By Matt Schneidman
July 18, 2014
YARMOUTH — Head coach Mike Roberts was quick to say that he always takes the blame for one-run losses.
But he’ll be the first to admit that his team is far from polished, especially when it comes to situational pitching.
On a day in which Cotuit pitchers worked out of multiple jams, it was lackluster situational pitching in one of those jams that ultimately cost the Kettleers the game. A Rob Fonseca two-out, two-run home run in the seventh gave Yarmouth-Dennis (17-14) a 4-3 lead it wouldn’t relinquish against Cotuit (14-16-1) at Red Wilson Field on Friday night.
“If you make the pitches, you get out of jams,” Roberts said. “Up to this point, we have no clue how to pitch with two outs, men on second base and first base open.”
The Red Sox threatened right off the bat, loading the bases with one out in the first after Cotuit had taken a 1-0 lead in the top half. The Kettleers have struggled logging shutdown innings – innings following scoring a run in which a pitcher allows no runs – and Friday seemed to be headed in a similar direction.
But starter Trey Wingenter (Auburn) induced a double-play groundout to his college roommate Jordan Ebert (Auburn) to escape an early jam.
“It was huge,” Wingenter said of the double play. “When you start an inning, get a runner on base, a double play bailing you out like that is huge, huge for your confidence.”
Wingenter got himself into trouble again in the third, walking one, allowing a hit and throwing two wild pitches. Somehow, though, with the help of a Drew Jackson (Stanford) unassisted double play, Wingenter escaped unscathed.
“You’ve got to try and take it one pitch at a time,” Wingenter said of the approach when in a jam. “Two outs is definitely better than one, especially when you’re in trouble.”
In the sixth, with Cotuit leading 3-1, Jackson McClelland (Pepperdine) loaded the bases with no outs. It seemed as if the visitors’ good fortunes would come to an end.
But Ebert turned another double play, and Y-D only scored one run in the inning.
Then, things finally went south in the seventh.
The exact situation Roberts said his pitchers struggle in arose. With two outs, Andrew Stevenson stood on second with Fonseca at the plate. McClelland threw him a fastball in the upper half of the zone and that pitch ended up deciding the game.
Still, Roberts takes the blame for not properly preparing his team to escape situations like the one McClelland found himself in.
“We have no clue,” Roberts said. “We just don’t know how to situational pitch when we have a base open. Again, that’s my job.”
And although Roberts is left thinking of how he can better prepare his team to face such scenarios, he still expects more of some of the best college baseball players in the country.
All year, Roberts has stressed maturity. He mentions being able to choose your own pitch. He mentions being able to read every sign. But even 31 games into the season, he still desires much more in those areas.
“I don’t call pitches. I’m not going to call pitches. I’m not going to babysit them, win, lose or draw,” Roberts said. “These are adults. This is not a high school team. This is not a middle school team. This is not a legion team.”
Cotuit has cleaned up the defensive errors. Now it’s time to clean up the errors that don’t show up in the scorebook.
“It did come down to one pitch, but overall we made some errors,” Jackson said. “Not defensive errors, but mental errors throughout the game that hurt us in the long run.”
Currently, Cotuit sits in third place and in comfortable position to make the playoffs. At times, the Kettleers have shown flashes of a championship-caliber team but at other instances, it’s been the exact opposite.
It’s frustrating for Roberts given the talent that his team has, and he’ll continue to emphasize the priority for players in this league: learning.
“These are adults and we’ve got to learn how to handle those things so that when they get to pro baseball, maybe they have an idea,” Roberts said. “But is it frustrating. Sure it’s frustrating when you think you have a respectable club and you keep getting beat.”
UP NEXT: Cotuit plays at Whitehouse Field in Harwich on Saturday for a 5:30 start.