By Matt Schneidman
August 10, 2014
FALMOUTH — Runners stood on second and third with one out in the ninth, Cotuit trailing by two.
On a day where Alex Young threw eight innings of one-run ball for Falmouth, the Kettleers had a rare chance after cracking Commodores’ closer Matt Eckelman.
But Jeremy Taylor (East Tennessee State) popped out to left and Tres Barrera (Texas) grounded out to short, ensuring that Young would get the win he so clearly deserved.
Starter Logan James (Stanford) and Luke Leftwich (Wofford) were on point for the Kettleers, and aside from a second-inning, three-run homer to Matt Eureste, the two shut down Falmouth. But Young was simply better – scattering four hits while striking out eight and only walking one on the day – as the Commodores escaped a ninth-inning threat to pull out a 3-1 victory at Arnie Allen Diamond in Game 1 of the Western Division finals.
“He’s outstanding,” head coach Mike Roberts said of Young. “I’m really proud of our guys. I thought we battled like crazy against him.”
After Young put runners on first and second with one out in the first frame, he swiftly escaped the jam and hunkered down for arguably the best pitching performance Cotuit has faced on the season.
Falmouth had one breakthrough inning, but that’s all it would need.
In the second, James ran into some command issues, as Roberts explained that James’ arm was dragging as he threw, and it wasn’t going north-to-south, but rather east-to-west.
After a Boomer White single to left-center and an Austin Afenir single to center, Eureste launched a bomb to deep right that rolled almost all the way to the football goal post standing well beyond the fence.
However, Roberts took the blame, saying there never should’ve been two men on.
“I really messed up in the fact that I had (shortstop Kyle) Holder in the wrong place on the opening hitter in the inning,” Roberts said. “If I had him just where he probably should’ve been instead of pulled in the hole, then (Eureste) may never come up that inning and I really feel bad about that.”
Despite the miscue, James halted further damage by settling in for an efficient next four innings, allowing only two hits after surrendering the home run.
Roberts said James made a really good adjustment with his mechanics after that, and James mentioned how his pitches were more effective as he progressed later in the game.
“I couldn’t really find (my changeup), but fastball, curveball was good I would say,” James said. “I got some movement on my fastball later that inning that I gave up the home run.
“Keeping the ball down is one of the most important things you can do as a pitcher, so I think that was big for my success.”
Both teams went scoreless in innings three through six, and then Cotuit finally got to Young.
Brendan Hendriks (San Francisco) was robbed of a potential inside-the-park home run after the ball trickled under the unblocked bleachers down the right-field line as Hendriks was being waved around third. After he was awarded a ground-rule double, Hendriks eventually scored on a Taylor two-out single to right that cut the deficit to two.
Young, though, only allowed that one blemish, and finished off his outing by striking out Holder swinging in the eighth with – fittingly – a curveball out of the zone.
“Guys who have an outstanding breaking ball are usually out of the strike zone if the pitcher is really good,” Roberts said. “If you look at the swings for our right-handed hitters, most of the curveballs were out of the strike zone and that’s what a quality pitcher does.”
And as Cotuit’s most serious threat of the game fell through in the ninth, so did its chances of getting a series lead, forcing the Kettleers to fight for their season on their home turf once again.