By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
BOURNE, Mass. - Throughout his 19 seasons as the head coach of the Cotuit Kettleers and across the first three games of the 2023 season, Mike Roberts has established his own brand of baseball characterized by aggressive baserunning and pounding the strike zone.
Tuesday night showcased another example of Roberts’ signature strategy paying off in a 1-0 win over the defending CCBL champion Bourne Braves at Doran Park.
“Am I extremely pleased with the overall philosophy and the players buying into what our backyard baseball is in Cotuit?” said Roberts. “Yes, I'm very pleased.“
The Kettleers put Roberts’ ideology to work in the top of the second inning to score the lone run of the ball game.
Against hard-throwing starter Patrick Reilly (Vanderbilt), Cotuit began the frame with Rodney Green Jr. (Cal) being hit by a pitch. The speedy centerfielder added to the Ketts' nine stolen bases as a team before the night ended when he stole second base two pitches later. Halfway to home, Green Jr. scored easily as Jay Harry (Penn State) roped an RBI single to right field to give the Kettleers the lead.
“I feel like [my speed] is one thing I know I have and it's one thing I use to my advantage,” said Green Jr.
The utilization of Green Jr.’s wheels continued in the field during the bottom half of the second inning, where he made two incredible catches on consecutive plays. The first came as Bourne centerfielder Andrew Patrick (Wright State) laced what looked sure to be an extra-base hit to the right-centerfield gap before Green Jr., who read the ball well, extended his right hand across his body to make the catch in full sprint.
The next batter Joey Loynd (Delaware) cracked a similar fly ball as Patrick, this one deeper but closer to center field. Green Jr. made the grab look easy a few strides from the fence for the second out.
The stellar defensive display added to the offensive struggles for Bourne to start the season as the Braves searched for their first win. They made solid contact off Cotuit starter Tucker Novotny (Minnesota) for all of his three innings pitched but managed only three hits. Bourne had left 24 runners on base entering the evening and stranded nine more as they fell to 0-3-1.
The best scoring chance for the Braves came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Southpaw Camron Hill (Georgia Tech) entered to pitch for Cotuit after three scoreless innings in relief from Chase Hopewell (Cincinnati). Hill recorded two outs but also surrendered two baserunners on a leadoff walk and bunt single before giving the ball to Noah Ruen (Tyler Junior College), who recorded a save in the Kettleers 8-6 win against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the season opener.
The sidearm pitcher hit the first batter he faced to load the bases but induced a groundout from Bourne three-hitter Garrett Michel (Virginia Tech) to exit the inning unscathed.
Ruen sent down the Braves in order and struck out two in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving Roberts the confidence to let the Leander, Texas native put the finishing touches on the game.
Ruen worked around a leadoff single by producing a huge 4-6-3 double play in the next plate appearance and forcing yet another groundout to end the game.
“You just got to dumb down the game and make it simple, it’s a lot easier,” said Ruen, now 2-2 in save opportunities to start the season.
Standing atop the CCBL standings at 3-0 with six points, Cotuit looks to keep the wins coming. The Kettleers return home to Lowell Park for a short two-game homestand with the first coming against the Brewster Whitecaps at 5 p.m.