05/15/2007 1:34 PM
for immediate release: 15 May, 2007
Wareham Gatemen 2007 Season Preview
Gatemen Look For All-Star Season At Spillane Field
WAREHAM, Mass. -- The Wareham Gatemen came within one run of sealing the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship in a two-game sweep last season.
But a ninth-inning, three-run rally in Game 2 fell short, and Yarmouth-Dennis went on to take that game and the next to win the 2006 title.
The Gatemen return ten players from that roster, including four that came to the plate in that eleventh-hour rally, and with the infusion of new talent from the nation's best college teams, Wareham will be at it again in 2007.
"We had extraordinary team chemistry last year -- one never knows with a new mix whether one can recapture that magic." Wareham General Manager John Wylde said. "But they will have obviously have had CCBL experience and should benefit from it, and I am sure that they would regard a CCBL championship as something very special."
Three returnees – Luke Murton (Georgia Tech), Beamer Weems (Baylor) and Bradley Suttle (Texas) – drove in the Gatemen's final four runs of 2006 and nearly completed the Game 2 comeback themselves with three hits, two runs scored, and all three ninth-inning RBIs.
While the draft status of Murton and Suttle are still unclear, Wylde hopes to see them both back in Wareham uniforms this summer.
This veteran trio is a threat on offense and defense, comprising three-quarters of an infield that returns intact from last season and combed for a .234 average and a quarter of the teams RBIs last season.
Suttle split third base duties with fellow returnee Seth Henry (Tulane), and Murton played all but seven games last summer at first base. They join a middle infield of second baseman Jason Ogata (Oregon State) and Weems, who played 34 games at shortstop last summer. This duo is a double threat; Ogata hit a team-best .316 in 2006 and Weems had a team-high 11 extra-base hits.
Suttle also brings a heavy bat to Spillane Field this year. Not even hitting around the nation's current home-runs leader – fellow Longhorn Kyle Russell, who broke Texas' single-season home run record in April – has dampened Suttle's bat,as the Boerne, Tex. native had exploded for a Big-12 best 10 home runs as of May 1.
Home runs are historically hard to come by in Wareham, and Suttle's five long balls led the team last year.
"Spillane Field really is more of a line drive, gap-hitter type of park," said Wylde. "And power with aluminum and with wood are two quite different things; [five] is a lot for a Wareham hitter."
While their infield remains solid, and reinforced by new signees, the Gatemen have some holes to fill in the outfield with the loss of Jordan Dodson, Brandon Glover and Ryan Gotcher. But the lone returnee to the outfield, sophomore Diallo Fon, is enjoying a gem of a season at Arizona, where he transferred following an injury-plagued and redshirted freshman year at Vanderbilt. After being used mainly as a defensive player early in the season, Fon entered the lineup as a starter in mid-March and has been solid from the leadoff spot. He is sitting at .293, having returned slightly to earth after a two-week streak in early April in which he hit .420 and recorded 10 steals to pace the red-hot Wildcats in sweeps over Pac-10 rivals California and Oregon State.
The biggest new arrival to Wareham is freshman Mike Minor, No. 1 Vanderbilt´s ace. It was courtesy of Minor's career-high nine strikeouts against former No. 1 South Carolina that the Commodores took the top spot, and Minor has paced his team from the mound all season. He posted a 2.41 ERA as of April 30 and compiled 55 strikeouts and just 13 walks this season. If Wareham can hold onto Minor – his fireworks this season make him a strong candidate for Team USA – he will be a formidable presence on the mound.
Joining Minor is a stocked bullpen that includes two starters from the 2006 Gatemen in Jeremy Bleich (Stanford) and Riley Boening (Texas), as well as Brandt Walker (Stanford), Matt Petiton (UNC), Chris Hicks (Georgia Tech), Riley Boening (Texas), Andy Oliver (Oklahoma State), Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas), Scott Gorgon (UC Irvine) and Matt Langwell (Rice).
Boening, who led the Gatemen in 2006 with four wins in ten starts, is battling a stiff shoulder this season and has yet to take the mound for Texas, but is working with his coaches in Austin and is expected to return to Spillane Field again this summer.
"If all, or most of our players arrive, I would anticipate that pitching would be our strong point," said Wylde. "We have some good arms."
On the other end of these arms is a pair of catchers, returning starter Robert Lara (LSU) and rookie Buddy Munroe (Clemson). Coming off shoulder surgery, Munroe hasn't seen much playing time this year at Clemson, but Wylde says he should be "chomping at the bit" for the Cape season.
Other newcomers will bring national-caliber talent to the Cape. Sophomore Jordy Mercer (Oklahoma) recently returned to action for the Cowboys after knee surgery before the start of the season. After a solid freshman year, Mercer was a preseason All-Big 12 selection this year, and is a threat at shortstop and on the mound -- in Wylde's words "a genuine two-way player."
Wareham's veteran infield will be complimented by new faces as well. A pair of double-duty freshman in 1B/OF Dustin Dickerson (Baylor) and Ike Davis (Arizona State), join Michael Demperio (2B, Texas) keeping the Wareham two-deep across the infield. Three players who were signed to the 2006 season but did not attend, Scott Gorgen, Jarred Bogany and Ben Booker, will be on the 2007 squad as well.
Wareham's preseason schedule starts June 10 against the Lowell All-Americans, and five days later, the Gatemen kick off their Cape League season at Falmouth.
With a young team – there are no juniors or seniors on the roster – and an explosive mix of returning faces and exciting new talent, the Gatemen will look to repeat their trip to the CCBL finals in 2007 -- and this time, come out on top.
Liz Hoffman, CCBL Intern ([email protected])