By Matt Schneidman
August 9, 2014
BOURNE — Mike Roberts woke up at four in the morning and wrote a name down on a piece of paper so he wouldn’t forget it.
It read, “Jake Harper.”
After the southpaw from Division II St. Joseph’s College had only thrown 1 2/3 innings for Cotuit since coming over from the Valley League, he got the nod in the most important game of the year thus far. His 6 1/3 innings of two-run, one-walk ball – combined with a perfect 2 2/3 innings from Adam Whitt (Nevada) – gave Cotuit a 4-2 win against Bourne at Doran Park on Saturday night that propelled the Kettleers to the Western Division finals.
“I’m kind of like a country western singer,” Roberts said. “You wake up in the middle of the night and you have a tune – which I don’t have a tune – but you write it down before you forget it.
“I just kind of made a decision, pretty much at four in the morning.”
Roberts’ instinctive move paid off, and after the last 15 innings, Cotuit now seems like a team of destiny.
Just like in Game 1 at Doran Park, the visitors jumped on the board in the first frame, this time courtesy of a Kyle Holder (San Diego) single that brought in Logan Taylor (Texas A&M).
After being tagged with a first-pitch double to Richie Martin in the bottom half and allowing the Braves to tie the game at one, Harper settled in for an extremely efficient outing.
With each pitch, the 6-foot-5 lefty kicked his right leg up, reared back and hit his spot.
And with each pitch, Harper reassured the Cotuit faithful that its season was safe in his left hand.
Over the next 5 1/3 innings – while the Kettleers tacked on three runs – Harper only allowed one, while issuing just two hits. He never topped 86 miles per hour on the gun and although he struck out nobody, his effective placement and change of speeds allowed him to remain effective.
“When you locate and change up speeds, it keeps hitters off balance,” Harper said. “That’s the most ground balls, double plays I’ve had in a long, long time, so I just tried to pound the zone as much as possible and let the hitters get out themselves.”
Cotuit rode the good fortunes of four Bourne errors, as two of those next three runs were unearned. A throwing error on pitcher Gabe Friese and one on third baseman Blake Allemand gave Cotuit a three-run lead, and Roberts went to Austin Sexton (Mississippi State) out of the bullpen.
After Sexton walked one batter – college teammate Gavin Collins – in the sixth, Roberts called on Whitt just 24 hours after the Cape League reliever of the year threw a 23-pitch, two-inning save in Game 2.
There were no signs of fatigue, though, and after Whitt’s first pitch was an inning-ending, 1-4-3 double play, he mowed down the Braves in the eighth and ninth to secure the victory.
“Everything,” Whitt said of what was working for him. “That last inning when I was getting the strikeouts, the last guy I threw a fastball, changeup, backdoor slider.
“It was low in the zone, I was changing speeds and that’s always a good thing.”
As Whitt struck out Allemand swinging to end the game and Allemand flipped his bat almost all the way to the home dugout, the sizeable Cotuit fanbase erupted.
It was a perfect ending to a series in which the victors had their fair share of imperfections.
And for Cotuit – who now faces Falmouth in the Western Division finals – there is an intuition among the players. An intuition that coincides with the history of the franchise, and one that has the players thinking that they are the ones to beat.
“You can just feel it within the guys,” Whitt said. “Everyone wants to bring home another championship to Cotuit.”