By Matt Schneidman
July 2, 2014
COTUIT – Travis Duke (Texas) has pitched in 58 games in college and not one of them has been a start.
But in his Cotuit debut on Wednesday, head coach Mike Roberts gave the lefty the nod.
Duke was comfortable starting, but he struggled early, surrendering three runs in 2 1/3 innings. The rest of the Kettleers’ pitching staff had trouble putting together solid stretches, as Cotuit (9-10) fell to Chatham (9-9-1) by a score of 6-2 at Lowell Park on Wednesday night.
“The one thing that guys ought to be able to do when they come here is throw strikes,” Roberts said. “Our problem has been not throwing strikes, and you see it.”
Duke allowed one run in 29 appearances at Texas this past season, but he allowed a two-run home run to A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech) in the first inning.
The southpaw specialist allowed another run in the third and even though Duke struggled in an unfamiliar position, he was simply glad to get back to competitive baseball.
“Obviously, it didn’t end the way I wanted or expected it to go,” Duke said. “It was just good to get back out there and pitch after pitching in the last game that we played at the College World Series.”
Roberts saw Duke throw a 15-pitch bullpen on Tuesday and just wanted to see him throw. He said he didn’t want to wait for a setup situation – the situations Duke pitched in at Texas – to see him throw for the first time.
Although Duke was credited with the loss, Roberts doesn’t regret the decision he made to pitch Duke out of position.
“To me, what difference does it make whether you pitch the first inning, second inning or the seventh and the eighth inning,” Roberts said. “He’s been a setup guy, so what if we don’t get in a setup situation. I just wanted to see him pitch.”
Ashton Perritt (Liberty) relieved Duke and was quite efficient, striking out the side swinging in the fourth. But after allowing a leadoff single in the fifth, he was pulled for Reagan Bazar (Louisiana-Lafayette).
Bazar surrendered Chatham’s second two-run home run of the day, this time to Chris Shaw (Boston College). He settled down thereafter, but after issuing a walk in the sixth, gave way for Mason Klotz (Sutheastern Louisiana).
With the exception of Adam Whitt (Nevada) and Jeff Kinley (Michigan State), all of the Cotuit pitchers have struggled at one time or another. Efficient stretches like Perritt’s and Bazar’s happen, but they’re also often compiled with walks, hit batsmen or poor pitch selection in the same outing.
Roberts is aiming to simply get his pitchers to throw strikes, and then he can figure out the rest.
“We’ve just got to find a starting rotation,” Roberts said. “I’m just trying to find a combination to throw strikes.”
Klotz pitched the most impressively on the day, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings, while not allowing a hit.
He said that although he was efficient, there is still room for improvement.
“It’s nice to not get any runs out of it, but I still have a lot of work to do,” Klotz said. “Especially with controlling the ball, it’s kind of getting away from me.”
Luke Leftwich (Wofford) was the last Cotuit pitcher of the day and struggled with his control. He walked or hit five batters over two innings.
Although Leftwich only gave up two runs after working his way out of two difficult jams, it leaves plenty to be desired from Roberts.
Cotuit has found itself in too many early deficits, and oftentimes that gap grows as relievers are unable to stabilize the game.
Early in the season, he took all the blame, but in Wednesday’s postgame huddle, Roberts said the responsibility now lies on the players.
And to bring the entire team full-circle and start stringing together wins, it all starts with the pitchers.
Said Roberts: “When we start throwing strikes, we’re going to be good enough offensively, defensively and so forth, but we’ve got to throw strikes.”