By Matt Schneidman
July 22, 2014
COTUIT — The synchronized claps of the lively Lowell Park crowd became faster and louder as Chatham’s Jeff Gelinas came set for the ninth pitch of the at-bat after getting ahead 0-2.
The bases were loaded. The count was full. There were two outs. The game was tied at five.
Jackson Glines (Michigan) took the pitch in the dirt, flipped his bat and trotted toward first as Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt) jogged home to an explosion of applause from the home faithful. After Jackson McClelland (Pepperdine) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, Glines’ valiant at-bat in the bottom half gave Cotuit (16-18-1) a one-run lead it wouldn’t relinquish in a 6-5 victory over Chatham (14-19-1) on Tuesday night.
Cotuit fell behind 5-2, but Vanderbilt teammates Wiseman and John Norwood supplied back-to-back home runs in the fifth that sparked the comeback, as the Kettleers went on to pull out yet another close game for their second-straight victory.
“Today was one of those days where you see why this place is kind of special,” head coach Mike Roberts said. “We got back in it, the crowd got in it a little bit and it was just fun.”
The game didn’t start off as fortunate for Cotuit though, as it fell behind 2-0 in the first courtesy of a Chris Shaw two-run home run. The hosts tied the game at two in the third, but Shaw sent a three-run blast up into the trees in right-center field to push Chatham back out in front in the fifth.
The now-Cape League home runs leader tortured Cotuit early and forced Roberts to pitch around him for the remainder of the game, a strategic move that eventually paid off.
“Shaw kind of overwhelmed us there with his two home runs,” Roberts said. “He’s a really good hitter.”
But as they’ve done all year, the Cotuit bats chipped away at a deficit. For the first time this season, the Kettleers went back-to-back with solo shots from Wiseman and Norwood.
For Wiseman, it was his first home run since last summer, as he went all of his sophomore season with the Commodores and the first 34 games of this summer without a long ball.
“It only took me about 400 at-bats,” Wiseman joked. “I think that these past two games have been huge for us offensively. We have 12 hits tonight. Last night, we really squared the ball up.”
Cotuit’s success at the plate continued as the red-hot Jameson Fisher (Southeastern Louisiana) tied the game with a single in the sixth.
Then things got interesting in the next frame.
Travis Duke (Texas) issued a leadoff walk and in came McClelland. Roberts had McClelland warming up Monday as he was supposed to be the first one out of the bullpen against Brewster. Since Vince Fiori (South Carolina) lasted seven innings in that game, Roberts went right to closer Adam Whitt (Nevada) and McClelland wasn’t used.
Roberts said McClelland’s arm was tired from all the warmup pitches he threw on Tuesday, but that didn’t prevent him from calling on the 6-foot-5 right-hander.
After a hit-and-run single that put runners on the corners and an intentional walk to Shaw, the bases were packed with one out. McClelland proceeded to record two-straight outs that sent the home contingent into a frenzy as Cotuit had escaped a potentially disastrous jam.
“It was huge,” Glines said. “It was a real, real, real, real big momentum play. We needed to get out of that or who knows what could’ve happened in that inning.”
At times this season, McClelland has struggled in similar scenarios. Roberts admitted he doesn’t expect someone to get out of that type of conundrum, but was impressed with how the righty handled it.
“The reason he did such a good job, he was up in the count the whole time,” Roberts said. “Obviously the hitters have a little bit of a disadvantage but I thought he had really good stuff too.
“I put him in a difficult situation, but he handled it really well.”
In the bottom half, Cotuit loaded the bases with two outs and up came Glines.
After drawing the walk that brought in the eventual game-winning run, Roberts praised Glines, saying he had “a whale of an at-bat” and attributing Glines’ maturity to how he was able to work the count before taking ball four.
“Honestly, I was just trying to go up there and hit a home run, just a grand slam,” Glines said. “I thought a couple balls were questionable and I just kept fighting pitches off.”
Jeff Kinley (Michigan State) then threw two scoreless innings for the save and Cotuit came away with a win that shows all its pieces are starting to come together.
The hitting has always been there. The defense has finally come around. The pitching has vastly improved. The Kettleers are inching closer and closer to the kind of team that hoisted the trophy one summer ago.
“I think moving forward we’re where we need to be,” Wiseman said. “I think if our pitching can find a little bit more consistency and we can stay as consistent with the bats, I think we have a championship-caliber team.”
UP NEXT: Cotuit travels to Bourne for a 6 p.m. start at Doran Park on Wednesday.