By Matt Schneidman
August 1, 2014
WAREHAM — Take away the second inning and Nick Eicholtz (Alabama) was perfect.
In six innings, the righty surrendered four earned runs, four hits and walked two, but aside from the second frame, he retired 15-of-15 batters.
It was that four-run second inning, though, that cost Cotuit on Friday night. On a day where Wareham’s Sean Adler was on point, going the distance on the mound, the recently explosive Cotuit (18-23-1) offense had no answer after falling behind early in an eventual 5-0 loss to the Gatemen (14-26-2) at Spillane Field.
“Outside of one inning it was a good ball game,” head coach Mike Roberts said. “One inning got away from Nick a little bit but then the rest of them were really clean.
“You’ve got to congratulate (Adler). He only had 11 innings coming into tonight, but he pitched a really, really good ball game.”
After throwing a 1-2-3 first, Eicholtz started the second with something that’s plagued him in his last two starts, a walk.
Two starts ago against Harwich, Eicholtz walked seven batters in 3 2/3 innings. On Saturday against Orleans, he was better, but still walked three in an outing of the same length.
After issuing another walk, combined with two two-RBI hits – one each to Kyrie Washington and Blake Lacey – Cotuit all of a sudden found itself in a 4-0 hole.
“(I was) a little shaky in the second, but other than that I felt great,” Eicholtz said. “Good spot on every pitch I wanted to. I wish I through like that in the second though.”
Roberts elected to stay with Eicholtz after the rough second and the decision paid dividends. Something Roberts emphasizes with his pitchers is keeping the ball low in the strike zone, and that’s exactly what Eicholtz did.
Seven of the next nine batters he retired were on putouts in the infield and Eicholtz’s prior command issues had seemed to become a distant memory.
“Just controlling my body because sometimes I get over higher, then I fall off a little bit,” Eicholtz said of what he’s worked on to fix his command issues. “When I don’t fall off and stay behind the ball, I can pretty much put it wherever I want it, so just focusing on command and control.”
Even though Cotuit couldn’t get anything going against Adler – in what was arguably the best pitching performance Cotuit has faced this year – Roberts was pleased with the contact his team made and how his pitching staff continued to show gradual improvement.
Reagan Bazar (Louisiana-Lafayette) put runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh, but only allowed one run while avoiding a potentially disastrous inning.
And after Sean Beckman (Southern California) had the leadoff man reach via error in the eighth, he induced two line drive outs, one which doubled off the runner that had reached.
Both showed the ability to escape a jam, something that hasn’t always been the case with the Cotuit bullpen, and Roberts was optimistic about each of their performances.
“Tonight, when (Bazar) missed, just about every pitch was below the strike zone and that was really positive,” Roberts said. “(Sean) is going to keep people off stride and he did that. He got a couple balls hit to shortstop, but that’s going to be Sean pitching.”
Despite the shutout loss, Cotuit has already locked up a playoff, and all that’s left to be decided is its seed. After Friday’s loss, the Kettleers dropped back down to the No. 4 seed with Hyannis’ win against Falmouth.
Two games against the Commodores remain for Cotuit in the regular season and if the gradual improvements shown by the pitching staff are mixed with offensive output like that shown against Hyannis this week, don’t count out another championship run.
UP NEXT: Cotuit will host Falmouth at Lowell Park on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.