By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
COTUIT, Mass. – It wasn’t the prettiest of the Cotuit Kettleers' 15 wins this season, but the team did just enough to pull out a 3-2 win over the Falmouth Commodores at Lowell Park on Wednesday.
The game was a pitcher’s duel throughout, the type of game the Kettleers are built to win. Chris Kahler (East Carolina) started for Cotuit fresh off his commitment to the Pirates earlier in the day and his two previous scoreless starts for the Ketts.
Kahler continued to look good on the mound, turning in four more shutout innings where he allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out a pair of Falmouth batters.
“Just inducing a lot of weak contact and some pretty crappy swings,” said Kahler. “I'm really making them chase what I want them to hit and what I want rather than giving them a cookie.”
Kahler benefited from some help on both sides of the ball. Cotuit jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a Cole Mathis solo home run in the bottom of the first. Defensively, the team had Kahler’s back in the top of the third inning where a two-out single and walk set up the Commodores to potentially tie the game.
Nathan Humphreys (Dallas Baptist) rounded third and headed for home as Travis Bazzana (Oregon State) singled on a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Kettleers second baseman Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) kept the ball in front of him as he carried into shallow right field. Pitre set his feet and made a strong throw to home, where catcher Caleb Lomavita (Cal) made the tag on Humphreys to prevent a potential Falmouth run.
Rafe Schlesinger (Miami), one of the most reliable relievers on the staff, entered the game for Cotuit in the top of the fifth inning. In a multi-inning outing, the southpaw kept up his excellent work on the season, striking out four including a trio of left-handed batters with his slider.
Schlesinger shut out Falmouth for two innings before he ran out of steam in the top of the seventh inning where he walked the leadoff batter and hit the next hitter with a pitch. Bryce Jenkins (Tennessee) retired the next three batters, but a sacrifice bunt and sac fly brought in the tying run for the Commodores.
Mathis’ homer was the only hit allowed by Falmouth starter Rio Britton (NC State) through his five innings. Cotuit notched just its second hit of the night on a Carter Mathison (Indiana) single in the bottom of the seventh inning but stranded a runner in scoring position. Izaak Martinez (UC San Diego) tossed a scoreless top of the eighth inning before the Kettleers offense woke up with the top of the order turning over in the bottom half of the frame.
“They swung the bat where we looked a lot early in the game and in the middle of the game,” said Cotuit manager Mike Roberts. “We didn't really attack it.”
Kalae Harrison (NC State) reached on an opposite-field single with one out to start a rally, followed immediately by a double to the left field wall by Ryan Galanie (Wofford) to put two runners in scoring position.
Mathis popped one up on a failed butcher-boy swing for the second out, bringing up Lomavita. Facing an 0-2 count, the Kettleers took the lead as their catcher reached with an RBI single on a Baltimore chop over the pitcher’s mound and into no man’s land. After a pitching change, Cotuit added a much-needed insurance run on Mathison’s second hit of the night.
With the 3-1 lead, Mathison’s hit proved its value as Tyler MacGregor (Northeastern) crushed a no-doubt home run to right field to lead off the inning. The Cotuit shrunk to one run, prompting a pitching change as Roberts opted for Jacob Shafer (UNC Wilmington) to try for the save.
“He throws strikes, and he can get right and left-hand hitters out,” said Roberts. “And I just had a lot of confidence and he wanted to go one inning and that was the one inning in his last outing here.”
The move proved Roberts right, but not before the tying and go-ahead runs reached base on a single and hit by pitch with one out. Shafer worked around the trouble and forced the next batter to roll over into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play to hold on for a 3-2 win.
“I'm just thrilled with the pitching staff. They've just done a marvelous job” said Roberts. “They're the primary reason we're playing well, they're throwing strikes and getting people out, giving us a chance to win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 type games and they're holding it for us. They've just done a great job.”
Cotuit and Falmouth will face off again on Thursday at Guv Fuller field as the two teams will resume their suspended game from Independence Day. Play will resume at 6 p.m. in the top of the third with the Commodores leading 2-0.