By Matt Schneidman
July 12, 2014
“We need pitchers who can throw strikes.”
That phrase, uttered more times than desired by head coach Mike Roberts, defines Cotuit’s struggles up to this point in the season.
Luke Leftwich (Wofford) was no exception, but after three-straight efficient appearances, Roberts is praising his improvement. The right-hander impressed in Friday’s loss at Falmouth, and will look to continue showing why he can be a go-to reliever for this Kettleers team that has had to go to their bullpen early and often.
“My arm felt good today,” Leftwich said after the game on Friday. “I was just trying to stay down in the zone with my fastball and keep my breaking ball down also so if they were to hit it, it was a ground ball.”
In 3 1/3 combined innings between two appearances on June 30 and July 2, Leftwich allowed five total earned runs, walked six and faced 23 batters.
On Friday – before Drew Jackson dropped a routine popup that caused the inning to head into a downward spiral – Leftwich retired the first eight batters he faced in a mere 23 pitches.
“He threw the ball well,” Roberts said. “If we catch a pop-up, they don’t do anything to him.”
In his last three appearances, which have amounted to 5 1/3 innings, Leftwich has only allowed one earned run, two hits, walked one and faced 20 batters.
In what is already a stacked bullpen with Travis Duke, Adam Whitt and Jeff Kinley the go-to arms late in games, Leftwich is pushing them for innings with his recent outings.
A starter in college, Leftwich may be most useful in long relief. As he showed on Friday in his longest appearance of the season, Leftwich is capable of taking the game up until the setup man when a Kettleers’ starter is unable to make it through the fourth inning.
And although he only struck out one in his three innings, Leftwich threw his most impressive game of the season because of his ability to get batters to hit the ball on the ground.
“Luke has gotten a lot better, a lot better,” Roberts said. “We’ve made some changes and adjustments and I think that’s helped him to get better with that.”
After raising his ERA to 8.22 in 1 1/3 innings against Bourne on June 30 – an outing in which he allowed four earned runs and walked three – Leftwich seemed to be the ideal model for what was wrong with Cotuit’s pitching staff.
But he has responded with an impressive turnaround and looks to be a consistently reliable option out of an already strong Kettleers’ bullpen.
“I definitely think (Roberts) is more confident in me,” Leftwich said. “I think it’s because he’s realizing that I’m also more confident in myself.”