by Sean Bailey, Writing Intern, Providence College
August 6, 2013
(Kettle Talk with Alexa Galloway PREGAME and POSTGAME)
(Video Highlights by Connor Sullivan HERE)
(Greg Mroz recaps Falmouth’s 6-5 Game 1 win with Commodores writer/field reporter Meredith Perri in a RECAP PODCAST)
FALMOUTH – Last Friday the Cotuit Kettleers visited the Falmouth Commodores in search of a Western Division title. The game ended in heartbreak for the Kettleers, with Cotuit blowing a 5-1 lead, eventually losing 9-5. Tuesday the Kettleers visited their foes for game one of the playoffs and it was an eerie déjà vu for Cotuit and their fans, as the Kettleers blew another 5-1 lead late, falling to Falmouth 6-5.
The main story of both collapses was errors. Friday a couple of errors prolonged innings, creating more opportunities for Falmouth. And again, on Tuesday errors would be the Achilles heel for the Kettleers again, as they committed three on the day.
“Your pitching is only as good as your defense,” said Manager Mike Roberts following the game. “We have really struggled defensively. I told the guys this morning that the team who played the best defense will win. Falmouth played the best defense and they won.”
The Kettleers were able to draw first blood, grabbing two runs in the top of the second. Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt) led off with a hard hit ball to second that snuck by the second basemen. Wiseman was hustling from the box though, and got into second standing up. After a pop out, Garrett Stubbs (Southern California) hit a single between first and second scoring Wiseman from second, for the first run of the playoffs. Logan Ratledge (NC State) knocked a single into right to move Stubbs to second. A pop out to third drew two outs on the inning. But that did not faze Jake Fincher (NC State) who dropped a single into right field scoring Stubbs, and giving Cotuit a 2-0 lead.
Cotuit did a great job minimizing damage in the fourth. Dylan Davis (Oregon State) led off with a ripped line drive up the middle. Eric Karch (Pepperdine) did well to strike out Kevin Cron (TCU) on a curve in the dirt. Then Troy Stein (Texas A&M) smacked a single between third and short. Connor Hale (State College of Florida) hit a hard grounder that bounced underneath the first basemen scoring Davis from second, and moving Stein to third with one out. Karch evaded further trouble by forcing a shallow fly out to left, then a fly out to center to end the inning and preserve a lead.
This was vital, as Cotuit would expand their lead in the top of the fifth. Mark Payton (Texas) hit a blooper that just fell under the sliding left fielder for a single. Hunter Cole (Georgia) smacked a hard grounder down the third base line for a double that rolled far enough to score Payton. That brought up Danny Diekeroger (Stanford) who took a fastball and gave it a ride to straight away center, his third homer in three games, giving Cotuit a 5-1 lead.
“We had some really good swings out there today,” said pitcher Jared Walsh (Georgia).
In the bottom of the fifth the Commodores would put together a menacing looking rally. Cotuit would utilize three pitchers to shimmy out of losing the lead. Kevin Newman (University of Arizona) led off with a walk, stole second, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Rhys Hoskins (Sacramento State) displayed his strength as he took an off balanced swing on a curve ball, yet he still managed to flick the ball deep to center over Cole’s head for a ground rule double. Casey Gillaspie (Witchita State) was brushed by a pitch; then Davis drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Walsh was called in and did a tremendous job. The ERA leader struck out Cron on a big curve. A passed ball brought home the third Falmouth run of the game, and moved the tying runs into scoring position. Walsh made the next Commodore look foolish on an off speed pitch low and inside, handcuffing the hitter. He then forced a shallow fly to left that Wiseman was able to run down to preserve the 5-3 Kettleers lead.
“I just tried to keep the ball down,” said Walsh, “They have probably the best hitting team in the league.”
Falmouth further sliced the lead in the seventh. Davis hit a one out single into right. A fly out to right set the Commodores to two outs. Stein then hit a single into left center. Cole’s throw was cut off and they caught Stein in a run down between first and second. Davis then broke for home, and the throw to the plate was wide, allowing Davis to score and Stein to make it to third. Walsh would buckle down and induce a fly out to center to end the inning.
But all the jams Cotuit had been escaping caught up to them in the home half of the eighth. Leon Byrd Jr (Rice) hit a one out single up the middle. Newman drew a walk to put runners at first and second. Hoskins then drove a Walsh offering to deep right center for a bases clearing double, scoring two and giving the Commodores a 6-5 lead.
“Obviously I had to execute pitches tonight,” said Walsh. “I left some up and they made me pay.”
It was a lead the Commodores would not relinquish. Cotuit never quit though and posed a threat in the top of the ninth. Austin Byler (Nevada) led off the inning with a blooper to left. After a bunt foul for a strikeout, Payton drew a walk. Falmouth would set down the next two Kettleers to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series.
“What I am looking for the most is how competitive are we tomorrow (Wednesday).” said Roberts, “There are a lot of summer league teams who get beat in the first game of a best of three, and some people say they are ready to go home and some are ready to come out and play.”
Cotuit faces elimination Wednesday in game two of the playoff first round against the Commodores at Lowell Park. First pitch is 4 p.m.