By Jon Mettus
June 27, 2015
COTUIT — Kort Peterson (UCLA) stood at the plate as the Cotuit fans and players rose to their feet and started a slow clap. The bases were loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Peterson had just watched four pitches go by and fouled off another to bring the count full.
As the players hung over the fence above the dugout, a fastball sailed above the strike zone. Peterson tossed his bat into the grass and Mike Paez (Coastal Carolina) jogged home for the winning run. The Kettleers players climbed over the fence and raced toward Peterson as he headed to first.
“The early at-bats I was kind of jumping at the ball so I just tried to calm myself down,” Peterson said. “… The last two (pitches) were really good pitches that most, even good, hitters swing for but I just laid off of them.”
Peterson’s walk-off walk in the bottom of the ninth gave the Kettleers (5-12) a 5-4 win over the Orleans Firebirds (11-5) in a back-and-forth game at Lowell Park on Saturday. Cotuit snapped a seven-game losing streak and took down the top team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“That’s a really good Cape Cod game right there,” head coach Mike Roberts said. “ … Orleans has certainly proven that they’re the best team in the league. Our guys today played up and that’s what you have to do.”
Zack Collins (Miami) reached on an error by the second baseman and moved to second on a ground out before a Brett Stephens (UCLA) line drive the opposite way and sent him home. Cotuit took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Then to lead off the second, Branden Berry (Washington) crushed the first pitch he saw into left field. “See ya,” someone yelled from the Kettleers dugout.
Berry nearly tripped out of the batter’s box as he watched the ball sail over the outfield fence — to the right of where the Cotuit pitchers sit. Roberts turned around to the dugout and smiled before high-fiving Berry as he rounded third.
“We’ve been hoping that he would help us some with the bat,” Roberts said. “(He) showed what he is capable of doing.”
Orleans scored a run in the third and fourth innings to knot the game at 2-2. But back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the fourth by Berry and Paez, respectively, gave the Kettleers a 3-2 lead.
As Berry crossed the plate again, he clapped his hands once and pointed over to Paez standing at second. He walked into the dugout and a teammate jokingly yelled, “Ah, very nice. Have a day.”
But in the next half inning the Firebirds tied it up again. Each time Cotuit took a lead, Orleans found an answer.
The Kettleers took a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth off a Matt Albanese (Bryant) sacrifice fly, but when the Firebirds came to bat in the top of the ninth they evened the score at 4-4.
The bottom of the ninth started with barely any sunlight left on an overcast evening in Cotuit. Paez hit a broken bat pop up near second base, but the shortstop and second baseman smacked their gloves together trying to catch it and the ball landed safely in the infield dirt.
Brody Weiss (Bradley) struck out on a bunt foul before Gene Cone (South Carolina) hit a pinch-hit line drive into left-center field for a single.
A passed ball with Will Haynie (Alabama), who had replaced Zack Collins at catcher, at the plate moved the runners to second and third. Haynie hit a line drive that sliced foul, forcing Paez to duck under it at third base.
“Come on Will,” someone yelled. “Nobody better than you.” For the first time all summer, Roberts said he looked comfortable at the plate.
Haynie fought off two more pitches, before finally drawing a walk to bring up Peterson. Peterson’s walk ended the game and the worst stretch of losing in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“I felt like we were supposed to win today,” Peterson said. “It was our day.”