By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
COTUIT, Mass. – With two outs, Cotuit Kettleers leadoff hitter Brett Bateman (Minnesota) stepped into the left-hand batter’s box for his third at-bat of the night in the bottom of the fourth inning. The bottom five batters in the Cotuit order loaded the bases for him, down 2-0.
Bateman fouled a fastball from Chatham Anglers reliever Tommy Molsky (Penn State). A breaking ball followed for a called strike two.
“I've always been told that pitchers always have to throw a strike over the plate with two strikes,” said Bateman. “Nothing really changes, just looking for something to drive and do damage with.”
The Cotuit centerfielder watched the next pitch dip below his knees for ball one. Then Bateman saw what he was waiting for.
“He left the fastball middle-in and I was just able to execute,” said Bateman.
He roped the belt-high heater from Molsky into the right-centerfield gap, clearing the bases and giving the Kettleers a 3-2 lead once he pulled into second base. From there, Cotuit never looked back en route to a 10-3 victory at Lowell Park on Thursday as the offense exploded for 12 hits.
The Kettleers would get another jolt of offense in the bottom of the fifth inning as Anglers manager Tom Holliday opted to keep Molsky in the game. Cotuit would load the bases once again, this time with nobody out. Brock Rodden (Wichita State) led off with a first-pitch single through the right side of the infield before Irvin Weems III (San Diego State) walked for the second consecutive plate appearance. The base on balls brought his season total to six, which leads the Ketts.
The next batter, Jacob Tobias (Arizona State), was instructed by manager Mike Roberts to bunt but fell behind in the count 0-2. Roberts relayed a set of signs to Tobias and kept the bunt on, which resulted in a perfect tapper in no man’s land on the third base side.
Roberts continued to pull tricks from his sleeve, opting for Jay Harry (Penn State) to substitute in against his Nittany Lion teammate. The move worked wonders as Harry crushed a 2-1 fastball to the right field fence, putting the Ketts up 6-2.
“Jay Harry coming off the bench with the big swing in the pinch-hit really got us moving and sometimes that gives a lot of guys confidence that they didn't have,” said Roberts. “You watch your teammates hit, so that's a really good thing for everybody to do and we built off Jay’s swing.”
Cotuit added one more run in the fifth on an RBI groundout from Cannon Peebles to put the Kettleers up 7-2.
The best team in the CCBL was also helped by huge contributions from the bullpen.
Kettleers starter Chris Kahler (George Washington) didn’t go deep into the game, tossing three innings while allowing two earned runs on RBI doubles in both the first and second innings. Kahler shut down the Anglers in the third inning and started the top of the fourth but was yanked after throwing two balls to the first batter.
In to replace him was 6-foot-6 southpaw Camron Hill (Georgia Tech), who was much more effective against a Chatham lineup stacked with eight left-handed hitters. Hill’s slider had fantastic movement throughout his three innings of shutout ball and his fastball located up in the zone elicited multiple strikeouts.
“The game plan was to establish the fastball early, then I could work my splitter and slider off of it and ended up working out today,” said Hill.
Hill may have also had a little bit of luck on his side, as he celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday.
Hill handed over the reins to another lefty, Rafe Schlesinger (Miami), for the final three innings. Even as Holliday began to substitute right-handers into the lineup, it made little difference. Schlesinger finished the game, allowing one hit and no earned runs, while striking out three.
Cotuit put the finishing touches on the offensive outpour in the bottom of the seventh inning, highlighted by a Quinn McDaniel (Maine) RBI triple and Michael Carico (Davidson) solo home run tucked inside the right field foul pole for his second of the season.
The Kettleers improved their record to 4-1 in 2023, putting themselves atop the West Division standings. They’ll look to keep the hot start rolling on Friday as they travel to Eldredge Park to take on the Orleans Firebirds at 6:30 p.m.