Story By John S. Condakes
Thursday, August 9, 2008
COTUIT — The regular season Western Division Champions got off on the right foot on Saturday afternoon as they beat the visiting Falmouth Commodores 6-4 in front of a packed crowd at Lowell Park. Cotuit now leads the best-of-three series 1-0 and is one win away from securing a spot in the league championship. Prior to the contest, the Kettleers were presented with the 2008 Western Division Regular Season Championship Trophy by league commissioner Paul Galop.
Timely hitting and solid pitching once again resulted in a win as the streaking Kettleers have won ten of their last twelve including the last six in a row. Nick Hernandez of Tennessee started the game for Cotuit and was shaky through the first four innings. In the top of the first, Hernandez was touched for three hits including a two-out RBI single by third baseman Kevin Nolan (Winthrop) as the visitors jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.
The Cotuit bats picked up Hernandez in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own to erase the deficit. Center fielder Brett Jackson of Cal Berkeley led off with a walk and moved over to third base on a perfectly executed hit-and-run on a single by shortstop Michael Gilmartin. Team MVP and first baseman Kevin Patterson of Auburn knocked in Jackson with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Left fielder and clean-up man Jason Kipnis (Arizona State) continued to be productive against the Commodores with a single to advance Gilmartin and put runners on first and second with one out. Right fielder Evan Crawford of Indiana knocked home Gilmartin to put the home team up 2-1. Second baseman Dallas Poulk (NC State) capped the scoring with another RBI single to put Cotuit up 3-1 after an inning.
Hernandez gave up a leadoff ground-rule double to start the second and with two outs walked leadoff man Joey Wong (Oregon State) but retired designated hitter Trevor Coleman (Missouri) with a strikeout as he struck out the side. Hernandez let up an unearned run in the third on an throwing error to bring Falmouth back within one but retired the side without any further damage with the score 3-2.
The Kettleers once again returned the favor to the Commodores by adding two more off the bat of Kipnis. After a leadoff first pitch single by Patterson, the left fielder belted a the first offering he saw from Falmouth starter Jorge Reyes of Oregon State over the right field wall and into the trees for a 5-2 Cotuit lead after three.
Hernandez worked out of another jam in the top of the fourth but then cruised through the fifth and sixth before giving way to future NC State Wolfpack John Lambert. The Kettleers added another run in the bottom of the fourth after catcher Joey Lewis of Georgia led off with a triple to right field and was knocked in on a double by Jackson for a 6-2 lead.
Hernandez finished the afternoon with six innings pitched allowing two runs, one earned on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. Lambert struck out Wong but then walked Coleman and was replaced by Cal Berkeley’s Daniel Wolford. Wolford allowed Coleman to score on a passed ball but worked out of the rest of the seventh with the lead intact at 6-3. Wolford stayed in for the top of the eighth and was effective in retiring the side after walking the leadoff man but then induced a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Wolford. “I’ve got confidence in everyone in this pitching staff and I knew that they’d pick me up like I’d do for them.”
Stanford’s Drew Storen made things interesting in the ninth as he allowed a run on Nolan’s second RBI single of the game but sealed the win as he got right fielder Ryan Jones (Wichita State) to pop out to Jackson in center. The two clubs will get back at it again Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Guv Fuller Field in Falmouth where a win for Cotuit would end the Commodores’ season.