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Wareham Crowned CCBL Champs

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Championship Series

12 August 2001

Wareham Gatemen Crowned 2001 CCBL Champions

WAREHAM - With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Cape League title on the line, no one would have blamed him had Gatemen shortstop Paul Henry (Ball State) struck out.


The Wareham Gatemen hoist the 2001 Arnold Mycock Championship Trophy toward the sky in celebration of their victory over the Chatham A's. Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001


     There were two outs. Henry had two strikes on him and leftfielder Keith Butler (Liberty) on third base, chomping at the bit. To add more pressure, Henry had Chatham A's catcher John Schneider (Delaware) jawing at him for a good 90 seconds, trying to get inside the lanky infielder's head. Then there was the small dilemma that A's righty closer Zane Carlson was simply bringing it.


     But Henry opted for the hero's role, and while his infield base hit may not have been a storybook smash, it was nevertheless the game winner and gave Wareham its third Cape League Championship in the past 10 years.
It was a fitting finish that could very well have been either team's, particularly since Chatham had the momentum after plating two runs on the top of the eighth to tie the ballgame at 3-3. 


     With Wareham ahead 3-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Chatham got things going when first baseman Ryan Johnson (Wake Forest) laced a 3-2 Ben Crockett (Harvard) offering for a base hit. Johnson would then advance to second base on a wild pitch. Crockett again went 3-2 on the next two batters -- Bobby Malek (Michigan State) and pinch-hitter Luke Carlin (Northeastern) - but struck them both out. With two outs and Chatham's opportunities fading, third baseman Mike Moon (USC) laced a first-pitch fastball for an RBI-single. Crockett then struck out Schneider to end the inning. Crockett's last inning would be the top of the fifth, but Chatham did not threaten.


The 2001 Cape Cod Baseball League Champions band together one final time at Clem Spillane Field.  Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

 


Wareham Gatemen President and General Manager John Wylde receives the 2001 Arnold Mycokc Championship Trophy from none other than Arnold Mycock himself.  Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001


     Miami University's (Ohio) Chris Leonard - the 2001 CCBL Outstanding Pitcher - then came in out of the bullpen to start the sixth. Johnson again led off with a single but was forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Carlin. Malek had struck out between the two and Carlin ended getting nabbed by Leonard on a crafty pick-off to first to end the inning. Leonard retired the side 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh. The Wareham bench was by that time on its collective feet in front of the dugout. In turn, the entire Chatham team put its rally caps on. Leonard had to face the fighting A's one more time in the top of the eighth.


     UNC's Adam Greenberg (1-4) struck out to lead off the inning, but he was quickly followed by second baseman Mike McCoy (San Diego) who ripped a single and promptly stole second base, his fourth base theft of the playoffs. South Carolina's Drew Meyer then drew a walk and two men were on. Again Johnson came up and came through big for the A's, driving home McCoy with a single. Johnson finished the night going 3-3. Malek followed with an unlikely strikeout, but Carlin came through with an RBI single to tie it up at 3-3. Moon grounded out to end the inning.


     In the bottom of the eighth, Carlson came in to relieve UNC's Dan Moore, Chatham's hard-throwing, 6'5" southpaw. Moore had held Wareham at bay since his appearance in the bottom of the third inning to relieve starter Rich McGuire (Delaware). Carlson was no less impressive than any pitcher in the playoffs, striking out Wareham first baseman Mike Huggins (Baylor) on three pitches and then third baseman Mike Galloway (Central Michigan) on four. Baylor teammate Dave Murphy then fought Carlson hard before crushing one to the opposite field in left but the steady drizzle kept it within the confines of a rain-soaked Spillane Field.


     The contest, 2001 Championship and entire Cape League season would come to a finale in the ninth inning. 2001 CCBL Manager of the Year Cooper Farris did not deviate from his steady and focused path and offered the visiting A's none other than Butler righty closer Pat Neshek. In his third playoff appearance, Neshek was again lights out.


     The hard-throwing submariner led things off by striking out Schneider, then followed with a one-pitch ground-out of Carlin. Neshek closed the door on Chatham's hopes, striking out Greenberg.


2001 Cape League Batting Champion Eric Reed (Texas A&M) hoists his team's Championship Trophy along with Harvard's Mark Mager.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001


     Ironically, the heroics would first be left to the bottom of the Gatemen order. Enter Keith Butler who up to that point was 2-2 on the night with one walk. Butler (3-3) would waste no time, ripping Carlson's first pitch through the hole between third and short for a leadoff single. Catcher Rusty Meyer (Texas A&M), 0-3 up to that point, then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Butler into scoring position. With one out, 2001 batting champion Eric Reed (Texas A&M) came to bat, went with the pitch and hit it to short for a ground out, but in so doing moved Butler to third base.

 
     Henry stepped in and with two outs, the stage for high drama was set. Carlson pitched Henry hard and low, working the count to 1-2 before Henry would foul off a succession of low junk balls. After one such foul tip that ricocheted off backstop Schneider's mitt into the dirt, Schneider had some choice words for Henry before the home plate umpire motioned to play ball.

     While Henry would take a full cut at Carlson's final offering, the Wareham shortstop got just enough of the end of the bat on it to send a sort of spinning chopper toward third. As the ball rolled just inches from the foul line, Butler raced for home and Carlson sprinted off the mound for the ball. Trying to put the brakes on and in no real position to turn and make the throw, Carlson slid on the wet grass and bobbled the ball for a split second before the game had reached its climax. Butler slid safely into home, Henry crossed the bag at first and the home crowd erupted with cheers and applause. Wareham, the 2001 West Division Champions, had become, deservedly so, the 2001 Cape Cod Baseball League Champions.

 

 

Playoff Notebook


     LSU's Finest Named Star of Stars - Playing with the consistency and poise of a true professional throughout the 2001 regular season, Louisiana State University's Aaron Hill carried that attitude and demeanor straight into the playoffs. Going 8-20 (.400) with one home run and five RBI in five playoff games - 4-4, three RBI in Game One of the Championship Series - Hill was honored as the Howe Sportsdata Star of Stars as the 2001 Playoffs Most Valuable Player. He also played flawlessly at second base throughout the Divisional and Championship Series, committing no errors.

A First Time for Everything - In his first season managing in the Cape League, Mississippi Gulf Coast's Cooper Farris had huge shoes to fill for a franchise that prides itself on perennial appearances in the postseason (including this season, Wareham had 12 playoff appearances in a row). For his efforts in leading the Gatemen to the regular season title in the West Division (25-18-1), Farris was named the 2001 Manager of the Year. In winning the Cape League Championship, Farris became the first Cape League Manager of the Year to win also win the CCBL Title since former Cotuit Field Manager Mike Coutts did it in 1995. Farris is also the first manager since Coutts to claim both honors in his rookie Cape League season.

Giving Him Some Credit - Chatham first baseman Ryan Johnson (Wake Forest) may have struggled from time to time during the regular season, closing things out at .207 at the plate. In the playoffs, though, Johnson became Mr. Clutch for the A's, going 8-18 for a very respectable .444 average. He also collected a pair of RBI and in the final game of the best-of-three Championship series, a game where the A's collected just seven hits as a team, Johnson was 3-3 with an RBI and run scored.

The Best Arms Came To Play - With the Cape League title within the grasp of either team, it became almost obvious which pitchers would be given the nod. For the A's, Rich McGuire, Daniel Moore and Zane Carlson were given the ball by Field Manager John Schiffner. For Wareham, Ben Crockett, Chris Leonard and Pat Neshek had the honors. 

     Crockett went five innings, striking out seven, walking two and hitting one batter. He allowed three hits, the first of which came in the top of the fourth inning. Leonard went three innings, striking out three, walking one and allowing two runs on three hits. Neshek went one inning - the ninth - and struck out two batters. Neshek got the win and had two saves in the playoffs.

     For Chatham, McGuire went two innings, allowing two runs on six hits and walking three batters. Moore went five innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits, striking out four. Carlson allowed one earned run, gave up two hits and struck out two batters to take the loss.

 


Wareham's Aaron Hill (LSU), named the 2001 Star of Stars Playoffs MVP, is congratulated by CCBL Commissioner Bob Stead as teammates (from left) Matt Murton (Georgia Tech) and Miami University (Ohio) pitchers Russ Bayer and Chris Leonard applaud.  Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

 


Harvard's Ben Crockett basks in the glory of two summers of hard but determined work.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001


Liberty University's Keith Butler, One of Wareham's heroes throughout the season and the playoffs, gets a double high five from one of his stalwart fans following the Championship finale.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

 


  The Gatemen dive on top of Ball State's Paul Henry after his game-winning hit versus Chatham and Wareham's capture of the 2001 CCBL Championship.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001

 

-- Sean Walsh/CCBL 2001