By Jessica Isner, Staff Writer
August 15, 2007
COTUIT, MA — In ordinary sports terms, this summer would’ve been called a “rebuilding year.” However, because the rosters for every Cape League team are never consistent from year to year, every club all the way from Falmouth to Brewster stood the chance of suffering the same fate as the 2007 Cotuit Kettleers.
What was tabbed to be one of the best potential summer league teams in the country ended up posting a lackluster record (14-27-3), but that speaks nothing of the effort put forth by this summer’s Kettleers. It seemed like with every week, another player went home because of an injury, but the players who stuck around played their hearts off until the last out on August 8th.
Last summer, Cotuit finished with the league’s second best record (27-16-1), a slew of All Stars, and a playoff berth. Although the team this year wasn’t so fortunate, it still reached its fair share of milestones — and we’re not talking about the 13-game losing streak.
With only four players returning from last season’s dream team, a crew of new faces kept loyal Kettleers fans entertained and hopeful from June to August. Those who stuck around all season were doubtlessly pleased with the talented and fun-loving players they had the opportunity to cheer for, game in and game out.
Although the Kettleers started off on the wrong foot with a loss, they quickly righted the ship behind the leadership of fourth-year head coach Mike Roberts and compiled a winning record through the Fourth of July, posting a10-7-2 record through that stretch. Cotuit clung to second place in the Western Division standings during that period, thanks to a series of come-from-behind victories and offensive explosions that the team soon became notorious for. No matter who was on the mound or where they were playing, every team in the league knew that the Kettleers were never dead until the final batter of the game stepped up to the plate.
However, every fan of the Cape Cod Baseball League also knows that it is a pitcher’s league, and as exciting as Cotuit’s offensive surges were, they simply could not last. Eventually, overpowering fastballs won the battle over the wood bats, and the offense stalled, as did Cotuit’s initially victorious pace. It wasn’t long before the Cotuit coaching staff realized that their pitching was having a very rough time out on the mound, and it didn’t take long for opposing teams to catch on as well. Starting pitchers’ outings became shorter and shorter and the bullpen struggled to hold on to leads. Once the coaches developed a solid, consistent rotation, the team seemed to pick itself up a bit, but when numerous hurlers were sent home with dead arms and tendonitis, there wasn’t much anybody could do.
The toughest stretch for Cotuit endured from July 12 until the 25th, a period in which the Kettleers could not record a victory. Finally, under the lights at Wareham on July 26th, Cotuit ground out a mechanically sound, 7-2 victory over the Gatemen that would finally halt a rocky 13-game losing streak. By that time, though, it was too little too late, as Bourne, Hyannis, and Falmouth were leaps and bounds ahead of the pack in the race for the playoffs.
Cotuit, however, never mailed it in, and finished the regular season with an 11-9 win over the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox- a win that perfectly typified the character of this year’s team. In a game that featured ten ties and lead changes, the Kettleers emerged victorious after a four-run eighth inning and left Lowell Park on a positive note.
Reese Havens (South Carolina), Robert Stock (USC), Josh Lindblom (Purdue), and Caleb Joseph (Lipscomb) represented Cotuit on this year’s Western Division All Star squad. Havens and Lindblom were named team MVPs; Havens led the Kettleers in both batting average (.314) and home runs (5), and Lindblom was the first pitcher in the entire league to reach four wins. Stock garnered plenty of attention throughout the summer as the youngest player in the league; at 17, he began the season as an upcoming sophomore. He was a weapon both behind the plate and on the mound, compiling a .228 batting average and coming out of the bullpen with a daunting 95-mph fastball. Joseph was a late pickup from Falmouth, where he was released from a temporary contract, but he proved to be indispensable to Cotuit: he split time with Stock as a catcher and also played a little right field when injuries depleted the roster.
But the All Stars weren’t the only valuable members of the club; towards the end, when the players had a choice to give in to all the injuries and just give up or play like they still had something to gain, they chose the latter. In the end, every single member of the team was equally valuable because they all did whatever they needed to in order to give the team the best shot at winning, from trying a new position when a teammate went down or coming out of the pen when they were accustomed to starting.
At the end of the day- and at the end of the season- the record didn’t look too good, but anyone who spent any time watching the 2007 Cotuit Kettleers learned a little something about baseball anyway. They learned what it means to be a team, and that’s not something that even the best record on the Cape can teach you.