Ninth-inning comeback falls just short as Wareham loses 8-6 to Hyannis


By the time clocks showed 9 p.m. Friday night, the baseball game taking place at McKeon Park seemed like it was all but put away. It was the top of the ninth inning and the home team was up 8-1 and needed just three outs to secure the win.

The Wareham Gatemen didn’t go away that easily, though. A string of base hits and a two-run home run brought the Gatemen within two runs of tying the game, but, with the tying run standing in the on deck circle, they couldn’t pull off the victory and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks took the 8-6 win. With the loss, the Gatemen move to 11-5-1 on the season but still retain first place in the Cape League West Division.

Five of Wareham’s six runs and five of its nine hits came in the ninth inning, and despite the final score the effort showed the Gatemen aren’t comfortable going down without a fight.

“Obviously, coming back and winning this one would have been really awesome,” manager Ryan Smyth said. “But to fight back? I’ll keep saying it, these guys don’t like losing, they’re normally pretty pissed off when we do.”

Friday night didn’t go to plan for the Gatemen from the start, as starting pitcher Braeden Sloan (TCU) only lasted two innings before he was taken out. The Harbor Hawks put up two runs in the top of the first inning, setting the tone against the left-hander. Despite recording four strikeouts and putting up a 1-2-3 second inning, Sloan wasn’t able to go back out for a third. Ethan Darden (Clemson) came out of the bullpen for relief in the third inning, but that was the only inning he would pitch in as he gave up three runs on three hits.

“It wasn’t the ideal start to the game that we had in mind, with limited staff to begin with,” Smyth said.

From the fourth inning on, the name of the game was bullpen management. Jaxon Lucas (NC State) came in after Darden and struggled to find control early, giving up three walks and a single to allow two more Hyannis runners to cross home plate. That didn’t mean he was ready to be done, though; he knew his team needed him to go back out and perform.

“He was begging for one more in a moment when we really needed it,” Smyth said. “That was a gutsy performance from him.”

Lucas, despite being on a low pitch limit, went back out and was able to put up a scoreless fifth inning, providing the Wareham bullpen with a little bit more comfort knowing one more inning was accounted for. Lucas’ outing gave way to Jacob Faulkner (Princeton), who gave up one run on one hit across the final three innings of Friday night’s game.

Just like Lucas, Faulkner knew what he needed to do to keep his team in it for the long haul — not just Friday night — and he was prepared to do just that. Thanks to Lucas and Faulkner, Wareham was able to save two of its best bullpen pitchers for the upcoming weekend games, a crucial piece of the puzzle for a team with a taxed and tired bullpen.

“That was a big stretch of six innings for those two guys to get us,” Smyth said. “And they both wanted the ball, which was awesome.”

Where the Gatemen pitching was able to lock in and produce backed up against the wall Friday night, their offense wasn’t able to — but not for lack of trying. Up and down the lineup, the Gatemen were cracking line drives and fly balls all around the field, but the Harbor Hawk defense just kept winning out. A 458-foot home run from Yohann Dessureault (Stetson) in the second inning was the only major threat posed by the Gatemen offense until the ninth inning, and by then it was just a little too late.

“It’s tough when you’re down early, and especially feeling like you’re climbing out of a hole that you can’t climb out of,” Smyth said. “It’s almost like running in quicksand for a little bit.”

At the end of the night, though, all Smyth and his team could really say about the loss is, “Hey, that’s baseball.” Their camaraderie and chemistry is still high, they all much prefer winning to losing and they know they have the chance to get right back in the win column the very next day.

Top photo credit: Jaxon Lucas pitches in Wareham's 8-6 loss to the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, July 5, 2024, at McKeon Park. Photo by Keegan Maloney.