By: Sean Bailey, Writing Intern, Providence College
August 8, 2013
(Kettle Talk with Alexa Galloway PREGAME and POSTGAME)
(Video Highlights by Connor Sullivan HERE)
(Greg Mroz talks with Falmouth writer Meredith Perri in a Cape Cod Baseball League PLAYOFF RECAP POD)
(Audio Highlights of Game 3 by Seth Bernstein HERE)
FALMOUTH – How else could a playoff matchup between the Cotuit Kettleers and the Falmouth Commodores end? The season series was split at three games apiece. The first two playoff contests were split, both nail biters. How else could this series have ended than another thrilling game in the decisive game three? This time Cotuit emerged on top, taking the sensational game 5-2, and stunning the Commodores.
Just Tuesday the Kettleers were left for dead. Cotuit had blown a 5-1 lead late at Falmouth, the second straight loss in which they had given up a late inning lead in Falmouth. Manager Mike Roberts was left questioning what kind of competitive spirit would emerge from the team after the first game. Any doubts were quickly assuaged, as Cotuit played comeback against the Commodores in game two before escaping with an extra innings walk off.
In game three Cotuit would be keyed by pitching. Christian Cecilio (University of San Francisco) tossed six superb innings, saving perhaps his best start of the season for easily the most important game of the season. He only allowed two runs, all in the first inning, struck out five and allowed only one walk.
“Christian is one of the more focused young men,” said Roberts. “He certainly doesn’t blow people away with his fastball and his stuff. He locates very well. I looked at his stats and saw how few walks he had this year. So I knew they were going to have to hit the ball off him.”
Wesley Cox (Texas San Antonio) was the winning pitcher in game two, and brought that same intensity to the mound in game three. He pitched in and out of jams, hurling three scoreless innings.
“I didn’t even know who he (Cox) was ten days ago,” laughed Roberts after the game. “I like the look in his eyes. This guy has a look in his eyes that says he is going to get people out. I had a lot of comfort with Wes.”
Falmouth jumped out of the gates on the Kettleers quickly. Leon Byrd (Rice) led off with an infield single to the hole at shortstop. Cecilio worked Kevin Newman (University of Arizona) for a strikeout, then was able to pick off Byrd at first. But he was not done with the inning. Rhys Hoskins (Sacramento State) took a swing, falling on his front foot, but was still able to lift the ball deep to the left center gap for a double. Casey Gillaspie (Witchita State) followed with a golf shot over the left field fence for a quick 2-0 lead for Falmouth.
Cotuit answered the next half inning. Mark Payton (Texas) went fishing on a pitch in the dirt for a strikeout, but the ball booted away from the catcher allowing Payton to scamper to first. That brought up Hunter Cole (Georgia), who hit a shot into right center, which the center fielder could not cut off, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Cole strolled into second and Payton came home for the Kettleers first run. The Kettleers grabbed the lead in the fourth, utilizing a small ball approach. This would be a lead the Kettleers did not relinquish.
Drew Jackson (Stanford) led off with a walk. Then Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt) dropped a bunt in front of he mound that he was able to leg out for a single. Payton plopped a bunt perfectly down the third baseline for a single to load the bases. Cole drew a walk to bring in a run and tie the game at two. Then Austin Byler (Nevada) lifted a deep fly to center to score the go ahead run.
“We are a small ball team, and they are a long ball team,” said Roberts, “We struggled executing small ball at times, but tonight I just went back to what I know best as a coach and the players know my philosophy.”
Cecilio and the Kettleers averted disaster in the bottom of the fourth. Hoskins led off the inning with a hard hit single up the middle. Gillaspie followed with a bouncer to short, bouncing under the glove. Hoskins never stopped and hustled into third on the hit, setting runners on the corners with no outs. Cecilio struck out Dylan Davis (Oregon State) on an outside off speed pitch. Then he induced a grounder to Logan Ratledge (NC State) at second, who then flipped to second to Jackson, who snared the toss bare hand and fired to first for a crucial double play, preserving Cotuit’s slim 3-2 lead.
“I had the same focus as usual today,” said Cecilio, “I wanted to keep my team in the ball game, throw strikes, and let the defense work.”
Cotuit narrowly evaded surrendering their lead in the seventh. Gillaspie led off with a walk. That is when Cox was called in to relieve Cecilio, his second day of work in a row. Cox got Davis to fly out to right. Kevin Cron (TCU) smacked a ball back to the mound, which Cox batted down and retrieved for the out at first. Troy Stein (Texas A&M) worked a two out walk setting runners at first and second. Cox escaped though, inducing a grounder to third to end the inning.
The Kettleers would tack on another run in the next half inning. Zimmer led off with a shot over the center fielder’s head for a double. Jackson placed a bunt down the first base line to sacrifice Zimmer to third. Then Wiseman brought him home on a safety squeeze play, rolling a bunt down the first base line. This brought the score to 4-2.
Cotuit danced with danger again in the eighth. Cameron O’Brien (Northwest Texas Community College) collected a pinch-hit single up the middle. Cox forced Byrd to fly to left. Then Newman bounced a high single up the middle to put runners on first and second with only one out. Cox delivered in the clutch again though. He struck out Hoskins with a fastball that painted the outer half. Then he got Gillaspie to fly out to left, the first time the burly designated hitter did not reach base on the game, to end the inning.
The Kettleers added another run in the ninth. Cole led off with a bloop single into center. Byler struck out on high heat, but Cole was able to swipe second on the play. After another strikeout, Garrett Stubbs (Southern California) stepped up again. Stubbs, the hero from game two, poked a single into center to score Cole from second and cushion Cotuit’s lead to 5-2.
Cox stayed out for the ninth inning. He struck out the first batter with a high fastball. He allowed a single to center to Cron. But he stranded Cron, forcing a pop out to second, and a fly out to right to end the game.
“I asked him in the ninth what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to pitch so I told him it is your game.” said Roberts.
The Kettleers advance to the Western Division Finals with the victory. The Bourne Braves, who upset the top seeded Hyannis Harbor Hawks, await them. The game will be at Lowell Park at 4 p.m. on Saturday.