BREWSTER – There’s something mystical about the sound of a baseball whooshing across home plate and the thud it creates once it reaches a catcher’s mitt. There’s also something magical about the sound of a bat striking a ball and a dugout full of ballplayers rooting their teammates on.
Cape Cod remains a perfect destination for baseball in the fall — even if it requires players to sacrifice themselves to cool conditions, as was the case Sunday afternoon when the Lower Cape Shamrocks, comprised of mostly Monomoy Regional High School students, hosted the Sandwich Huskies in a U-16 Gateway Babe Ruth League playoff game at Freemans Way Field.
“It’s cold, obviously. Very cold,” said Logan Miller, a Monomoy freshman from Harwich. “The leaves are flying and…everyone is cold.”
The Shamrocks admitted Sunday’s game was played in the coldest conditions they have encountered this fall. Playing into late October — later than the Boston Red Sox, even — is a luxury for the Shamrocks, who advanced to the playoffs after posting a 6-3-1 record during the regular season.
Even in chilly temperatures, the Shamrocks were able to keep their season alive with a 7-6 victory that moves the squad into a semifinal matchup against the Gateway team at 11 a.m. Saturday at Decas Field in Wareham.
“It means a lot,” Logan Graveline, a Monomoy junior from Harwich, said of Sunday’s win. “We weren’t looking to be a first-round exit. We envisioned ourselves going a lot further than that, so just to battle back today was big.”
Graveline and Miller have been among the team’s key contributors this fall in addition to Jack Reid, Matthew Hunt and Jack Raye. That group of Monomoy players has been an integral part in the Shamrocks’ success, not only this fall but the past few years, according to the team’s head coach, Paul Alves.
“I’ve had these kids now for between two and four seasons,” Alves said. “I want to keep these kids together because they work well together, they feed off each other and they really have a desire to get better — and that makes coaching fun.”
Alves’ son, Paul Jr., holds the distinction of being just one of two Nauset students on the team. The younger Alves is a freshman at Nauset, where he roams the halls with Jason Holmes, the only other Shamrock who doesn’t attend Monomoy.
Although Alves Jr. acknowledged he is friendly with his teammates, he added there is some bad blood between the Shamrocks and LC Gray — another Lower Cape-based team that is comprised of a mixture of Nauset, Cape Tech and Sturgis West players.
“The smack-talking between both teams has ramped up a lot,” said Alves Jr., a freshman at Nauset.
The elder Alves appreciates the fact kids from surrounding towns are playing together. He said he has fond memories of growing up in Orleans and playing ball with boys from throughout the Lower Cape before they all dispersed and competed against each other at the high school ranks.
“I grew up in Orleans, so we played Brewster and Harwich and Eastham — we were all towns divided,” said Alves.
What the coach likes most about this Shamrocks team is the fact the players are fully committed; some of them don’t play any other sports beyond baseball.
“The older they get, the more dedicated they get,” Alves said. “Their skills grow with them, obviously, but you weed out the ones that don’t want to play. So, these are the kids that have that dedication and that desire — that’s what I try to preach to them: coming to play, be dedicated and have that desire, and that’s what they’ve done.”
Like the Shamrocks, the LC Gray team is advancing to the semifinals after earning a 10-0 victory over Gateway Perry Concrete on Sunday afternoon in Brewster. That victory propels the Gray to an 11-0 record, as they’ll look to stay unbeaten against Fairhaven at 11 a.m. Saturday at Veterans Field in Chatham.
The winners of the two semifinals will face each other in a winner-takes-all championship game Sunday at a time/location yet to be determined.
As exciting as it is to think that one of the two Lower Cape teams might capture the league championship, Steve Porter, Monomoy’s varsity baseball coach who also oversees the Lower Cape’s Junior and Senior Babe Ruth leagues, said this season is really about much more than wins and losses.
According to Porter, these Babe Ruth seasons will have lasting impacts on the development of many of these players.
“This league has really become a feeder league into the local high schools, helping the kids develop and be ready for high school level competition,” Porter said. “Several of these players will be pushing for varsity roster spots at their respective schools.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal