story by Steve McCarthy
July 3, 2010
HYANNIS – Progress has been the theme of the start of July for the Cotuit Kettleers, and at no time has that been more evident than during Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.
Crafty Arizona State University southpaw starting pitcher Josh Spence (1-0, .90 ERA) set the tone at McKeon Park, tossing five innings of one-hit ball. Five innings doubled Spence’s total through his first two starts this summer and is five more than he was able to pitch all spring for the Sun Devils due to an elbow injury.
Twenty-two year-old Australia native Spence redshirted what would have been his senior season after turning down a third-round offer from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009. Despite his injury, Spence was selected in the ninth round of this year’s MLB draft by the San Diego Padres.
“Unfortunately, my scenario is a little unique compared to other players,” Spence said. “I’m just in a rehabilitation process right now, and the team has been great. To have an outing like that, the next thing I have to do is build off it. It’s in the past, I just lived in the moment, and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Spence struck out four and walked two, while being held to a 70 pitch limit at this point in his recovery. He bore down to exit the fourth inning unscathed, leaving Hyannis baserunners on second and third.
“The big thing for me is pitch count,” Spence said. “I got to the pitch count and fortunately I went a little bit further this time than usual.”
Deven Marrero’s (Arizona St.) solo home run in the fourth inning proved not to be enough for Cotuit to get the win. But Zach Cone’s (Georgia) two-out, two-run line drive single through the left side of the infield in the fifth was.
“I was trying to hit a home run. I’m not going to lie,” Cone said. “I rolled over and got lucky.”
Cone, who is making his final few starts for Cotuit before leaving to compete for a spot on Team USA, returned to Cape Cod for a second summer to tune up for the Trials. But Cone had just two hits through his first six games and drove in one run. He has four hits and three RBIs in his last three games, along with three runs scored.
Cone is a threat to reach base every time he steps in the batter’s box out of the ninth spot in Cotuit’s order, which has benefited Kettleers RBI leader and leadoff hitter C.J. Cron (Utah). Cron is tied for third in the Cape League with 10 RBIs.
“I kind of like (the ninth spot),” Cone said. “One less at-bat a game, but it’s fun. You see a lot more fastballs.”
During the last week of June, Cotuit lost three 3-2 games on walk-off hits after leading each game 2-0. The first two games of July, the Kettleers bullpen has allowed one run through seven and two-thirds innings of work.
Cotuit’s most consistent reliever, right-hander A.J. Achter (Michigan St.), followed Brady Rodgers’ (Arizona St.) win in relief on Friday with a four-inning save Saturday. Hyannis’ lone run came in the ninth inning on a home run by Dan Sheppard (Iowa).
“It’s not about how you start. It’s how you finish,” Spence said. “We’ve got something good going, and we’re just going to try to build off that momentum.”
In the end, the Kettleers continued something Saturday night that they failed to experience through the entire first month of the season: A winning streak. With three-straight wins to their name, Cotuit (7-10-1) moved to within one point of third place Hyannis in the Western Division standings and three points behind Falmouth. The Kettleers and Commodores will meet the next two evenings.
“It’s funny to say it, but the biggest winning streak of the summer is here,” Spence said. “Let’s see if we can build off it.”