By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
COTUIT, Mass. – The Cotuit Kettleers missed out on some big scoring chances on a night where they fell to the Bourne Braves 4-1 and struck out 13 times, six of which were caught looking.
“It’s a concern,” said coach Mike Roberts. “Like I told them after the game, ‘If you want to play for Coach Roberts, swing the bat.’”
Although Cotuit took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, the offense failed to tack on runs throughout the rest of the game. Six batters took a backward K in the scorebook from the fifth inning on, four of which came with runners on base.
However, the best chance the Kettleers had in a first-round preview of the 2023 CCBL West Division playoffs between the No. 1 overall seed and fourth-place Braves came in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Kettleers loaded the bases on three consecutive singles to begin the frame, the first two coming on well-struck balls by Sean Keys (Bucknell) and Trevor Haskins (Stanford) before James McCoy (Kentucky) tapped a perfect swinging bunt up the first-base line.
From there, the next batter Scott Seeker (Mount St. Mary’s) struck out swinging and a lineout to center field from Brock Wills (UNC Wilmington) wasn’t hit deep enough for Keys to test the arm of Gage Harrelson (Texas Tech). The inning ended on a ground out to the second baseman in the next plate appearance.
Much of Cotuit’s failed chances to cash in were masked by the pitching of Finn McIlroy (UCLA) and Cam Schuelke (Mississippi St.), who combined for seven shutout innings to start the game.
“Finn had his best outing of the year by far, just like yesterday was [Cullen] McKay's best outing so those guys have really worked hard in the bullpen to make some corrections,” said Roberts. “I'm really pleased with a lot of people's progress.”
McIlroy made his third start of the summer for Cotuit, turning in his longest outing of the season with four shutout innings. The 6-foot-6 right-hander allowed just two baserunners on a walk and a hit while striking out three while displaying great command on his fastball to set up his off-speed pitches.
“I just really pounded the zone with the fastball,” said McIlroy. “I had a nice changeup today that I played off of it with.”
Schuelke came out of the bullpen for another long outing, which went smoothly until his second time around the order in the eighth inning. Leadoff batter Nu’u Contrades (Arizona St.) reached on an error before a sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position. Bourne catcher Hugh Pinkney (Rutgers) tied the game with an RBI single to left field.
Sam Petersen (Iowa) followed up Pinkney with a base hit of his own and both runners moved into scoring position with two outs. The Braves took the lead when a chopper from Harrelson stayed within fair territory, causing Schuelke to make a tough throw to the bag with the runner coming down the line. The throw hit off the back of Harrelson, allowing Bourne to score the deciding runs.
The Kettleers and Braves end their season series tied 3-3, with the road team winning every game. Cotuit ends the regular season in Falmouth against the Commodores at Guv Fuller Field, with a start time set for 6 p.m.