Story by Steve McCarthy
June 27, 2009
COTUIT- Runs have been hard to come by for the Western Division leading Cotuit Kettleers, but when they gain a lead, they do not relinquish it.
In a matchup of division leaders at Lowell Park in Cotuit Saturday, the Kettleers (6-4-1) hinted at an improving offense by pounding out eight hits, but pitching and defense were the story in Cotuit’s 3-1 win against Chatham. The 9-3 Anglers still have the Cape League’s best record, but two of the losses have come against the Kettleers.
“There were some great plays behind me,” Cotuit pitcher Seth Blair credited. “They (fielders) gained a lot of confidence from me tonight, and that’s something you always want as a pitcher-to be able to trust your defense.”
Blair earned the win with four innings of scoreless relief. He was added to Cotuit’s roster earlier in the day, after his return to the Kettleers for a second season was delayed by Arizona State’s College World Series appearance.
Cotuit’s 2008 pitching MVP replaced starting pitcher Justin Grimm (Georgia) in the fifth inning, and left two Anglers stranded in scoring position in his first two-thirds of an inning. After facing one batter over the minimum through the next three innings, Blair left the bases loaded with one out in the ninth for closer Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern), who struck out the next two batters and picked up his first save of the season.
“I was definitely happy to get back out on the mound, and I threw the ball pretty well,” Blair said. “I got a little tired towards the end, but I’m glad Tillman came in and closed things out for me.”
Grimm’s perfect ERA after 11.1 innings pitched through two starts was blemished in the second inning when he gave up Chatham’s lone run on a pitch left up and in that Chatham’s Steven Brooks (Wake Forest) drilled over the left field fence.
Cotuit bounced back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. After singling and advancing to third on a double by Zach Maggard (Florida Southern), Cody Stanley scored on a sac-fly by Tony Plagman (Georgia Tech). Maggard then tested the arm of Chatham left fielder Jeff Schaus (Clemson) on a single by Jeff Rowland (Georgia Tech). The throw to the plate was in time, but Maggard managed to avoid the tag by Chatham catcher Jacob Stallings (UNC-Chapel Hill) with a head first slide.
“Coach just sent me so I just kept running hard, didn’t hesitate and just made a good slide,” Maggard said.
The Kettleers added an insurance run in the sixth. Plagman doubled and moved over to third on an errant pick-off attempt by Chatham starting pitcher Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma St.). Cory Vaughn (San Diego St.) then lined a double of his own down the left field line to easily score Plagman.
Lyons (0-1) took the loss for Chatham after all three Cotuit runs crossed during his six inning outing. He allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked two. Taylor Hill (Vanderbilt) allowed one hit and struck out three, pitching the final two innings.
Saturday’s game was the first of the season that the Kettleers did not record a stolen base. Cotuit leads the Cape League by a wide margin with 45 steals, but Lyons’ pick-off move held base runners close.
Chatham held the advantage in hits by two. They were led by leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield (South Carolina) who went 3-for-5 and had the Anglers’ only stolen base.
Maggard was the only Cotuit player with a multi hit game, going 2-for-4.
The Kettleers will finish the weekend at home Sunday with a 5 p.m. game against Hyannis for the second time in four days.