Gatemen shine in 2015 CCBL All-Star Game

As originally published on, here.

In front of 5,000+ at Spillane Field, the East Division defeated the West Division 1-0 to conclude the 2015 Cape League All-Star Game.

Though the end result doesn’t mean much, and the game is mercifully an exhibition that doesn’t determine who gets home field advantage in the Cape League World Series, it’s important to document the experience and performance of the individual.

After all, it’s a player’s league and the common goal is to impress as many eyes, especially those of scouts, as possible.

With a league-high seven representatives and the game taking place at their home field, the players of the Wareham Gatemen were bound to steal at least some of the attention.

Given that they did that and then some, let’s take a look at the individual performances of the seven (plus one Homerun Derby participant) Gatemen All-Stars, how they got there and what their final takeaways were.

Ian Hamilton, Relief RHP

2015 Cape League Stats: 0.92 ERA, 10 G, 3 GS, 29.1 IP, 25:6 SO:BB, 1.03 WHIP

Hamilton took home co-MVP honors with Devin Smeltzer of Hyannis, as both of them shoved an inning of scoreless relief, both recording two strikeouts.

Bourne Braves’ second baseman Nick Solak went 3-for-4, prompting many to call for his coronation as the West Division’s MVP.

But Hamilton triumphed.

For the Gatemen, Hamilton is being stretched out as a starter—a request that comes from Washington State’s new head coach, Marty Less. Of course, this mandates he develop a third offering to complement his plus fastball and slider.

But having the knowledge he’d only be throwing one inning for the All-Star Game, Hamilton adopted the same mindset that made him one of the nation’s elite closers in his freshman and sophomore season’s at Washington State—throw as hard as possible.

Hamilton threw two sliders in his one inning of work, and as he put it, it was “Basically just fastball the whole time.”

On how this accolade compares to others he’s received in the past:

“Probably the best one so far. Everyone out here is top-level, especially in the All-Star Game.”

Logan Sowers, Home Run Derby Participant

Though Sowers is the one player in this article who did not receive an All-Star recognition, we’re not in the business of burying the lead.

Sowers pelted a total six home runs in the Home Run Derby, and showcased the light tower power that scouts continue to drool over.

The six participants (Willie Abreu, Nick Senzel, Will Craig, Peter Alonso, Will Haynie and Sowers) were given eight outs in the first round, and then the field was wittled to the two top home run hitters for a showdown in the final.

Sowers led the pack with five blasts in the first round, three of them coming with seven outs.

After Abreu failed to knock one out in the final round, Sowers hit a walk-off bomb over the left field fence to take home the crown.

Blake Fox, Starting LHP

2015 Cape League Stats: 2-0, 0.81 ERA, 22.0 IP, 23 H, 13:5 SO:BB

Though Fox had to be sent home from a few of the Gatemen games early in the week and was even scratched from one of his starts due to the flu, the Rice left-hander showed no ill effects when he toed the rubber as the Western Division’s starting pitcher.

Fox twirled a scoreless first inning, needing only eight pitches (six strikes) to retire the loaded top Eastern portion of Colin Lyman, Tommy Edman and Nick Senzel.

While Fox’s mix of pitches may not be as showy or as electric as many of his teammates or counterparts, arguably his biggest and most stand-out trait is his lethal pick-off move.

The fact that he didn’t get to show it off at the All-Star Game was completely fine with him.

“I know people were saying they really hoped someone got on base and I was like, “Why? I want to go three up, three down,” Fox said.

On the significance of starting the All-Star Game:

“Starting the All-Star Game out here in the Cape, it’s unbelievable. When they announced it at that seminar I was shocked and very happy. To be able to start an All-Star Game typically means you’ve done something. It was very cool to hear my name.”

On how he planned on navigating some of the best collegiate hitters in the nation:

“Fortunately I knew the first hitter. I faced him before so I knew what he was looking for. I started him off with a first-pitch slider. I’ve heard a couple people ask me, ‘Did you really start the All-Star Game with a slider?’ Yes I did because I knew he was looking for a fastball.”

On the significance of the game taking place at Spillane Field:

“It was really cool to see this place packed and have all the support out here. I know a lot of people from Wareham were able to make it out. Just having that type of support has been great. As of recent, we’ve been struggling a little bit and just still having the fans come out and support us no matter what, it really shows the character of our program.”

Nick Cieri, Starting C

2015 Cape League Stats: .353 AVG, 6 RBI

Cieri’s prowess at the plate has stood out in a league loaded with defensively-oriented backstops.

That fact reared itself in the All-Star Game too, as Cieri lined the eighth pitch of his second at-bat into left field (notable, because he has all but patented the exclusive rights to a stellar opposite field approach) for Wareham’s lone hit of the evening.

Cieri caught the first 5 2/3 innings of the game, receiving pitches from the likes of not just Fox, but Gatemen teammates Evan Hill and Ian Hamilton as well.

On how catching Fox, Hill and Hamilton aids his catching efforts:

“That’s easier for me, just knowing what I’m getting right off the bat. Less nerves.”

On the significance of the game being played at Spillane Field:

“Just a shorter ride I guess.”

Andrew Calica, Starting CF

2015 Cape League Stats: .447 AVG, 14 RBI, 7 SB

Calica’s 0-for-2 showing in the All-Star Game was the first time in six games he did not record multiple hits.

Of course, the game being an exhibition means his jaw-dropping five-game tear hasn’t actually been snapped, but it’s still surprising any pitcher managed to figure him out for two at-bats.

It seems like Calica has slipped the radar of many of the Cape League talking heads. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the league-lead in batting average. Maybe it’s because all but one of his hits this season have been singles.

Or, maybe it’s because Calica is as unassuming and as humble as they come.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Calica said in regards to the significance of being an All-Star. “I’ve had a decent season out here so far, I’m just happy to be a part of this experience. Seeing so many great ball players in the same spot, it should be a good game tonight.”

A decent season? If the season were to end today, Calica would check in with the second-best batting average in Cape League history.

David Mackinnon, Reserve INF

2015 Cape League Stats: .266 AVG, 8 RBI, 6% SO rate

A local product from the University of Hartford, Mackinnon took the Cape by storm with his torrid start.

Maintaining a .350+ batting average until July 3, Mackinnon was seemingly a lock for an All-Star selection if he avoided a catastrophic meltdown.

His average has tapered off as of late, but excellent hand-eye coordination, a fundamentally sound approach and an utter despise for striking out ensured a catastrophic meltdown wouldn’t spoil his nomination chances.

Though Mackinnon did go 0-for-2 with a strikeout in the All-Star Game, the event was of more importance than the result.

“I’m just trying to have fun. It’s pretty much a day off that I get to play baseball. If I get out, it doesn’t really matter; if I get a hit, it’s kind of cool with scouts here,” Mackinnon said.

On how it compares to previous All-Star selections:

“Last year I got to play in the NECBL All-Star Game so that was cool too. But this one tops everything. It’s the Cape League, you know?”

Charlie Warren, Reserve OF

2015 Cape League Stats: .302 AVG, 12 runs

A second-year Cape League player and a second-year Gatemen, Warren struggled to the tune of a .252 AVG and 29 strikeouts a season ago, only a freshman on the Cape.

Blessed with a productive sophomore year under his belt at Rice, Warren’s advanced and mature approach (only 13 strikeouts in 86 at-bats) earned him a Cape League All-Star recognition in 2015.

Warren took over for Jacob Robson in left field in the seventh inning and went hitless in one at-bat.

On the significance of the game being played at Spillane Field:

“I guess my host parents will actually come to this came. That’s significant.”

Evan Hill, Relief LHP

2015 Cape League Stats: 5-0, 0.56 ERA, 32 IP, 25:11 SO:BB, 0.75 WHIP

Hill tossed an inning of scoreless relief, and while it wasn’t as electric as that of Hamilton’s, it was perfectly in line with his productive outings this season for Wareham.

Hill is older than many of his Cape League mates, as he’s going into his senior year at Michigan after he was surprisingly snubbed in this year’s MLB Draft.

Still, he’s taken the opportunity to compete in the Cape League and run with it.

For him, an All-Star recognition was simply the cherry on top.

“It’s an honor. There’s not a lot of players that can say they’ve done that or accomplished that. I’m not trying to brag or sound cocky, but I’m just really excited that I was able to participate in this event. You get to play with so many great athletes and so many guys who are probably going to go on and be big leaguers, it’s a really cool experience,” Hill said.

On how he planned on attacking the top hitters in the Cape:

“At first I told myself, ‘Oh, I want to strike out the side or I want to throw a little bit harder than I usually do.’ When it’s all said and done you get out there and just think to yourself, ‘That’s going to get you nowhere, you just got to go out there and pitch.’” You just got to do the same thing you do every day and change nothing.”

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