By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
Hyannis, MA —It wouldn’t have been another edition of the Barnstable Patriots Cup without some drama.
As the Cotuit Kettleers took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning, they scored some much-needed insurance runs before watching it all wash away in the bottom half of the frame. The game moved into extras, where the Hyannis Harbor Hawks would walk away with a 7-6 win.
Before then, the game was all Cotuit. Starting pitcher Chris Kahler (George Washington) turned in five shutout innings while only allowing one hit. In that time, an RBI single by Jacob Tobias (Arizona State) in the top of the second inning and a sacrifice fly from Brett Bateman (Minnesota) in the fifth gave the Kettleers a two-run lead.
Kahler turned the ball over to Camron Hill (Georgia Tech), who continued his nearly perfect start to the summer. Hill maintained his 0.00 ERA, striking out four across 2 1/3 innings pitched.
After hitting a batter with one out in the bottom of the eighth, right-handed reliever Rob Hughes (Clemson) entered the game for Cotuit. He forced a weak ground ball to shortstop but the running throw from Brock Rodden (Wichita State) skipped away, putting the tying run in scoring position. Hughes bore down and got two huge strikeouts on back-to-back batters to end what looked like would be the best scoring chance of the night for Hyannis.
Cotuit added four runs in the top of the ninth inning to give themselves another big lead over the Harbor Hawks for the second straight game. Highlighted by a two-out rally and some sloppy defense by the Hyannis in damp field conditions, the Kettleers plated their first run on an RBI single by Kalae Harrison (NC State).
The inning was extended as Rodden reached base on a dropped third strike that kicked away. That brought up Bateman, who after extending his hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the top of the seventh inning, knocked an infield single that allowed Harrison to score as the throw went out of play.
The Ketts capped off the inning on a wild pitch in the next plate appearance that scored Rodden and Bateman as a bad toss to the pitcher covering home skipped up the third base line.
With all signs pointing to Cotuit cruising to its ninth win of the season, the Kettleers faced their own troubles in the bottom of the ninth inning. Hughes struggled mightily as he failed to record an out before a hit batsman, three singles, and a walk loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate.
Manager Mike Roberts subbed in Reece Wissinger (Southeastern) to save the game, and the move looked good as a sacrifice fly and another flyout put the Harbor Hawks down to their last out with the score at 6-3.
However, a walk extended the inning to bring up Will Taylor (Clemson). Wissinger went ahead 0-2 in the count before Taylor poked a slider just above the glove of Cotuit first baseman Cole Mathis (College of Charleston) and into right field. The hit scored two runners easily to make it 6-5, but the throw from Carter Mathison (Indiana) caromed off catcher Michael Carico (Davidson) and went to the backstop, allowing the tying run to score from third base.
Wissinger got the next batter to roll over and end the inning, sending the game to extras. It was the first game for the Kettleers under the new runner-on-second-base rule implemented for the 2023 season. As the visiting team, Roberts would use the free baserunner in scoring position to his advantage and play to his liking with small ball.
Tanner Thach (UNC Wilmington) moved the ghost runner to third on a sacrifice bunt, which brought up pinch-hitter Cannon Peebles (NC State) who would square to bunt as well. Peebles didn’t pull back in time on the first pitch for strike one and fouled off the second pitch to go down 0-2.
He took a set of signs from Roberts in the third base coach’s box and inexplicably squared to bunt again, fouling another off for strike three and the second out.
“He missed the signal. You got to know the signals,” said Roberts. “And that's my fault because they don't know the signals.”
After a walk to Mathison, Mathis grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning. After failing to score in the top of the tenth, that meant Cotuit could only hope for the game to end in a tie.
Hyannis began the bottom of the tenth with its own free runner and bunted him over just as the Kettleers did in the top half of the inning. Wissinger, still in the game, popped up Cameron Smith (Florida State) for the second out.
Just one pitch away from walking out of Hyannis with a point in the standings, Wissinger fell behind Gavin Kash (Texas Tech) in the count 3-0. Kash was given the green light to swing away and roped a fastball up the middle for a walk-off base hit.
“I don't worry about it, it's another inning with a guy on second base. I despise the rule. I don't think it should be part of baseball at the major league level or any level. I don't think anybody should be placed on a base. I think you ought to earn a base,” said Roberts. “But the league put it in, you play with it. They handled it well. We didn't handle it well and they get the win.”
The loss was just the third of the season for Cotuit, who still sit atop the CCBL and West Division standings at 8-3. The Kettleers will have the chance to get back in the win column against the Falmouth Commodores on Friday at Lowell Park in the first matchup of the season between both teams. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.