By Matt Schneidman
July 5, 2014
WAREHAM – While the field players loaded the bus, head coach Mike Roberts stood before the pitchers and catchers for upward of 10 minutes after the game.
He pointed at 6-foot, 5-inch and 220-pound Jackson McClelland (Pepperdine) and said that regardless of how physically intimidating some of his pitchers are, they need to back it up with what they throw.
On Saturday night, early pitching struggles and lack of command put Cotuit (9-12) in an early hole in an eventual 7-3 loss to Wareham (7-14) at Spillane Field. As of late, Roberts has harped on his team’s primary need – simply throwing strikes – and Saturday night showed why.
“You’re not going to win in any league when you can’t throw strikes,” Roberts said. “This is the first team I’ve had in a long time that’s struggled from top to bottom throwing strikes.”
After scoring a run in the top of the first off a Jameson Fisher (Southeastern Louisiana) RBI single, Cotuit gave the lead right back, allowing two runs in the bottom half.
Wareham got another run in the second, but the Kettleers tied the game at three in the third. Then all went south.
In the fourth, starter Logan James (Stanford) and McClelland combined to issue three of the seven walks from Cotuit pitchers on the night. That, coupled with four hits, gave the hosts four runs and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“(Seven) walks is a lot of walks, especially for a league that’s the best amateur league in the country,” McClelland said. “You shouldn’t have (seven) walks in a game, ever.”
McClelland, Grayson Jones (Shelton State Community College) and Luke Leftwich (Wofford) held Wareham scoreless for the last five innings, but it couldn’t fix the damage that had already been done.
Just two nights after Vince Fiori (South Carolina) turned in a stellar start and solidified himself as the No. 1 starter, Roberts’ No. 2, James, faltered.
It has been early deficits that have doomed Cotuit, and opponents have often tacked on multiple runs in the first two or three innings.
One of the problems Roberts identified was the staff’s lack of aggressiveness and how it doesn’t challenge hitters enough. He took the blame for the lack of continuity among the group, but pointed out the necessity to pitch both sides of the plate to challenge hitters.
“To make people scared, you’ve just got to be really aggressive,” McClelland said. “You can’t be afraid to throw any pitch at any time and that’s what keeps hitters on their toes.
“We get out there sometimes, we get intimidated or we don’t throw the pitch we should or we baby it, so the biggest thing is just get aggressive and go after people.”
In his Cotuit debut, catcher Tres Barrera (Texas) was constantly on his knees blocking balls in the dirt and scrambling to prevent any wild pitches.
Only one got by him, but his level of activity was indicative of the inaccuracy of a handful of pitches on Saturday.
Still, the rest of the team has faith in its starting pitching even though it’s let down the offense at times.
“We’ve got confidence in our starting pitching, that they’re going to get better and get the job done,” said Jake Fincher (North Carolina State). “So we’ll be all right.”
But until Cotuit can string together multiple quality starts and consistently find the strike zone, a lack of command will remain the Achilles heel of this team.
After the game, a frustrated head coach summed up the pitching struggles frankly.
Said Roberts: “We’re painful to watch right now.”
UP NEXT: Cotuit hosts Harwich at Lowell Park at 5 p.m. on Sunday