By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
COTUIT, Mass. – The home opener was a very special one for the Cotuit Kettleers and their fans. Before the game, Cotuit dedicated the new Lowell Park scoreboard to the late Cotuit Athletic Association and Kettleers fan Ivan Partridge.
Partridge was his own celebrity at Cotuit home games, with a signature rallying cry of “Have a Hit!” that would echo throughout the ballpark. Joan Zanotti, Partridge’s daughter, and the rest of the Zanotti family received a plaque honoring her father and she threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Kettleers played a recording of Partridge exclaiming his “Have a Hit” cheer throughout the game while the Zanotti family yelled out the same historic phrase during nearly every Cotuit at-bat.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, seemingly guided by Partridge’s mantra, Cotuit would have enough hits to break a 2-2 tie as Brock Rodden (Wichita State) came up clutch to give the Ketts a 3-2 win over the Wareham Gatemen.
But first, the Kettleers would need to claw their way back into the game.
Isaiah Coupet (Ohio State) made his first start for Cotuit as he began his second season with the Kettleers. In 2022, the southpaw posted a 0.87 ERA across four appearances in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
However, Wareham jumped on Coupet early for a pair of runs in the top of the second inning.
Dylan Goldstein (Florida Atlantic) drew a leadoff walk and immediately scored when the following batter Cade Sullivan (Western Michigan) scorched a double into the right-centerfield gap. Sullivan would advance to third base on a wild pitch and later race home on a passed ball to pad the Gatemen lead to 2-0.
For Cotuit, troubles on the basepaths continued in the early stages of the season as Rodden was thrown out attempting to steal third base to end the top of the first inning. It was the third time in the first 10 innings of the season that the Kettleers were caught stealing at the hot corner for the third out.
“That's my fault, not theirs,” said coach Mike Roberts. “We're going to run, period. But better coaching will mean we're safe more often.”
Roberts continued to be aggressive on the basepaths as the game went on, which was the main catalyst to bring the Ketts back into the game.
Cotuit cut the Wareham lead in half in the bottom of the fourth inning as Quinn McDaniel (Maine) walked to begin the frame. The Kettleers second baseman stole second base and moved up to third on an errant throw by catcher Caleb Pendleton (Florida Atlantic). McDaniel scored two batters later on a Cannon Peebles (NC State) RBI groundout.
Wareham moved to the bullpen for the fifth inning, but a case of déjà vu struck for the Gateman. Ryan Galanie (Wofford) worked a leadoff walk for the second consecutive inning. A hit-and-run play was put on for the next batter Brett Bateman (Minnesota) on the first pitch but was fouled off before the left-hander later lined out.
In the next plate appearance, Galanie took second base as the throw from Pendleton sailed into the outfield for his second throwing error, allowing the Kettleers third baseman to advance another 90 feet. Following another walk, Cole Mathis (College of Charleston) drove in Galanie with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at two.
Cotuit’s pitching kept the Gatemen offense in check after the second inning, as Coupet and Terry Busse (Georgia Tech) combined to keep Wareham hitless from the third through the seventh innings. Coupet finished with seven strikeouts in four innings pitched and Busse tossed three perfect innings in relief.
“I think that the best thing to say is they exceeded my expectations,” said Roberts. “And first of all, they threw strikes, and they threw quality strikes. So did Isaiah.”
Ben Grable (Northwestern) entered to pitch the eighth inning but ran into some trouble as a one-out, broken-bat single punched into right field by Pendleton gave the Gatemen their first hit since the second inning. Grable did himself no favors by balking during the next plate appearance, sending the Wareham catcher to second base. A groundout to the right side of the infield placed Pendleton as the go-ahead run just 90 feet away.
Cotuit managed to escape the inning unscathed with the aid of a fine defensive play by McDaniel on a grounder to his backhand. He fell to his knees fielding the ball, but scrambled to his feet and made a strong throw to first base to nab the runner.
With momentum in the Kettleers' favor, the bats got to work in the bottom half of the inning. Bateman led off with a chopper up the middle for a base hit. A sacrifice bunt from pinch hitter Jacob Corson (Bucknell) moved the runner to scoring position, but Bateman could not advance further as Mathis grounded out to the shortstop. The out would bring up Rodden with two outs, who already delivered an important insurance run on Saturday against Yarmouth-Dennis on a ninth-inning solo homer.
Rodden delivered once again, roping a first-pitch line drive into right field allowing Bateman to score the go-ahead run. It was another huge moment for the 5’9” middle infielder who always plays the game hard.
“I’ve been kind of overlooked my whole career and making some noise in Wichita State these last couple of years kind of brought a little bit of attention,” said Rodden, a 10th-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. “But the same mindset still applies throughout my whole career which is just to bet on myself, play with a chip on my shoulder, and try to prove everybody wrong.”
Grable stayed in to pitch the top of the ninth, retiring the side in order and earning the win.
The Kettleers secured their first West Division victory of the season. Cotuit looks to continue its win streak to open 2023 as they go back on the road to play the defending CCBL champion Bourne Braves at Doran Park. The scheduled start time is 6 p.m.