story by Steve McCarthy
July 13, 2009
COTUIT – It had been so long since the Cotuit Kettleers and the Wareham Gatemen were able to play a game between thunderstorms that Monday’s doubleheader did not want to end.
A night after witnessing a two run no-hitter by Cotuit’s Chad Bell in Chatham, Kettleers supporters walked away from Lowell Park with another story to tell, this time of a pair of afternoon games both ending in 3-3 ties.
The first game, starting at 2:30 p.m. went into extra innings, but was called by league officials after nine innings to ensure that the second game could be played before darkness fell.
The second game was about to be extended as well. Cotuit reliever Mike Nesseth (Nebraska) was taking his warm-up pitches after the umpires declared the teams would play on despite limited sunlight, but they thought better of the situation and sent each of the teams home with two points earned on the afternoon.
“Pretty bizarre,” Cotuit manager Mike Roberts described.
The result of the two games was not the only bizarre occurrence of the day. The Gatemen broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning of the second game when George Springer (UConn) hit what appeared to be a catchable fly ball to Cotuit right fielder Zach Cone (Georgia), but as Cone lunged at the ball near the fence, the ball bounced off of the palm of his glove and into the Wareham bullpen behind him for a two run home run.
“I’ll take it,” Springer said with a laugh. “I saw him hit the fence and that’s about it.”
Game one began with submariner Ben Rowen taking the mound for Cotuit. It was Rowen’s first start, while leading the team with 11 relief appearances.
Rowen and Wareham starter Jack Armstrong (Vanderbilt) matched each other through six innings. Both gave up all three of their opponent’s runs. Armstrong’s seven hits allowed was one more than Rowen surrendered, but Armstrong ran away with the strikeout total 8-1.
Cotuit jumped out to a 2-0 lead when Cone was allowed to score from third in the first inning on a balk by Armstrong, and a squeeze bunt by Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina) plated Cory Vaughn (San Diego St.) in the third.
A sac-fly and two RBI doubles gave Wareham three runs in the fourth inning to take the lead. Vaughn then scored the tying run in the fifth inning on an RBI-single by Cone.
Cotuit’s Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern) and Wareham’s Dean Kiekhefer (Louisville) both pitched three innings of scoreless relief, and each struck out four batters. Kiekhefer allowed one hit, to Tillman’s two. Neither walked a batter.
“They got (strikeouts) when they needed them,” Roberts said.
All of the second game’s runs also came during the early innings. Cotuit’s Craig Fritsch (Baylor) allowed two earned runs in four and one-third innings and struck out six. He also walked a batter and surrendered the only three hits Wareham could manage in the game.
Cole Green (Texas) lasted three and two thirds innings after allowing all three earned runs in the third inning and before he could record the fourth inning’s final out. He allowed five hits, struck out three and walked two.
This time Wareham took the game’s first lead, when an RBI-single by Jake Lemmerman (Duke) scored Springer from second.
Cone’s sac-fly deep to center field allowed Vaughn to score from third with ease and tie the game 1-1 in the third.
Springer’s good fortune gave Wareham their two-run fourth inning before the Kettleers came up and manufactured two of their own on an RBI-double by Cody Stanley (UNC-Wilmington) and an infield grounder by Chris Bisson (Kentucky) that gave Wareham first baseman Brett Eibner (Arkansas) difficulty and allowed Bisson to reach safely and Stanley to score from second.
Nesseth forced the final five outs of the game without allowing a hit. He walked two and hit a batter. Josh Slaats (Hawaii), Keith Bilodeau (Maine), and Scott Rembisz (Florida International) combined to finish the game in relief for Wareham.
“I told the players after the game that I appreciate their effort,” Roberts said. “Neither team probably played extremely well – a lot of strikeouts, but pitching dominates this league.”