by Nick Solari, Quinnipiac University
August 7, 2013
(Audio Highlights with Greg Mroz and Seth Bernstein HERE)
(Kettle Talk with Alexa Galloway PREGAME and POSTGAME)
(Video Highlights by Connor Sullivan HERE)
(Greg Mroz with Austin Byler in KETTLEERS AUDIO EXTRA)
(Greg Mroz talks with Falmouth writer Meredith Perri in a Cape Cod Baseball League PLAYOFF RECAP PODCAST)
COTUIT – After the Game 1 loss in Falmouth last night, Kettleers head coach Mike Roberts wondered if his team had what it takes to bounce back only a day later. Cotuit had its back against the wall, and a win was necessary to continue playing in the 2013 Cape League season.
The Kettleers came back from two deficits over the course of the night, got strong pitching out of the bullpen, then Garrett Stubbs hit a walk off single in the bottom of the tenth inning to tie the first-round series with the Commodores at one game each. A decisive game three is set for tomorrow night in Falmouth, and Roberts knows now just how much fight his club has.
“I think it’s incredible resiliency considering what happened last night,” Roberts said. “Today we got down 3-0 early, but the guys still fought and that was great. They (Falmouth) are usually the team who gets the long ball, but we got a few key ones down the stretch tonight. It was just a great win.”
Perhaps the only way to describe Game 2 would be that of a roller coaster. There were ups, there were downs, but ultimately the Kettleers came out on top.
Kettleers center fielder Hunter Cole (Georgia) got things started in the tenth with a one out single on the ground into left field. Austin Byler (Nevada) then singled, moving the game-winning run to second base. After Logan Ratledge (NC State) struck out swing for out number two, one of the newest members of the roster stepped to the plate at Lowell Park.
It was Garrett Stubbs (USC), the left-handed hitting catcher whom the Kettleers had picked up only a few days prior. Stubbs spent most of his summer playing in the NECBL, but now he was on center stage in the country’s most prominent collegiate league.
Stubbs took a vicious cut at the first pitch from Falmouth reliever Jared Price (Maryland), but fouled it to the backstop screen.
“First pitch I knew he was going to try and blow one by me, and I didn’t have any time to wait around like usual,” Stubbs explained. “I fouled the fastball off, but I felt good about it.”
The next two pitches were breaking balls, one in for a strike and one up and away for ball two.
“At that point with a 2-1 count I was ready for another fastball, and I jumped on it,” Stubbs said.
In only his fourth game with Cotuit, Stubbs struck the ball hard on the ground towards the hole between first and second base. Falmouth first baseman Casey Gillaspie (Wichita St) couldn’t get to it, and the ball went in to right field. Hunter Cole scored, and Cotuit piled behind second base to celebrate the win. The jam-packed crowed on the third base side stands at Lowell Park roared in celebration. Stubbs’ single was the first walk-off hit for the Kettleers since Alex Yarbrough’s (Ole Miss) in July 2011.
“I was really pleased Stubbs could give us that hit,” Roberts said with a grin after the game. “First walk-off of the 2013 season, and it probably couldn’t have come at a better time.”
There were a series of early scoring chances in the first three innings, but neither team was able to get on the board.
Kettleers starting pitcher Evan Beal (South Carolina) got out of an early jam in the top of the first inning. After Falmouth’s speedy leadoff hitter Leon Byrd Jr. (Rice) got on with a double to begin the game, Beal was forced to work through the thick of the dangerous Commodores lineup.
Beal proceeded to get Cape-League batting champ Kevin Newman (Arizona) to ground out to short, league RBI leader Rhys Hoskins (Sacramento St) to pop out to short, and the CCBL home run leader Gillaspie to line out to first.
In the bottom of the second, it was the Kettleers who were knocking on the door. Shortstop Drew Jackson (Stanford) reached on an error and center fielder Hunter Cole (Georgia) singled to begin the inning. Falmouth starter John Means retired two straight batters without the runners advancing, before Nolan Clark (Concordia) singled to left to load the bases with two outs.
Leadoff batter Danny Diekroeger (Stanford) was next. Diekroeger was hit by a pitch, but the home plate umpire ruled that the third baseman leaned into the pitch. The runners were not able to advance, Diekroeger was given a strike, and he ended up grounding out to second base to end the inning to keep the game at 0-0.
In the top of the third Falmouth got runners on first and second with two outs, but Nolan Clark gunned down Byrd Jr. trying to steal third to end the inning.
Wiseman hit a two-out single in the bottom half of the inning, but was stranded as well. Back and forth the two teams went, reaching base but not being able to cash in on scoring chances.
In the top of the fourth, Falmouth didn’t miss their chance. Beal walked Gillaspie, then Dylan Davis (Oregon St) singled to begin the inning, setting up a first and second opportunity with nobody out for Kevin Cron (TCU).
Cron, the 6’6” 245 lbs. designated hitter, jumped a first pitch changeup from Beal and launched it into deep left field for a three-run homerun. It was just the latest example of just how quickly the league’s best offense could erupt.
It was the only blemish of the day for Beal, who went 5.0 innings on the night.
The Kettleers wouldn’t go silently into the night, though. After Beal and reliever Bryan Miller (Vanderbilt) held Falmouth off the board in the fifth and sixth respectively, Wiseman belted a first pitch homerun to deep right field to lead things off in the bottom of the sixth. The Kettleers regular season Offensive MVP had done it again, cutting the lead to 3-1 and changing the momentum of the game.
Jackson was next. Following the home run that brought the crowd to their feet Cotuit’s shortstop singled, bringing the tying run to the plate. Cole was the next hitter. He threatened to tie the game, but flied out to deep center field.
Byler then came up with one out, and belted his first home run of the season over the right field fence. The game was tied at three.
It wasn’t tied for long, however, before Falmouth jumped back on top. With one out in the seventh the Commodores nine-hitter Joseph Maggi (Arizona) grounded a ball to third base. Diekroeger made a diving stop at the hot corner, spun, but made an errant throw in the stands on the first base side to put Maggi on second base.
Byrd then lined out to Diekroeger for the second out, but the CCBL batting champ was due next. Newman took advantage of the Kettleers error, and ripped a double down the left field line to put Falmouth back on top 4-3. Errors had plagued the Kettleers in Game 1, and hurt them once again.
Miller then got out of the inning with no further damage, and worked one more scoreless before is night was over. He went 3.0 IP total, giving up only two hits, one unearned run, and struck out two.
“I thought Brian Miller did an excellent job in giving us a chance to get back in it,” Roberts said. “The bullpen was really prepared, ready, and on time and that’s huge. I thought it may have been our best effort out of the bullpen all year.”
Meanwhile, the Kettleers fought back. With one out in the eighth Byler doubled, and represented the tying run at second base. Byler was 3-for-5 on the day with two runs and two RBI’s.
Ratledge was the next batter; he popped out to second base. Only four outs left for the Kettleers to mount a comeback.
The Kettleers 10th-year manager then elected for a pinch hitter, and put in Jared Walsh (Georgia). Walsh had been a starting pitcher all season for Cotuit, and was only 5-for-11 at the plate in minimal time prior to the biggest at-bat of his team’s season.
“It was just kind of a gut reaction at that point,” the manager explained. “Jared is a great competitor.”
Roberts’ decision was the correct one: Walsh lined a fastball directly over first base to for a double, and the Kettleers once again came back to tie the game, this time at four apiece.
The game moved into the tenth, with the heart of the Commodores order coming up.
Hoskins, the three hitter, led off the inning with a single. After a sacrifice bunt, Kettleers reliever Wesley Cox (Texas San Antonio) got a groundout to third and a strike out to end the threat.
Cotuit was then able to win it in the bottom half, on the back of one of the newest players on the roster.
The third and final game of the first-round series will be tomorrow night in Falmouth at 5:30 p.m. Stubbs feels as though his team will be ready for yet another epic battle with the big, dangerous Falmouth club.
“I’m sure the guys all feel pretty good, this type of win gives you a lot of momentum,” said the hero. “A win like this can help give you a bit of an extra push the next day out.”