By Mike Walsh
Kettleers Media Intern
July 28, 2012
HYANNIS – As Aramis Garcia stared down Hyannis’ Gage Smith in the 14th inning of last night’s game at McKeon Park, a nearby train whistled. Even though Cotuit’s catcher didn’t hear the sound, one could sense the 3-3 deadlock was about to change.
So, when the clock struck 11:00, there was little surprise that Garcia, a defensive replacement in the 12th, cracked a deep line drive to right-center field. The hit scored Jacob Valdez (single), and moved Galli Cribbs Jr. (walk) to third.
“I knew once I hit it that I hit it well,” said Garcia, who saw an outside fastball from Smith. “It just fell in the gap.”
Just like that, as the game crossed the four-hour mark, the floodgates opened. Adam Nelubowich laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, and the suicide squeeze worked to perfection. Cribbs hustled home, golden cleats spiking up a trail of dirt behind him.
“Aramis has spent a lot of time each day working on his hands hitting,” said coach Mike Roberts. “It did not surprise me at all, because of the work that he has put in.”
Then, All-Star Jacob May connected on a single up the middle that scored Garcia. When the inning ended two hitters later, Cotuit had amassed a 6-3 lead after being knotted at three since fourth inning.
Tim Mayza, who earned his first win of the season pitched a scoreless 13th but allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the 14th. From there, Roberts called upon his bullpen’s model of consistency, Ryan Connolly. The Coastal Carolina product, who leads the league in appearances and wins, promptly retired three straight Harbor Hawks (2 Ks) to preserve the win and earn his third save.
“Ryan came in, but I did not expect you use him at all tonight,” said Roberts. “When we got into extra innings he stepped up and said I can throw for you.”
Prior to Garcia’s late-game heroics, the star of the night was long-reliever Dusty Isaacs. The Georgia Tech sophomore tossed 6.1 scoreless innings while striking out nine Harbor Hawks. He entered with two out in the fourth inning and remained in the game through the 10th, surrendering just two hits and no walks.
“That is the best he has used all of his pitches,” said Roberts of Isaacs. “He did an absolutely marvelous job tonight, he really looked good.”
Isaacs was undoubtedly the MVP of the contest after striking out the side in the crucial ninth and 10th innings.
“I was watching Kyle [Finnegan] throw first. After he came out he let me know what their tendencies were,” said Isaacs. “The more I threw, the better command I had on all my pitches.”
Cotuit got on the board in the fourth-inning when All-Star Patrick Biondi (3-for-6) singled home May (double) with the bases loaded. They remained that way for Tony Kemp who walked in Daniel Aldrich (single), giving him his team-leading 25th RBI. Valdez then grounded into a productive double-play, plating Mike Ford (walk).
That gave Cotuit a 3-1 lead, but starter Kyle Finnegan surrendered two more in the bottom half of the frame. The threats from there on out were few and far between. Kettleers relievers; Isaacs, Jacob Stone, Dan Slania, Mayza and Connolly were backed up by some outstanding fielding by Cribbs at shortstop and May in left-field.
Even when Stone got into trouble in the 11th, Roberts called on Slania to douse the fire with an inning-ending ground-out to second.
“I think any quality team that is going to win often has got to have a good bullpen,” said Roberts. “I have a lot of confidence in Dan and Ryan. I feel really good about them.”
The Kettleers have prided themselves on winning in a multitude of ways. Their sixth-straight win came in blowout fashion the night before, and this one took four hours and 15 minutes to decide. By the time Connolly punched out the final Harbor Hawks hitter, there were more players shaking hands on the field than fans remaining in the stands.
The win pushes the Kettleers record to 22-12 and they remain 6.5 games ahead of second-place Falmouth in the Western Division. Their magic number for the No. 1 seed is now four, with 10 games to play.
All Kettleers not named Biondi, May or Slania receive a well-deserved day off Saturday before returning for a ten day stretch that will lead right up to the postseason. That grueling schedule starts Sunday evening at Lowell Park against Yarmouth-Dennis. Game time is 5pm.