story by Steve McCarthy
July 26, 2009
FALMOUTH – Falmouth’s Todd Cunningham (Jacksonville St.) lined a two out base hit with the bases loaded just out of the reach of Cotuit shortstop Brandon May to give the Commodores a 4-3 walk-off win Sunday at Guv Fuller Field. The Cape League’s batting leader worked a 3-1 count against Cotuit reliever Mike Nesseth before driving his second hit of the night. The Commodores used three walks and a pair of sacrifices to load the bases for Cunningham, who entered the game batting .393.
“That’s what you want is to get back to the top of the order,” Cunningham said. “That’s usually where you want it to be in the end of the game, and it worked out for us tonight.”
Cotuit rallied in the eighth inning to tie the game 3-3, but Nesseth struggled with command in his second inning of work. The Nebraska junior fell to 0-3 with the loss. He forced the final two outs of the eighth inning before struggling to find the strike zone. One of the walks was intentional.
“That’s the key to hitting, is laying off the bad stuff and hitting the good stuff,” Cunningham said.
The loss left the Kettleers (15-16-5) with more ground to make up in the final weeks to catch the Bourne Braves (18-13-2), who sit in second place in the Western Division, one point behind the Wareham Gatemen, who lost to Bourne 8-0 on Sunday. Falmouth (14-19-1) trails Cotuit by six points in fourth place.
“We’ve got a lot of great kids,” Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy said. “But nobody works harder than (Cunningham). I don’t think there’s a guy on the team that would say differently. So for him to be in that situation and to come through, it was pleasing.”
Mark Pope (Georgia Tech) earned the win for Falmouth, pitching a scoreless ninth inning. After Cotuit’s Zach Cone reached on an error, Falmouth first baseman Hunter Morris (Auburn) snagged a line drive off the bat of Tony Plagman and doubled up Cone. Jeff Rowland (Georgia Tech) then flied out to left to end the Kettleers’ final at-bat.
Both teams struggled for hits against dominant starting pitchers. Cotuit finished with seven hits, while Falmouth had five. Cotuit’s Chad Bell (Walters St. JC) kept Falmouth batters off balance through the first six and two thirds innings. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and struck out 10. He carried a one-hitter until the Commodores tacked on two singles in the seventh inning.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Cunningham said. “He has that off-speed pitch that nobody could really touch, and it was working for him tonight.”
Bell was opposed by Nick Tepesch (Missouri), who overcame a pair of second inning Cotuit runs (1 earned) to cruise through six innings. After the two runs scored on Tony Plagman’s double to the center field fence, Tepesch struck out six batters in a row. He fanned eight total and allowed four hits.
“Nick struggled a little bit early in the summer,” Trundy said, “But his last three starts have been very, very strong. I think he’s really gained confidence each time out.”
Falmouth responded in the third inning with a two run frame of their own. John Nester (Clemson) scored from first on Cunningham’s RBI-double. Cunningham then came in on a fielding error by Cotuit second baseman Chris Bisson (Kentucky).
The teams battled through the uneventful middle innings, before the Commodores took their first lead in the seventh inning when Chris O’Brien (Wichita St.) led off with a single and advanced on a B.A. Vollmuth (Southern Miss.) sac-bunt, before being driven home by an RBI-single by Matt Skole (Georgia Tech.)
Cotuit’s leadoff hitter, Bisson, legged out a triple in the next inning and easily scored on a check swing infield single by Zack Cox (Arkansas) to tie the game 3-3.
Patrick Cooper (Des Moines CC) made his team leading 14th relief appearance and worked the two middle innings to set up Pope. He allowed Cotuit’s third run on two hits, along with a strikeout and a walk.
Ben Rowen (Virginia Tech) leads Cotuit with the same number of appearances and was asked to record just two outs before Nesseth entered.