front of home plate to second baseman Mike McCoy (San Diego). McCoy's only option was to first base for the sure out, but Murphy scored, giving Wareham a 4-3 lead. Butler stood on second base in scoring position with one out.

Chatham catcher Luke Carlin (Northeastern) proved invaluable for the A's in Game One of the Championship Series, keeping his hitting streak alive and playing behind the plate and at second base.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

     Clayton then mustered everything he had left, striking out Wareham shortstop Paul Henry (Ball State) to get the second out. But Cape League MVP Matt Murton (Georgia Tech) stepped in and hit the ball that will not soon be forgotten by Cape League fans. With two strikes and two outs, Murton lofted a deep, sky-high fly ball down the line in left. As it descended out of the darkness toward A's left fielder Kris Cox (Ole Miss) it came within feet of the 318 mark and the left field fence. Just as Cox was crossing the foul line, the ball somehow tipped off his mitt. In the process, Butler scored, the third base umpire called it a fair ball and Murton chugged to third base standing up. 

     Players from the A's, apparently shocked in disbelief by the fair ball call, began to debate the call with the third base umpire. Second base umpire Nick Zibelli then jumped into the fray as A's field manager John Schiffner ran out to the edge of the outfield grass to argue the call. Things boiled over when Zibelli bumped into second basemen Mike McCoy  (San Diego) and Schiffner tried to separate the two. Zibelli ejected Schiffner on the spot and the argument then escalated as Schiffner and the umpires all took turns exchanging heated words. By the time the dust settled, Schiffner had little choice but to leave the ballpark, leaving things in the hands of assistant coach Matt Fincher. With righty Brad Ziegler (Southwest Missouri State) now loose in the bullpen, Fincher relieved Clayton.

But the fireworks were far from over.

A's Manager John Schiffner wasn't too pleased after a controversial call in the fifth inning against Wareham and was ejected from the game after arguing with umpires.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

     With Murton on third base, two outs and LSU's Aaron Hill coming stepping in to face Ziegler, shortstop Drew Meyer (South Carolina) apparently said something aloud that was distasteful to second base umpire Zibelli. Zibelli then turned and ejected Meyer, evoking a litany of boos and catcalls from the third base visitors' bleachers and bringing coach Fincher out into the fray. Suddenly minus their shortstop, the A's had to put catcher Carlin at second, move McCoy over to short and insert John Schneider (Delaware) behind the plate. Hill took Ziegler's first offering to deep right-centerfield for a double, bringing home Murton to make it 6-3, Wareham. It would be Hill's third hit of the night and third RBI. (4-4)

     With Bayer still in, Chatham tried to channel some of its emotion via a two-out rally in the top of the sixth. Kris Cox (Ole Miss) walked and was moved to second on Carlin's clutch single, but to no avail as Adam Greenberg's (UNC) hot smash to right was right at Murphy for out number three.

     Ziegler then got the Gatemen to go down one-two-three in the bottom of the sixth and Chatham came knocking again, again with two outs. Johnson collected an infield single, followed by a Malek walk, but still, it was not be as USC's Mike Moon struck out to end the inning. Wareham followed suit in the seventh and the score remained Wareham 6, Chatham 3. In the top of the eighth, Wareham reliever Andy Viars (Charleston Southern) retired the side. In the bottom of the eighth, Murton led things off.

Chatham A's shortstop Drew Meyer (South Carolina), the backbone of the Chatham defense, was ejected in the fifth inning of Game One of the CCBL Championship Series at Spillane Field.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

     Playing with a hot bat, Murton got it going again for the home team when he ripped a two-strike double down the left field line. Hill took advantage, driving in Murton with a double to left-centerfield. Hill then scored Wareham's eighth and final run on a Mike Huggins' (Baylor) grounder.

     Atop the A's, 8-3 in the top of the ninth, Viars had every reason to be confident and showed he was precisely that by striking out Greenberg and McCoy in succession. Nonemaker's grounder to short ended the game, giving Viars the save and Bayer the win. Clayton took the loss for Chatham. Game Two of the best-out-of-three Championship Series will be played tonight (Aug. 10), at 7 p.m. at Veterans Field. Should Chatham beat Wareham, a third and final game will be played back at Spillane Field in Wareham at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11.

     Should Wareham defeat Chatham tonight, the regular season West Division Champions will be awarded the Arnold Mycock Championship Trophy.



Playoff Notebook

A Louisiana Slugger -- Aaron Hill (LSU) led the game off with a two-run homer to left in the first inning of Game One of the 2001 Championship Series. He collected three extra-base hits (two doubles, one homer), went 4-4 and had three runs batted in the game.

Familiar Territory -- The Wareham Gatemen are making their 12th consecutive post season appearance, extending the Cape League record the team had set last season with its 11th appearance. Wareham has made the playoffs each year since 1990, finishing in first place eight times in the West Division. No Cape League team has come close to matching this remarkable consistency. Since 1990, the Gatemen have won at least 25 games nine times, including a record tying six straight seasons from 1993 to 1998. This equals the mark established by Falmouth from 1967-1972. Wareham won a record 260 games (260-169-9) from 1990-99. This is the most wins in a decade (60's, 70's, 80's or 90's) and the most wins in any 10-year period. 

Hard-hitting Matt Murton (Georgia Tech) went 2-4 versus Chatham in game one with one RBI. Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

It's all in the Wood -- This season, Wareham became the first team in modern Cape League history to boast the top three finishers in the batting title race - Eric Reed, Matt Murton and Keith Butler. Reed became the sixth Gateman to win a batting title since 1988. Wareham's top three batsmen in 2001 marks the fifth time one team has had the top two finishers. Wareham accomplished it in 1990, 1991 and 1996. Hyannis did it in 1979. This is the fourth time that the batting champion and ERA leader were teammates. But it is not a predictor of success. All three previous teams did make the playoffs, but all lost in the first round. Wareham is making its 25th post-season appearance, tied for the most with Chatham and Cotuit. In postseason play, the Gatemen are 38-46 with four titles, the most recent being in 1997. Up until tonight's win over Chatham, Wareham had lost its last seven playoff games, also a league record.

From the Regular Season -- The Gatemen led the league in 2001 in team batting (.261) and ERA (1.84). The ERA is a team record and the second best in league history. Gatemen pitchers also struck out a team record 395 batters in 2001 (8.97 per game), second most in league history. Wareham also boasted the best home record (16-7) in the CCBL in 2001 and the best mark in night games (19-11).

A Banner Year for the Braves -- Spencer Graham's Bourne Braves posted a team-record 2.33 ERA. The Braves' mound corps had also tied the league mark with eight shutouts until Y-D broke the record on the last day of the 2001 season. Bourne also set team records for saves (19) and strikeouts (387); the saves mark is second most in league history and the strike out mark is fourth best on the all-time list. On the flip side, the Braves' team batting average of .198 was the lowest ever for a team entered into the playoffs; the previous low was .212 by Yarmouth in 1975.

More News From the Braves' Bullpen -- Bourne's bullpen went 11-9 with 19 saves, a 2.62 ERA in 154.2 innings and 168 Ks in 2001. Starting pitchers were 12-9 with a 2.15 ERA in 246.2 innings and 219 Ks. Bourne had a league best 14-7-1 record on the road this summer, was14-8-2 against the West and 9-10-1 versus the East. All totaled, the Braves were 9-11-2 at home but were 7-6 in one-run games. 

Wareham's Russ Bayer (Miami of Ohio) picked up the win in Game One of the Championship Series versus Chatham.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

Those Amazin' A's -- Chatham won 25 games or more for a record 18th time. There's a good reason for that: Field Manager John Schiffner stepped up to seventh on the all-time list for most wins by a manager, upping his record to 202-165-7. He is 12th on the all-time list in winning percentage at .549. Coach Schiffner also knows how to win in the postseason. At 20-15 in postseason play, he stands tied for fourth in wins tied with former Kettleer helmsmen George Greer (20-19) and fifth in games managed.

Chatham Loves the Playoffs -- The A's are making their 25th postseason appearance, tied for most all-time with Wareham and Cotuit. In that span, the A's are 58-51-1 with four titles, the most recently being in 1998. This is Chatham's seventh straight season in the postseason, tied for the fourth longest streak in league history. All totaled, the A's are 9-6 versus Wareham and 2-4 vs. Y-D in postseason action. Chatham last met Wareham in the 1998 finals (won 3-2) and last met Y-D in 1977 (lost 2-1 in semis).

It's Good to be Back Again -- Field Manager Scott Pickler's 2001 Red Sox returned the Y-D franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 1990 when the Red Sox won their second straight title. This season, Y-D broke the league record for shutouts with nine when Clark Saylor (William & Mary) blanked Falmouth, 3-0. The Red Sox set a team record in 2001 with 355 strikeouts and finished second in the league in batting (.246) and runs (177) to Wareham. Y-D scored 10-plus runs four times, tied with Chatham for the most this season. All totaled, Y-D went 14-10 versus East Division teams, 11-9 against the West, was 14-8 at home and 11-11 on the road. The Sox had a league-best 21-9 record in day games but were 4-10 at night. Before 2001, Y-D had last played Wareham in the 1990 finals winning 2-1. Pickler is 86-88-2 lifetime and is 29th in wins on the all-time list.

Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001
 with Special Thanks to Bruce Hack, CCBL Official Historian



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