story by Steve McCarthy
August 1, 2009
BOURNE – The Cotuit Kettleers got a second chance Saturday against the Western Division leading Bourne Braves, and took full advantage of it. After Wednesday’s 13-1 loss at Doran Park opened up a three point gap between the teams, the Kettleers returned to Bourne one point behind the Braves once again, and this time took sole possession of the division lead with a 6-2 win.
The Wareham Gatemen (18-17-6) were tied with the Kettleers (19-17-5), but took just one point with a tie away from their double-header against Orleans. The Gatemen are now tied with Bourne (20-17-2).
“We just try to stick with our game plan,” Cotuit infielder/outfielder Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina) said. “Everyone’s been seeing the ball better, hitting the ball better. All around, just getting used to this good competition I guess, and starting to be more relaxed and comfortable at the plate.”
Cotuit has lost three key players in four days, but won two of three in that time. Infielder Brandon May (Alabama) signed a professional contract Wednesday with the Chicago Cubs; infielder Zack Cox (Arkansas) began rehab on an injured wrist Friday, and outfielder Cory Vaughn (San Diego St.) departed Saturday for an undisclosed reason. “Our talent is just deep down the line,” Noel said. “We lost a few guys, but we’ve got enough to fill those nine spots on the field, and just play the ball.”
Cotuit starting pitcher Justin Grimm’s (Georgia) 0-4 record coming into the game would indicate struggles on the mound, but a 3.16 ERA and 37 strikeouts tells he has simply been the unlucky one in the rotation. Grimm was dominant through 7 1/3 innings Saturday, striking out 10 without giving up a walk. He allowed five hits and one earned run. He mixed a mid-90’s fastball with a breaking ball and occasional changeup to keep hitters off balance. “I don’t really worry about my win/loss record,” Grimm said. “As long as I’m pitching well for the team, doing my best to give them a chance to win the ball game.”
Bourne designated hitter Kyle Roller (East Carolina) put the only dent in Grimm’s line in the sixth inning, when he roped a single down the right field line that was misplayed by Cotuit right fielder Kevin Keyes (Texas) and allowed two runs to score. “I think I just blew too many fastballs by him, and he finally just caught up with one,” Grimm said.
Grimm struck out the final two batters of his outing before handing the ball over to closer Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern) who struck out all five batters he faced to earn the save (5). “You know (Tillman’s) going to come in and get the job done,” Grimm said. “It’s just great to have him as a teammate coming behind you from the bullpen.”
The highlight offensively for the Kettleers was Noel’s successful steal of home with two outs in the fourth inning. Noel broke on a pitch by Bourne starting pitcher Seth Maness (East Carolina) and dove in ahead of catcher Chris Wallace’s (Houston) tag. Noel attempted the risky play once early in the season but did not score. He is the first Cotuit base runner to execute a steal of home this season. “Earlier this year I tried it, and just wasn’t comfortable doing it, and got thrown out by a lot,” Noel said. “All summer long I’ve been waiting for that chance to redeem myself.”
Noel added three singles to a pair of stolen bases. The Kettleers had 14 total hits, with just one going for extra bases. Cody Stanley (UNC-Wilmington) drove in B.J. Guinn (Cal-Berkeley) with RBI-singles in consecutive at bats. Cameron Rupp (Texas) drove in Zach Cone (Georgia) for the game’s first run with an RBI-single, and Cone had a pair of RBI-groundouts. Kevin Patterson (Auburn) went 3-for-5 with three singles and a run scored. “We just come out here and try to be aggressive,” Noel said. “We’re being more comfortable at the plate, so that’s all it leads to.”
Maness (2-1) entered the game with just 17 hits allowed in 27 1/3 innings, but allowed 12 through 5 2/3 Saturday and was responsible for all six Cotuit runs. “It’s probably one of them days for him where he didn’t have his good stuff,” Noel said. “We seen it out of his hand good, and just put good wood on it.”
The Kettleers tagged on three runs in the fourth inning with Noel’s steal, an RBI-groundout by Cone, and the first of Stanley’s singles. They made it 6-0 through their half of the sixth inning with repeat efforts by Cone and Stanley.
Bourne relievers Scott Oberg (UCONN), Cameron Roth (UNC-Wilmington), and Kevin Munson (James Madison) were effective to finish the game. Oberg allowed Cotuit’s final two hits in the seventh inning. Munson surrendered the first walk seen in the game in the ninth.
The Kettleers will play their second to last regular season home game Sunday, when they host the Orleans Firebirds at 4:30 p.m.