By Courtney Swift
August 1, 2012
The Kettleers have turned around what was once a daunting looking season. Ending June with a 5-8 record, Cotuit needed to turn things around. With a couple of additions and some key players getting on a roll, each win has been a collective team effort.
The club went 19-4 since the beginning of July with the help of many all-out team efforts. However, three Kettleers made their mark with the league so far this summer, and they were given the opportunity to showcase their talents in Harwich for the 2012 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star game.
Centerfielder Patrick Biondi (Michigan), left fielder Jacob May (Coastal Carolina), and closer Dan Slania (Notre Dame) were all named to the West’s All-Star team. Biondi started in centerfield, and May and Slania came into the game as reserves.
After a tough 2011 season with the Kettleers, Biondi bounced back in 2012, and he continues to lead the league in hitting with his .410 batting average. Brought to the Kettleers this season as a temp player, Biondi performed his way to be the West’s starting centerfielder. At the end of July, Biondi was 43-105 at the plate with five extra base hits. He also is third on the team in steals. Biondi is looking to become the first .400 hitter in the Cape League since Mark Smith of USC hit .408 in 1990.
During some downtime at the All-Star game, Biondi and May stood together by the dugout as the East took their batting practice. Both players were excited to take the field. “It’s pretty cool to be able to be here with all these great players, and it’s definitely an honor,” Biondi said. “It’s something I’ve worked towards for a while and was hoping to accomplish and it feels pretty cool to be able to be there.”
In a season where the talk has been about hitting and the home run ball, the pitchers in the 2012 All-Star game were the story of the night. Even Biondi was unable to get a hit going 0-5 with three groundouts and two fly outs.
However, the Kettleers’ other All-Star was able to help in the game. Jacob May has played in all but one game for the Kettleers this season. Even though he was named as a reserve, he may have made the most impact on the actual game.
Head coach Mike Roberts has seen the Coastal Carolina has grown as a player this season. He’s cooled off a bit heading into the last two weeks of the regular season hitting just .299. But he has six extra base hits and is second on the team with 13 steals. “He’s kind of grown up,” Roberts said of his left fielder. “He’s become more aggressive in all parts of his play.”
May entered the game in the field in the fifth, but was the game changer for the West in the eighth. May reached on a soft single to shortstop in the eighth and was part of a double steal to advance to third. May scored on a pass ball to put the west on top 1-0.
Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts wasn’t at third base to guide the left fielder on the base paths, but May wasn’t concerned. “I mean they’re really similar as far as their coaching styles go,” he said. “He [Wareham coach Cooper Farris] told me just to look for anything in the dirt, be aggressive, I’m fast. I was pretty excited when I saw that ball pass.”
The crowd was electric after seeing zeros across the board for seven straight innings. “It was awesome,” May said. “There were a lot of fans out here, even though it’s an All-Star game everyone wants to win. It’s fun to win so we were excited and wanted to take the lead some more.”
That left the game in Dan Slania’s hand. The closer has been a constant for Cotuit all season, and he was slotted to pitch the ninth in the All-Star game. Slania leads the league with his eight saves for the Kettleers this season. “Dan’s been great all year I think he definitely deserves to get to close the game down. He’s pitched great for us all year and I think he’ll continue to do that tonight.”
But the All-Star outing was a little less automatic for Slania facing off against a tough East lineup. Alex Blandino (Stanford) of YD singled in the top of the ninth to lead off the inning. Slania got the first two outs, but gave up a single to Robert Pehl (Washington) of YD to score Blandino and tie the score at one a piece. Slania then hit the next batter to put two on before striking out the last batter of the game.
The closer gave up one run on two hits with two strikeouts before the game was called in a 1-1 tie. The West’s starter Sean Manaea (Indiana State) of Hyannis spoke of his outing. He still considered him a capable closer. “Some people were saying he was like 26-26 throughout Notre Dame and here so far this year,” Manaea said. “It was just one ball that was hit kind of hard, but it’s alright. I know we faced him in San Antonio and he shut us down. He’s really good, it was just one hit.”
Fans groaned as the PA announcer announced the game’s end in a 1-1 tie. But Cotuit’s All-Stars got their moment, and fans and players got to see that the pitching is just as talented in this summer season. “It’s tough everyone wants a winner and a loser, but we’ve got to make sure we save these guys arms,” May said. “I think it really displays the kind of talent that we have in each division. It really showed that the pitchers are great, the hitters are great, it’s pretty even.”
August begins with eight games in seven days for the Kettleers. Cotuit plays at home all week, with games now beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Kettleers have already clinched a playoff spot, and need to win just two games to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.