By: Nick Solari, Writing Intern, Quinnipiac University
August 10, 2013
COTUIT, MA – After two tightly contested wins against the mighty Falmouth lineup, Cotuit was on an emotional high. The Kettleers had defeated the powerful Commodores, who had the best offense in the Cape League all season long by way of good pitching, defense, and just enough hitting. It was a long, exhausting, emotional, yet memorable three-game series.
Most importantly, however, Mike Roberts’ club had gained momentum. Even with the rain-out a day prior, the Kettleers came out strong in Game 1 of the Western Division Championship against Bourne. Behind 13 hits and nine runs, Cotuit won their third straight playoff game and took a 1-0 series lead over the Braves by the final score of 9-2.
“We did get some two-out base hits, which is always good,” head coach Mike Roberts said after the game. “The home runs got us off to a great start. A lot of guys love playing here in front of the home fans, and this is one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in my tenure here.”
Roberts was right. The official attendance was set at 2,869 people, a season record at Lowell Park.
The Kettleers hitting, along with the attendance, were not the only stories in tonight’s game, however.
Saturday night’s pitching matchup at Lowell Park featured a very interesting plot. Bourne starter Kris Gardner (Wichita St) has been on Cape Cod for the whole summer, Cotuit starter Dalton Potts (Tennessee Martin) for only ten days. Gardner has thrown 29 innings in the CCBL; Potts only five. Surprisingly enough, it was the less experienced arm that got the best of the pitching matchup and led his team to victory.
Dalton Potts (Tennessee Martin) lasted 5.0 innings, gave up six hits, one run, and struck out three. Kris Gardner (Wichita St) was only able to work 1.1 innings, giving up four hits and five runs.
“Any time you get out of jams without allowing any runs, it gives you true optimism,” Roberts said. “He (Potts) did a really good job. For a young man who hasn’t been here for long, who I still don’t know a lot about as a pitcher, I really thought he did a nice job in the five innings he pitched.”
Potts got out of an important jam in the top of the first inning to open up the series. Leadoff hitter Mark Laird (LSU) singled to open up the game, then advanced on a passed ball that got away from catcher Garrett Stubbs (USC). The Cotuit lefty then got Tim Caputo (Rhode Island) to ground out back to the mound before surrendering another single to put runners on first and third with one out.
Moments later, just as if he flipped on a switch, Potts battled back to strike out both Clinton Freeman (East Tennessee St) and Jeff Gardner (Louisville), both of which strikeouts came on high fastballs.
In the bottom of the second, after Potts got out of another jam, the Kettleers struck for five runs in dramatic fashion. Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt) flied out to begin the inning. Then designated hitter Caleb Bryson (Samford) struck yet again, getting the Kettleers on the board with another long home run.
Bryson lifted a pitch from Gardner to the opposite field for a homerun, his fifth of the season in only 22 at-bats for Cotuit.
The Kettleers didn’t stop there, continuing to add on to the early lead. Jake Fincher (NC State) hit a bloop single to the opposite field to set up first baseman Austin Byler (Nevada), another player who was added to the roster towards the end of the season. Byler pulled another hanging pitch from Gardner over the right field fence, almost the exact same spot as the one Bryson had hit two at-bats prior. His home run made it 3-0 Cotuit early on.
“I was trying to stay calm, and get my pitch to work with,” Byler said. “Hopefully I can continue swinging the bat well tomorrow.”
Even then the Kettleers kept piling on. Logan Ratledge (NC State) walked after Byler’s long homer, then nine-hitter Stubbs singled to right field. Bourne right-fielder Mason Robbins (Southern Mississippi) made the throw to third base to try and get Ratledge, but the throw was errant and Stubbs advanced to second.
That was the day for Gardner, who lasted on 1.1 innings and was responsible for the two runners in scoring position.
“Tonight) was awesome,” Byler said. “We have great fans, and everyone was out here supporting us. We were able to get behind each other and get a big win. I thought the way we swung the bats was the key.”
The next hitter was leadoff hitter Danny Diekroeger (Stanford). He greeted reliever Josh Laxer (Mississippi) with a first pitch bunt down the first base line, and Bourne first baseman Tyler Kuresa (California Santa Barbra) made an errant thrown towards home. Both Ratledge and Stubbs scored, plating the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.
Potts then enjoyed his first 1-2-3 innings of the night in the third, getting the two, three, and four hitters in the Bourne lineup to all ground out on only 10 pitches.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Kettleers grabbed two more in an effort to put the game away prior to the halfway mark. Again Ratledge reached base, this time with a single. Stubbs was the next hitter, and on a hit and run he was forced to swing at a fastball high and away. Impressively, he was able to make solid contact and poke the ball into left field for a base hit. Ratledge rounded second and made it to third easily, and then sneaked home when the Bourne defense was caught getting the ball back to the pitcher in a lackadaisical manner.
Danny Diekroeger then doubled, driving in Stubbs to blow the lead open to 7-0.
Bourne got on the board in the top of the fifth when Caputo lined a standup triple to deep left-center and was driven in by Robbins’ second infield hit of the day.
Cotuit responded in kind. In the bottom of the sixth Bradley Zimmer lined a 94 mile-per-hour fastball from Braves lefty Brandon Bonilla (Grand Canyon University) to left-center field to drive in Ratledge, who walked earlier in the inning. Zimmer’s hit made it 8-1 Kettleers.
Bourne grabbed one more run on a Freeman triple in the seventh inning, scoring Caputo.
The Kettleers would answer back yet again, keeping the lead out of reach for Bourne. Rhett Wiseman lofted a single out into left-center to lead off the inning. Then Bryson reached on a single. An errant throw from the shortstop allowed Wiseman to advance to third, putting runners on the corners. Byler drove in Wiseman two batters later with a sac fly to deep center field, swelling the lead to 9-2 in Cotuit’s favor. It was Byler’s third RBI of the day.
The Kettleers had five players with two hits on the night: Diekroeger, Bryson, Fincher, Ratledge, and Stubbs.
All in all, the Kettleers used three pitchers out of the bullpen after Potts. John Hochstatter (Stanford) came in first, going 0.2 innings of shutout ball and striking out one. Joel Seddon (South Carolina) was next, and he went 1.1 innings, giving up two hits and a run while striking out two.
Seddon came in with two outs in the sixth and the bases load. He proceeded to get Bourne leadoff hitter Mark Laird (Louisiana St) to ground out to second to end the inning and keep the lead at 7-1 at the time.
Eric Karch (Pepperdine) went the last 2.0 innings of scoreless ball without allowing a base runner. Karch struck out one.
“We look forward to going to Bourne tomorrow and trying to win the series,” Roberts said looking forward to Sunday’s game. First pitch is at 6 p.m. at Doran Park.