By Mike Walsh
Kettleers Media Intern
July 27, 2012
The last time the Cotuit Kettleers bus pulled out of McKeon Park, championship banner 16 could not have appeared farther away.
The Kettleers received a 14-3 beating at the hands of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks just one night after Independence Day. It dropped Cotuit to 8-10 on the season. The visitors committed three errors in the field and allowed Hyannis to cross home plate in all but one inning.
It was a totally and completely demoralizing defeat. The kind of defeat that can signal for the boxer’s towel to be thrown in. The kind of defeat that brings about divergent paths with which a team can choose to travel.
Then, with a fork seemingly implanted in their back, a resiliency showed in the Kettleers. A defiance of being defeated. The Hyannis game was a loss, sure. However, it didn’t have to be a harbinger of things to come. That blowout triggered something on this team. It ignited a flame that has been stoked with win after win into the roaring blaze that now takes the field every evening.
A return home to Lowell Park proved to change the tides of the season the very next day. Newcomer Daniel Aldrich took control of the offense with a home run and three RBI in a 7-4 victory over the first place Y-D Red Sox. His arrival kick-started a run of seven straight wins before they stumbled in back-to-back games at home.
That proved to be nothing but a minor hiccup, though. The Kettleers have since reeled off another six straight wins heading into tonight’s game at Hyannis. That’s right, tonight Cotuit returns to the scene of their last failure.
Tonight also marks the final game before the All-Star Game. All the Kettleers not named Biondi, May or Slania will get a one-day reprieve before the next grueling stretch.
Doing anything for 10 straight days is a chore. Every time I go for a run, I tell myself “We are doing that every day.” Still, four days later I’m microwaving a big bag of popcorn. I can hardly make it to work Monday-Friday without needing a breather. 10 straight days, think about that.
Because that is what the Kettleers will be forced to go through to finish out the 2012 regular season. They will return to action following the All-Star Game on Saturday and play every night from July 29th through August seventh. Then there will be an off-day before the playoffs start and the quest for 16 really begins. Can the Kettleers withstand that grind and carry this momentum into the postseason?
Still there is a concern. It is unclear how much longer coach Mike Roberts can keep this magic coming. There are holes in the lineup and the pitching staff created by injuries and departed players, yet Roberts keeps patching the leaks and the Kettleers keep right on winning.
Our question may have already been answered over the past month. Nobody in the Cape Cod Baseball League has dealt with this type of stretch better than the Cotuit Kettleers. Thanks to rain-outs and postponements, this team has gone through multiple lengthy stretches of playing every day. Yet they have not folded under the weight of exhaustion and monotony. Unlike the team that once towered over them in first place, Falmouth, the Kettleers have gotten stronger as the summer has worn on.
The Commodores recently lost eight straight and plummeted to third place. Contrarily, Cotuit has risen from a sub-.500 team to the juggernaut of the Western Division. The residents of Lowell Park now sit a comfortable six games ahead of second place Wareham with 11 to play.
As the days wear on, the Kettleers are inching closer and closer to that all-important No. 1 seed. With a 10 day stretch staring them right in the face, there is little room for error. They have worked so hard to get into a good position for the playoffs, faltering now would be devastating.
The No. 1 seed in the Western Division is in sight. The answer is as simple as it could be; just keep winning. In the face of a 10 day stretch, their magic number is now five.
Tonight, Cotuit heads east to Hyannis. The last time the Kettleers saw McKeon Park things were far less cheery. This time they go in in a position of strength.
This is no longer a team fighting to remain in the conversation. Winning 13 of their last 15 has made Cotuit the conversation.