By: Nick Solari, Writing Intern, Quinnipiac University
July 20, 2013
COTUIT, MA – Hunter Cole (Georgia) stepped to the plate Saturday night at Lowell Park with a runner at first, nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, and the Kettleers trailing 3-1.
Cotuit’s center fielder took three straight balls from Harwich reliever Chris Oliver (Arkansas) to work the count to 3-0. The 6’1 190-pound right-handed hitter took a deep breath, stepped into the batters box, and began glaring out towards the mound in focus. He was crouched into his athletic yet relaxed batting stance, one which he adopted merely a few weeks prior. His hands were relaxed, down in front of his chest, holding the bat every so gracefully straight up in the air.
Cole had the green-light on the 3-0 count, and took a vicious cut at a 91 mile-per-hour fastball from Oliver. Swing and a miss.
“I thought I had fouled it off,” Cole explained. “When I realized I didn’t, I looked down at coach (Roberts), and he wasn’t too happy.”
Cole glanced down towards the ground, angered at the outcome of his powerful swing. He quickly regrouped, though, and focused in for the next pitch.
“He wasn’t supposed to swing at the 3-0, I didn’t give him the green light,” Coach Roberts explained after the game. “Maybe it loosened him up for the 3-1 (pitch), though.”
Again Cole took a deep breath, stepped into the right-handed batters box and began focusing in on the pitcher. Again he bent his knees slightly in a relaxing manner, ready to pounce on the pitch.
Oliver wound from the stretch and delivered a fastball to Cole. This time the pitch was at 94 miles-per-hour, but it was in the same spot as the last he had been. Cole reacted quickly with another gigantic cut.
He lifted the ball out to deep right-center, clearing the wall by about twenty feet for a two-run homerun to tie the game at three. Cotuit was back in the game, and the crowd roared with enthusiasm.
“I just got a good pitch to hit,” Cole explained. “I was pretty excited.”
“(It was) probably the most two aggressive swings I’ve seen all year,” Coach Roberts said of the sequence of events.
Thanks to Cole’s big hit and three scoreless innings from the bullpen down the stretch, the Kettleers were able to come back and tie the game with Harwich by the final score of 3-3. The game was called due to darkness after the tenth inning.
With the tie and Wareham’s 8-3 loss to Hyannis, the Kettleers have successfully booked their trip to the 2013 Cape Cod Baseball League post-season.
Though they ultimately tied, Cotuit didn’t necessarily get off to the start they were hoping for. Inability to cash in on early scoring chances were a large part of that problem.
The Kettleers got the leadoff runner on base but failed to score in each of the first three innings.
Danny Diekroeger (Stanford) and Jake Fincher (NC State) both singled to begin things in the top half of the first before Mark Payton (Texas) flew out to left field and the cleanup hitter Cole (Georgia) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second the speedy Rhett Wiseman dragged a bunt down the first base side and reached safely to lead off the inning. Kevin Bradley (Clemson) struck out swinging, Austin Byler (Nevada) grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Nolan Clark (Concordia) struck out swinging in order to end the inning.
Galli Cribbs Jr. (Clarendon) then led off the third inning with a base hit into right field. Diekroeger then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, and Fincher flew out to centerfield, ending yet another inning scoreless after getting the leadoff runner on.
Patrick Corbett (Coastal Carolina) exited the game after four-plus innings of work. He gave up three hits, walked two, and struck out one before being replaced by Eric Karch (Pepperdine) after walking the leadoff hitter to start the fifth.
With the inherited runner on first Karch hit Harwich nine-hitter Tanner English (South Carolina) with a pitch, then gave up a double to deep center field off of the bat of Gunnar Heidt (College of Charleston). Heidt drove in both Mitch Morales (Florida Atlantic) and English to make it 2-0.
Karch then loaded the bases by walking one Mariner and hitting one with a pitch. With two outs in the inning he gave up a free-pass to Brendon Hayden (Virginia Tech) to plate another Harwich run, making it 3-0.
The Kettleers got on the board in the bottom half of the seventh, when Wiseman lifted a 84 mile-per-hour changeup over the right field fence for a solo homerun to cut the lead to 3-1.
It was Wiseman’s second homerun of the season. He was 2-for-5 on the day he was selected to the All-Star game next Saturday.
Nolan Clark then led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a triple. He lined a ball to center field that was misplayed by English, and was able to just get into third safely standing up.
Cribbs Jr. popped out behind third base, Hayden made a sliding stop at first and tagged the bag for out number two, and Fincher grounded out to shortstop to end the threat without scoring Clark, yet another missed opportunity for Cotuit.
Cotuit’s bullpen, meanwhile, got stronger as the game went on. David Schmidt (Stanford), Brian Miller (Vanderbilt), and Alex Haines (Seton Hill) combined to throw three shutout innings to end the night.
“The bullpen was outstanding,” Roberts said after the game. “I’d rather not use five pitchers, but they did a nice job of keeping us in the game.”
That set up the ninth-inning rally. Cole homered. Then later in the inning Diekroeger grounded out to the pitcher with the bases loaded to send the game into extras.
Both team’s were held scoreless before the game was called due to darkness.
With the tie the Kettleers move to 18-13-1 on the season. They travel to Y-D tomorrow to face the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.