Story By John S. Condakes
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
HARWICH — It all just seemed to click. Seth Blair of Arizona State tossed an absolute gem Wednesday night to lead the Kettleers to a much-needed 4-0 win over the hosting Harwich Mariners. Blair was nothing short of fantastic as he allowed one hit in a complete game shutout over the home team in what was easily one of if not the best pitching performance in the Cape League this summer. The win snapped Cotuit’s three game losing streak and kept their record from falling under the .500 mark for the first time all season as they improved their record to 14-13-1.
Blair’s teammates spotted him a lead after the top of the first as leadoff man and fellow Arizona State Sun Devil Jason Kipnis led off with a walk. Kipnis filled in for a banged up Brett Jackson in center field after Jackson was drilled with a pitch in the ankle against the Y-D Red Sox on Tuesday. Jackson will return sometime soon as the injury is not severe. First baseman Kevin Patterson of Auburn was also dealt a free pass and third baseman Jeff Kobernus of Cal Berkeley added a single to load the bases with no outs for the Kettleers. Harwich starter Patrick Johnson of the University of North Carolina carefully worked his way out of the jam but not before designated hitter Dallas Poulk (NC State) knocked in Kipnis with a sacrifice fly to put the good guys up 1-0.
The 1-0 lead would be all that Blair would need as he cruised through the first inning notching two strikeouts via a called third strike. Cotuit shortstop Michael Gilmartin of Wofford tried to pick up where his teammates left off with a leadoff infield single but he was cut down attempting to steal second base to end any sort of threat against Johnson.
Harwich gave Blair the only trouble he would have all night in the bottom of the second inning. After a leadoff flyout, Blair nailed designated hitter Tommy Medica of UC Santa Clara in the back and after another flyout, first baseman Joe Sanders (Auburn) poked a single into left center field sending Medica to third and putting runners on the corners with two outs. The trouble never fazed Blair as he struck out shortstop Tim Smalling of Arkansas to neutralize the threat and protect his shutout. After the second inning, Blair meticulously retired the final twenty two batters in a row and he faced a mere two over the minimum (27) on the night. Blair’s final line was in nine innings pitched he gave up no runs, walked none, gave up the one hit to Sanders and struck out ten hapless Mariners including Smalling and left fielder Brandon Belt (Texas) twice each and right fielder D. J. Belfonte of Nebraska three times.
“I just mixed up all of my pitches really well,” said an exhausted Blair of his incredible outing. “I also didn’t walk anybody. When you don’t walk anybody in nine innings you have a pretty good chance to win,” he said.
The Kettleers’ bats woke up in the top of the eighth to provide some breathing room for Blair off of Harwich reliever Josh Eidell of Villanova. Kipnis (2 for 4, walk, run scored) led off with a single to get it going but was cut down on Patterson’s fielder’s choice. Kobernus followed with his third single of the evening and second baseman Matt Holliman of Cumberland delivered a clutch two RBI double to plate Patterson and up Cotuit’s lead to 2-0. Poulk followed with an RBI single of his own to clear the bases as the ball was misplayed in the outfield for a 4-0 lead.
Cotuit’s local nine will look to build some momentum off the win as they ship down to Wareham on Thursday night to square off against the Gatemen for another crucial two points as the two vie for a playoff spot in the Western Division. The first pitch will be thrown at 7 p.m.