By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
BOURNE, Mass. - Cole Mathis (College of Charleston) stepped up to bat in the top of the eighth inning with the bases loaded for the second time of the game. The first time around, the Cotuit Kettleers’ two-way star tied the game at 4-4 with a bases-clearing triple in the top of the second inning.
Now with an 8-7 lead, Mathis took a healthy hack at a fastball and fouled it back to the net, resulting in a 2-2 count. The very next pitch, he saw another heater up in the zone but swung through it for strike three and the second out of the inning.
Cotuit would fail to score as Bourne Braves reliever Trystan Levesque (Rhode Island) struck out the side to hold the Kettleers at bay.
Manager Mike Roberts went to the bullpen one more time, opting for Mathis to pitch after starting the game as the designated hitter.
“I just had to lock into a closer mentality there with only a one-run lead,” said Mathis. “I try not to let my at-bats carry over to the mound but sometimes it adds a little bit of motivation if you can't come through with runners on base.”
Mathis pitched with extra fire in the eighth and ninth innings, reaching speeds of 96 mph on his fastball as he struck out four batters and allowed one hit to complete a six-out save in a huge 8-7 win at Doran Park.
Cotuit’s win didn’t solely rely on the performance of Mathis, however. A full team effort was needed, especially defensively as the Kettleers used eight innings of work from the bullpen.
Jacob Shafer (UNC Wilmington) was given a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first inning in his first start of the summer. The 6-foot-8 right-hander was hit hard, allowing four earned runs on four hits and a walk.
The Kettleers used a huge six-run second inning to erase the deficit and give their relievers enough of a cushion once Roberts opted for new arms on the mound. Ben Kovel (Pittsburgh) was the first out of the ‘pen, giving up one earned run over two innings pitched.
Cullen McKay (Virginia) entered next, but struggled as he walked two and hit a batter as Bourne made it a 7-6 game after a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the fourth inning. McKay avoided further trouble as he induced a massive double play to end the inning immediately following the RBI base on balls.
Cotuit responded in the next frame once newcomer Sean Keys (Bucknell) came to bat. After hitting the sixth grand slam of the season for the Kettleers on Tuesday, the left-handed hitter kept with the hot bat as he tucked a full-count fastball around the right field foul pole for what would become the game-winning run.
“It’s a lot of just being prepared and on time for fastballs,” said Keys on his first impression of the Cape League. “I didn't really know what to expect, I knew it was going to be good competition.”
In the bottom half of the fifth inning, the shuffling of relievers for Cotuit continued as Roberts utilized southpaws Teddy Brennan (George Washington) and Brian Young (Rider) to bridge the gap to get to Mathis. Brennan entered with two runners in scoring position and no outs to mop up another messy inning from McKay, but handled it beautifully.
He induced two consecutive ground ball outs, the first of which Keys fielded and threw the lead runner out at home on. Brennan completed the escape with a strikeout to end the fifth and later allowed a run on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the sixth inning to make the score 8-7. Young did not allow a hit in his lone shutout inning of work before Mathis finished the game as the sixth pitcher of the contest for the Kettleers.
Up next, Cotuit finishes a three-game road trip at the Chatham Anglers on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game is a make-up of an originally scheduled July 8 contest that was postponed due to weather.