Updated: Jun 12
By: Shane Petagna (The University of Tampa)
YARMOUTH, Mass. - After rain washed out the originally scheduled Opening Day game against the Chatham Anglers at Lowell Park on Saturday, the Cotuit Kettleers got the chance to begin their season by visiting the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox on Sunday.
Cotuit jumped out to an early lead and never trailed in the contest but staved off a late eighth-inning rally from the Red Sox to hold on to an 8-6 victory.
Saturday’s rainout also pushed back the beginning of Joe Whitman’s (Kent State) second season with Cotuit, coming back to Cape Cod after posting a 1.58 ERA across two starts in 2022.
Whitman followed up his performance from last summer by notching a 100-strikeout season on his way to winning the MAC Pitcher of the Year award and a First-Team All-America selection. He looked much of the same on the mound against the Red Sox.
The southpaw from Hudson, Ohio mowed down the Yarmouth-Dennis lineup, tossing five scoreless innings while punching out nine batters and allowing just two hits. Between his fastball, slider, and changeup, Whitman was able to induce swings and misses all night long.
For the Red Sox pitching staff, control was the biggest issue. Starter Nicholas Judice (Louisiana Monroe) walked four through his four innings pitched and began the game with the first five batters drawing three balls in the count.
Cotuit took advantage of the plus counts and gained the lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff man Brock Rodden (Wichita State) drew a walk and stole second base a few pitches later. Brett Bateman (Minnesota) laced a double past the third base bag to score Rodden for a 1-0 lead.
The frame would end as Bateman would be caught trying to steal third base in a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out play by Yarmouth-Dennis. Cotuit would run themselves out of another inning in the top of the second with another failed steal attempt of third base by Ryan Galanie (Wofford) for the third out of the inning. The Kettleers put a runner in scoring position in the top of the third inning but failed to push any more runs across until the fifth.
Yarmouth-Dennis moved to the bullpen as Parker Bard (Dayton) entered the game for the top of the fifth inning and retired the first two batters before struggling with his control just as Judice did. Two hit batsmen in three-ball counts and a walk loaded the bases for the three-hole hitter Michael Carico (Davidson).
Despite all the balls seen out of the zone, the designated hitter did not want to change his approach.
“I was sitting one pitch in one location and I just happened to get it on the first pitch, swung and everything else happened,” said Carico.
That pitch was a fastball up in the zone that Carico sent deep over the right field fence at Red Wilson Field for a grand slam that extended the Cotuit lead by five.
“We hadn’t really hit very well with runners in scoring position all night,” said Carico. “So I think just to be able to put the bat on the ball and really just produce was really big for us and getting momentum.”
The Kettleers would once again benefit from walks and getting plunked as Bard’s struggles continued in the top of the seventh inning. A hit-by-pitch and base on balls to start the frame set up the opportunity for Bateman to lay down a sacrifice bunt and move both runners into scoring position.
In total, the Red Sox pitching staff gave up 11 free bases which proved to be the difference by the time the game was over.
Two batters after the sac bunt, Rodney Green Jr. (Cal) was aided by a pitch clock violation to find himself in a 3-1 count. The Golden Bear got a great pitch to hit and drove one over the head of the left fielder for a two-RBI double and increased Cotuit’s lead to 7-0.
Despite the big lead, Cotuit made things interesting towards the end. Much like the Opening Day loss against Harwich, the Red Sox bats came alive late.
Two-way player Cole Mathis entered his third inning of relief for the Kettleers in the bottom of the eighth inning but allowed the first two Red Sox hitters to reach base. Coach Mike Roberts turned to 2022 CCBL Reliever of the Year Cam Schuelke (College of Central Florida) to drop the hammer, but the submariner struggled in the first outing of the season. Schuelke never recorded an out and surrendered a walk and three consecutive hits to make it a 7-4 game.
Roberts opted for a second sidearm pitcher in Noah Ruen (Tyler Junior College) to try and get out of a severe jam. Ruen was able to do the job, forcing two groundouts before a double from Brady Day (Kansas State) made it a one-run game. Ruen didn’t let the moment get too big as he got Mitch Voit (Michigan) to strike out swinging on an off-speed pitch to avoid further damage.
A throwing error from Rodden on a potential 4-6-3 double-play ball from the first batter Ruen faced helped extend the bottom of the eighth inning. However, Rodden had the chance to make up for it in the top of the ninth inning and did so in a big way. As Yarmouth-Dennis brought in a new pitcher in Dylan Simmons (Pittsburgh) to face the top of the order, the Shocker welcomed him to the game by taking him deep to straightaway centerfield.
With the two-run cushion, Ruen stayed in to close out the contest and retired the side in order to secure the win.
Cotuit only needed five hits to extend the team’s win streak in season openers to four.
“You score a lot of different ways in his game, and every game is different,” said Roberts. “What I liked today is we put pressure on people the whole game.”
The victory started the 2023 season off on the right note for the Kettleers, who now face a gauntlet of 10 games in as many days because of the postponement from Saturday. The new home opener for Cotuit will take place Monday against the Wareham Gatemen at Lowell Park, with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. The makeup game versus Chatham is now on Thursday.