story by Steve McCarthy
August 2, 2009
COTUIT – The Cotuit Kettleers negated a three run deficit and pulled away for a 7-4 win Sunday against the Orleans Firebirds. The win clinched a playoff berth for the Kettleers, assisted by a Yarmouth-Dennis win against Brewster. Four days remain in the regular season to set the playoff picture, but the Kettleers will at least earn a Wild Card spot.
“Getting down 3-0 early, and then battling back shows what kind of team we have,” Cotuit catcher/designated hitter Cameron Rupp said. “We’re never going to quit, and we’re going to go after it as many innings as we get in every night.”
Cotuit’s Zach Cone (Georgia) tied the game in the fifth inning with one swing of the bat, drilling a first pitch fastball from Orleans starting pitcher Jimmy Reyes (Elon) into right-center field for a double that emptied the loaded bases. “I always think first pitch,” Cone said. “Whatever came across I was swinging.”
Rupp sent a towering shot off Reyes into the trees behind the left field fence in the following inning to put the Kettleers on top 4-3. It was Rupp’s second home run in three games. “He had good sink to his fastball, good sink to his changeup,” Rupp said. “He kind of left a breaking ball over the plate and I went out and got it.”
The Firebirds tied the game in the seventh inning when Jaren Matthews (Rutgers) stole third and scored on the errant throw down by Cotuit catcher Cody Stanley (UNC-Wilmington).
Cotuit resorted to small ball in the home half of the inning and manufactured three runs, before closer Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern) left the Firebirds final at bat due to darkness unscathed. Tillman left runners on first and third to earn his fifth save.
With Cotuit runners on first and third, Orleans pulled in right fielder Jeremy Gould (Duke) to cover first base and give the Firebirds five infielders to prevent a squeeze bunt. Cone then got caught in a rundown between first and second, and Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina) faked a break toward the plate from third to draw a throw. Noel slid safely back to third, and Cone into second. The call brought Orleans manager Kelly Nicholson out to argue and an eventual ejection.
After the dust settled, Stanley executed the squeeze bunt the Kettleers were looking for to bring in Noel. Cone scored on a sac-fly by Tony Plagman (Georgia Tech), and Rupp sent an RBI-double down the left field line to drive in Stanley. Orleans reliever Brock Stassi (Nevada) was charged with the three earned runs in the inning.
The Firebirds built the early lead with their own version of small ball. Three infield base hits, a bunt single, and a sac-bunt moved runners around the bases. Seven base hits off Cotuit starting pitcher Chad Bell in the first four and one-third innings produced runs in the first, fourth, and fifth innings. Just two of the runs were earned. “That happens sometimes,” Cotuit manager Mike Roberts said. “I’ll take ground balls, and (Bell) got a lot of ground balls. They played the small game pretty well.”
Kevin Muno (San Diego) scored the first run as a fielding error by Cotuit third baseman Kevin Patterson allowed him to score from third. Gould scored on a fielder’s choice in the fourth, and Muno’s safety squeeze bunt brought in Matthews from third in the fifth inning.
Bell attempted to continue pitching after getting drilled in the leg by a line drive, but was relieved shortly after by Ben Rowen (Virginia Tech). Rowen (4-1) took the game to the eighth inning and earned the win. He allowed Orleans’ final run, but did not surrender a hit. Reyes fell to 3-3 with the loss. “Considering that (Bell) got hit, I thought he did a fantastic job,” Roberts said.
Before the start of the game, the host families of Cotuit’s players lined the left field line and received an appreciative round of applause, as well as a team autographed photo.
The Kettleers have a scheduled off day Monday. Their final two regular season games – Tuesday at Yarmouth Dennis, and Wednesday at Lowell Park against Brewster will begin at 4:30 p.m.