Story By John S. Condakes
Saturday, July 12, 2008
COTUIT — This game had a little bit of everything. In a heated contest featuring numerous questionable calls by the umpiring crew, the Cotuit Kettleers and the Orleans Cardinals ended their Saturday night game with a 4-4 tie. Before the game even started, slugger Mike Bianucci of Auburn signed a deal with the Texas Rangers and will not be returning to Cotuit this summer. Bianucci was drafted in the eighth round by the Rangers this spring and will be sorely missed in the Kettleers’ lineup as he is currently tied for second in the league in home runs and runs batted in.
The Cotuit lineup featured some changes as Indiana’s Evan Crawford and Georgia’s Joey Lewis filled in at designated hitter and catcher, respectively. Matt Holliman of Cumberland made his first start at second base and chipped in solid defense while going 2 for 5 with a run scored.
The Kettleers’ bats struck first against Orleans starter Matt Thomson (San Diego) when Crawford singled with one out, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Left fielder Jeff Schaus of Clemson launched his first home run of the season off the top of the wall and over the fence in right field for the 2-0 Cotuit lead.
Kettleers’ pitcher Nate Garcia of UC Santa Clara pitched well through the first two and a third innings. Garcia even flashed some leather on a come-backer to his left as he dove and threw out Orleans right fielder Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State) from his knees. Shortstop Kyle Spraker of Loyola Marymount drove in the first run for the Cardinals to cut the lead in half to make the score 2-1. The Kettleers got one back after Holliman doubled and eventually scored on a balk by Thomson to make it 3-1 after three.
Coach Mike Roberts replaced Garcia after four and two thirds innings with reliever Sam Brown. Garcia pitched another solid outing giving up only one run while scattering four hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Brown pitched in his fourth game this week and baffled the Orleans hitters through two and two thirds innings of work while holding them to one run on three hits and two strikeouts. Brown exited the game in favor of closer Drew Storen of Stanford with one out in the eighth. Storen took care of business in the eighth but blew a save opportunity in the ninth by allowing the Cardinals to tie it up on an RBI single third baseman Mike Murphy of Maryland.
The Cardinals took the lead on the same play when the Kettleers neglected to call time out. Pinch hitter Shawn Kort (Nevada) caught Cotuit sleeping and broke from third to the plate and slid in safe with the go-ahead run to put Orleans in command 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. After much arguing, Coach Roberts received his second ejection of the week. Roberts had been questioning the umpiring all night and with good reason as it seemed that every close play seemed to favor the Cardinals.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, center fielder Brett Jackson of Cal Berkeley single-handedly salvaged the tie for Cotuit. Jackson took a Brett Stillings (Kent State) offering over the fence in right to tie the score at four. The Kettleers had the next two men reach but couldn’t squeeze the final run across for the win and the game was called due to darkness. The Kettleers will be back in action against the Hyannis Mets in Hyannis on Sunday at 7 p.m. as the two teams tangle for position in the Western Division.