By Jon Mettus
July 22, 2015
ORLEANS — Saige Jenco (Virginia Tech) stepped out of the dugout for the first time all game with specific orders — bunt the ball down the first base line.
Orleans and Cotuit were tied, but the Kettleers had the bases loaded with one out. The bunt fell in front of the pitcher and he underhand tossed it to the catcher for the force. Two outs.
“If you look at how we swing the bat in those situations this year it’s probably less than .100,” head coach Mike Roberts said. “I told them we were going back to small ball … the problem is we didn’t execute.”
The next batter, Will Haynie (Alabama) got ahead in the count 3-0, but fouled off the next pitch before eventually flying out to right. Roberts put his hands on his hips and stared up at the count on the scoreboard, then back at Haynie.
“It was right down the middle and I saw it well,” Haynie said of the 3-0 pitch, adding he probably shouldn’t have swung at it. “I figured I might as well try to put four more (runs) on the board if I could.”
But he couldn’t.
And when the Firebirds found themselves in the same advantageous situation just a few minutes later, they made the Kettleers pay. Austin Miller (Loyola Marymount) cracked a one-run single before Jeremy Martinez (Southern California) blasted grand slam.
Cotuit held Orleans close for the first seven innings — even having the lead for two of them — but when the Kettleers failed to capitalize in the eight, the Firebirds made the most of their chance a half-inning later. The five run rally in the ninth never came and Cotuit (13-22) fell to Orleans (26-9), 7-2, at Eldredge Park on Wednesday.
The Kettleers are now a half game back of Falmouth (13-21-1) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West.
“We competed a lot better than we’ve been competing,” Roberts said. “I told the team they did a really good job and they competed really well, but it comes down to execution in seven, eight, nine and (Orleans) executed and we didn’t.”
Cotuit starter Jon Woodcock (Virginia Tech) set the Firebirds down in order through the first three innings and the Kettleers picked one up in the second. Haynie hit a two-out single on a ground ball to right field that scored Brody Weiss (Riverside City College) from second base.
Nkosi Djehuti-Mes, the on deck batter, waved his hands down for Weiss to slide as the throw came home and Weiss went in feet first before the catcher could turn to apply the tag.
Woodcock allowed back-to-back singles to leadoff the fourth before Weiss fielded a bunt and threw it over Michael Cantu’s (Texas) head at first to allow the run to score. Woodock recovered, however, limiting the damage to just one run.
When Orleans took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Haynie countered with a solo shot a half-inning later. He launched a hard hit line drive over the Cotuit bullpen bleachers beyond left field and trotted around the bases.
“I felt good all night,” Haynie said. “I felt like I was seeing the ball well and I had a good approach all night.”
The homer was Haynie’s second in as many games and sixth of the year — good enough for second highest in the league. It also gave him 13 runs batted in which leads the Cotuit.
But then the eighth inning came.
Jack Klein (Stanford) walked and Brett Stephens (UCLA) reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt when the pitcher skied a throw over the first baseman’s head. After Spencer Gaa (Bradley) moved the runners to second and third with a bunt, Weiss was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Jenco pinch-hit for Cantu, but his bunt went back to the pitcher. Haynie’s success at the plate earlier in the game didn’t continue.
Jack Anderson (Penn State) loaded the bases in the home half and Kevin Ginkel (Nevada) unsuccessfully tried to come in and save the day.
“If we execute right there to go up 3-2, then (Justin) Dunn pitches and so it’s a totally different thing,” Roberts said.
The Kettleers will return to action on Thursday to face the Chatham Anglers (20-15) at Veteran’s Field at 7 p.m.