By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
COTUIT, Mass. - Following a scoreless top of the first inning from starter Cam Hill (Georgia Tech), The Cotuit Kettleers offense loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the frame.
However, the team barely managed to scratch across one run on a two-out walk drawn by Brock Wills (UNC Wilmington).
“I came into the dugout and I said, ‘If you want to play for Coach Roberts, swing the bat,’ because we took two called third strikes in the first inning,” said Cotuit manager Mike Roberts. “I just said ‘Swing the bat, you're a very talented group of players,’ but the talent only comes out when the bat goes through the zone.”
The team responded to their manager and rode a big second inning to an 8-6 win on Friday against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks at Lowell Park.
Josh Pyne (Indiana) and Teo Banks (Tulane) found a little bit of luck on an infield single and broken-bat hit into centerfield as the Kettleers jumped on Hyannis starter Bradley Hodges (Virginia Tech to set up a prime scoring chance.
Two batters later, Ryan Galanie (Wofford) delivered with a two-RBI triple he punched into the right-field corner to put the Kettleers up 3-0. That brought up Cole Mathis (College of Charleston), looking for a pitch to lift.
“Coach Roberts always talks about being aggressive,” said Mathis. “Just be ready to hit, especially with runners on base. You can't score them with a walk.”
Mathis saw what he was looking for in a 1-1 count in the form of a hanging breaking ball that he sent over the left field wall for a two-run homer.
Up 5-0, Cotuit gave Hill plenty of cushion as he pushed through his longest outing of the season, tossing five scoreless innings. The southpaw struck out five to add to his CCBL-leading total of 28 punchouts while allowing two hits and two walks.
“It was an absolutely fantastic outing by Cam. I enjoy watching him pitch,” said Roberts. “He was pumped up, ready to go. He was driving the ball through the strike zone. It was a joy to watch him pitch.”
Hill turned the ball over to side-armer Cam Schuelke (College of Central Florida) as the first out of the bullpen and held Hyannis to one run over his two-plus innings pitched.
Although the Harbor Hawks pushed one run across in the top of the seventh inning, the Kettleers answered back in the bottom half of the frame.
Caleb Lomavita (Cal) and Wills reached with their third hits of the game to start the inning, where a failed sacrifice bunt attempt kept two runners on base for Pyne.
The Cotuit designated hitter jumped on a first-pitch fastball and deposited over the fence in front of the Kettleers bullpen for a three-run dinger that increased the lead to 8-1. The home run was Cotuit’s 19th of the year, good for first in the league in what would become huge insurance runs by the end of the game.
Hyannis batted around in the top of the eighth inning as Cotuit needed three relievers to make it through the inning. Schuelke exited after a leadoff single, but his replacement Cullen McKay (Virginia) surrendered back-to-back hits and gave up a run which led Roberts to opt for his most reliable reliever in Rafe Schlesinger (Miami).
The left-hander struggled too but kept enough composure to maintain the lead despite allowing two earned runs on three hits and a walk. By the time it was all said and done, Hyannis batted around the order, scored five runs, and put the tying run in scoring position in the eighth inning.
Schlesinger stayed in for the ninth inning and worked around a two-out single to secure the win as Zach Ehrhard (Oklahoma State) grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
“He closed it out. There were a lot of balls where they were hits but they found a lot of holes there,” Roberts said of Schlesinger. “He was the guy that we needed, and he got it done.”
Cotuit secured its third win against Hyannis this season and 16th overall. The Kettleers are back in action on Saturday as they hit the road to take on the Chatham Anglers at Veterans Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.