By Dylan Wolter
July 26, 2015
COTUIT – With a week left on the schedule until the playoffs, the Kettleers are playing some of their best baseball following a huge 4-2 win over the Orleans Firebirds. The Firebirds are the league’s best team, but were shut down for most of the game by Daniel Brown (Mississippi St). Couit supplied enough offense to earn the victory.
Daniel Brown hasn’t pitched more than five innings all season, but on Sunday he pitched seven brilliant frames of baseball. Against a lethal lineup, Brown made quick work of the offense, throwing strikes and changing speeds. Brown and head coach Mike Roberts have been working in bullpen sessions to return Brown to form following a couple disappointing starts.
“It really started with my fastball, changeup,” claimed Brown, thrilled to have gotten a win, “and then I started mixing my slider late. It felt good to have that again.”
It’s safe to say the extra work Brown is putting in the bullpen may finally be paying off. He’s worked hard to stay behind the baseball and keep his off-speed offerings low. Brown has struggled with maintaining fastball velocity, but against Orleans, threw his fastball with consistency.
“I thought he was a really good pitcher out there tonight,” mentioned his head coach. “His velocity, for the first time in three or four outings stayed up, he was still 92-93 late in the seventh inning. I was really pleased with that.”
Sloppy defense plagued the Kettleers early on. The Firebirds were able to strike first following a double into right centerfield. The runner was moved over to third on a grounder and then a routine ground ball to Michael Paez would have ended the inning, but Paez dropped the ball on the transfer, allowing the run to score. With the score 1-0 now, Brown had to pick up the defense and step up his game.
“I still trust them. Errors happen,” admitted Brown on the defense, “There’s always going to be bad hops and throws. You saw they started picking me up and made some big plays to get out of a couple jams.”
The run was unearned and Brown went seven innings, allowing four hits, two walks, and six strike outs. Even with such a terrific performance from the young lefty from Mississippi St, he needed some help in the field. He got it in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and two outs. The hitter lined a grounder down the third base line that would have surely been extra bases but Brody Weiss (Riverside JC) made an incredible stop in which he dove full extension, rose to his feet, and threw a dime to first for the out. It was a brilliant play that Weiss had no business making. It saved a couple runs from scoring and changed the momentum of the game.
“Those are always fun plays,” said Weiss who claimed he enjoys making plays like that over big hits, “To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to get to it.” Weiss also tied the game the very next inning on a sacrifice grounder. With runners on the corners and one out, all Weiss had to do was make contact for the run to score. He got jammed and hit a weak ground ball to the shortstop, but that was all he needed for the run to score. With the score now knotted at one, Weiss left his mark on the game.
Weiss wasn’t even supposed to play in this one, not having a spot in the original lineup. Once Roberts changed things around he was very comfortable with the “tough nosed” Weiss at third base because he could play up on the ball. “It was a little weird at first, but once he (Roberts) told me I was in, I got myself locked in and ready to go,” remarked Weiss.
Brown continued to pitch well and the offense backed him up even further. In the fifth, The Kettleers took the lead on a solo home run by Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt). Kendall turned on a belt high fastball and hit a laser over the wall in right field. That ball was hit as hard as any all year, most knew it was gone off the bat.
Cotuit scored in the next two innings as well, as they scored one run in four consecutive innings from the fourth inning to the seventh. Spencer Gaa (Bradley) had an RBI single in the sixth and Will Haynie hit his seventh homerun of the year in the seventh inning on a towering fly ball to left field. What looked like a routine pop up at first, kept drifting until the left fielder ran out of room. When the Kettleers can hit for average and power like they did against Orleans, they are a really dangerous team. The top of the order, Gaa, Kendall, and Haynie really came up clutch on Sunday.
“We haven’t hit any home runs this year,” laughed off Roberts, “so any time you see the ball go out of the ballpark it lifts your club.” Although the Firebirds added another unearned run in the eighth inning, four runs was enough offense for the pen. Justin Dunn (Boston College) shut the door in the ninth and the Kettleers won as important a game as they have all season.
The 4-2 victory marked Cotuit’s second in a row and now own a 1.5 lead over the Falmouth Commodores for the final playoff spot. The two will square off in a huge matchup on Tuesday 5:00 at Lowell Park, and can rest on Monday for the off day.