By Matt Schneidman
July 14, 2014
ORLEANS – Jordan Ebert (Auburn) stood on third and Tres Barrera (Texas) on first after the latter had just laid down a perfect bunt along the third-base line.
There was one out in the ninth, and the momentum was with Cotuit after a Jackson Glines (Michigan) two-run home run had brought the Kettleers within one after allowing Orleans to score two in the eighth.
But Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt) grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and the comeback fell short. Grayson Jones (Shelton State CC) stumbled in the second, allowing five runs and walking three. It gave Orleans an early lead, one it would ultimately not relinquish in the Kettleers’ (13-15-1) 7-6 loss to the Firebirds (17-11-1) at Eldridge Park on Monday night.
“Offensively, I think we’ve got a chance,” said head coach Mike Roberts. “But for us to be competitive in the league, we’ve just got to pitch better and we’ve got to play defense.”
Jones threw an efficient first inning, striking out two and allowing no runs. It seemed as if the Kettleers’ good fortunes on the mound would continue for a third-straight game.
But Jones ran into trouble in the second and the command issues that have plagued Cotuit resurfaced. After the last two complete pitching efforts, Roberts reverted to stressing the need to throw strikes after Monday’s loss.
“I feel like I was just flying open and not finishing like I’m normally supposed to,” Jones said. “
Reagan Bazar (Louisiana-Lafayette) started the fourth, and proceeded to throw 2 1/3 hitless innings in his most impressive outing of the year. Adam Whitt (Nevada) then followed with two hitless innings of his own.
While Cotuit put four runs on the board to cut the deficit to one, the Kettleers’ bullpen provided stability in a game that hadn’t had any early on.
It’s something the middle relievers have become accustomed to doing more than desired, but Monday night once again showed why the bullpen is more than capable of holding down a game while the bats fight back.
Jeff Kinley (Michigan State) uncharacteristically hit a road bump in the eighth, surrendering a hit, a walk and throwing a wild pitch. The hosts tacked on two more to take a 7-4 lead and grab the momentum right back.
“It’s really sad, we score six runs and look how many runs we gave away,” Roberts said. “That’s a ballgame we should’ve won.”
After Brendan Hendriks (San Francisco) struck out to lead off the ninth, John Norwood (Vanderbilt) singled and was driven in on the Glines bomb to right.
Ebert then doubled and was moved to third by Barrera.
All of a sudden, Cotuit had runners on the corners with one out, trailing by one. Once again, the bats had given the Kettleers an extra lifeline late in a game.
But the swiftly turned double play by second baseman Mitch Tolman squelched the comeback and left Roberts reiterating the team’s struggles that had briefly disappeared for the last two games.
Despite the loss, it is clear that Cotuit’s bullpen and lineup are capable of keeping the team in any game, regardless of the deficit, and the players recognize that.
“We were down 5-0 in the beginning of the game, and to come back and scratch and claw our way back is kind of a good thing,” Glines said. “So from here, we can move forward and keep hitting the ball hard and trying to win some games.”