By Jon Mettus
July 11, 2015
WAREHAM — Mike Paez stepped to the plate as the first batter of the game and roped a single that landed just inside the right field line. Wareham right fielder Jay Jabs (Franklin Pierce) fumbled the ball trying to pick it up and Paez advanced to second.
A passed ball allowed Paez to scamper to third before Branden Berry (Cal State Northridge) grounded out to score him.
After just three batters, the Kettleers were already out to a 1-0 lead.
But Paez’s leadoff single was the only hit for Cotuit all game. And the run he scored was the only run that the Kettleers could muster. Austin Sexton (Mississippi State) turned in one of his best starts of the year, but the Kettleers (10-17) didn’t have the offense to back him up and lost, 2-1, to the Gatemen (12-14) at Spillane Field on Saturday.
“We’re not hitting the ball hard against hard anyone,” head coach Mike Roberts said. “For example, in this ball game there was one ball hit hard to the outfield, one, by either team.”
Sexton was a little jumpy in the first, letting a runner take second on a passed ball and throwing a pickoff attempt into center field. But the pickoff attempt resulted in an out when Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt) gunned the runner down trying to take third and Sexton struck out Mark Karaviotis (Oregon) on the next pitch to end the inning.
Sexton’s only run allowed came when a ground ball up the middle squirted through for a single to start the bottom of the third. Two bunts moved the runner to third with two outs. He induced a groundball to third, but Susnara bounced a hard throw past Berry at first base and the runner scored.
After five innings, the righty’s day was done. Sexton’s final line was four hits and a run allowed while fanning three batters.
“He really kicked back in,” Roberts said. “He did another great job.”
Mitch Stallings (Duke) started the sixth in relief and gave up two single to the first two batters before being removed. Jack Anderson (Penn State) entered. A bunt and then a ground ball that bounced over Berry’s head at first scored the Gatemen’s second run.
Offensively, the Kettleers had trouble all day. They fell victim to five one-two-three innings and managed just four base runners — three of them on walks.
“I just want them to sit still,” Roberts said. “We’ve got too many guys that just jump at the baseball and you’re not going to hit good pitching jumping at the baseball.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Berry moved to right field so Ross Grosvenor (South Carolina), who pinch hit in the prior half inning, could play first. A ball was hit hard deep to right and Berry sprinted back before making a leaping grab. He fired a strike back to first to double up the runner and end the inning.
Berry jumped in the air and fist pumped in celebration before running back to the dugout to applause from his teammates.
When he stepped to the plate just a few moments later in the top of the ninth inning, fireworks were exploding in the sky beyond left field. Berry seemed destined to hit a home run into the bullpen or bleachers like he had done at least six times in batting practice before the game.
The homer never came and Wareham escaped with the victory.
“Our pitching staff keeps us in every game … I have to somehow maneuver offensively, defensive, pitching, I have to find a way to get us over that one-run hump,” Roberts said.
Cotuit will play again on Sunday against Brewster (13-14) at Lowell Park at 5 p.m.