By Jon Mettus
July 12, 2015
COTUIT — When Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt) came up to the plate for his first at-bat, a young fan looked at his stat sheet and said, “Kendall? He’s hitting .077. Why is he batting second?”
But then Kendall drove a hard line drive to right for a single, pushing leadoff hitter Branden Berry (Cal State Northridge) into scoring position, silencing the critic.
Though Kendall had a tough time at the plate through his first three games, the freshman standout at Vanderbilt went 3-for-4 in Sunday’s game against Brewster. His three hits accounted for over half of the Kettleers’ total hits: five.
“I was feeling good,” Kendall said. “… I’m starting to feel my legs a little bit more and starting to swing into it so it feels good.”
Kendall was off to a slow start at the plate with Cotuit. He was 0-for-8 with four strikeouts to start his season and 1-for-13 coming into Sunday’s game. But the few days he’s been in Cotuit, Kendall has been at the field taking batting practice nearly every morning.
He spent Sunday morning working on his swing with head coach Mike Roberts and by Sunday evening it paid off.
“It was a matter of work,” Roberts said. “He came in today hit extra … He was able to make that adjustment at 12 p.m. today and carry it into a 5 O’clock game and that’s what I call adaptability.”
He lined out to right in the third inning, but then ran out an infield single to the pitcher during his next at-bat to put runners on the second and first.
Kendall’s final hit of the day came in the seventh inning when he smacked another line drive to right, this time down the line. He was off to the races, rounding first and second, and slid in to third base for a triple. Kendall would’ve been the tying run, but he was stranded at third.
“His swing was beautiful in the ballgame,” Roberts added.
KLEIN RETURNS TO PINCH-HIT
Jack Klein (Stanford), one of the team’s top hitters and starting outfielders, had missed the past three games after hitting a pitch off his foot late in Tuesday’s win over Wareham.
Although Klein didn’t start on Sunday, he entered in the fifth, pinch-hitting for the designated hitter, Ross Grosvenor (South Carolina).
Brody Weiss (Riverside City College) and Kendall were on first and second when Roberts walked over to the dugout to talk to Klein. A few moments later, the righty emerged from the dugout with a helmet on his head, a bat in his hand and a protective pad covering his foot and shin.
While Brett Stephens (UCLA) was at the plate, Klein took warm-up swings on the far side of the dugout and talked to Mike Paez (Coastal Carolina) who had just gotten out. Grosvenor was swinging in the on deck circle on the near side of the dugout.
When Stephens drew a walk to load the bases with two outs, Roberts took a few steps toward Grosvenor and put his hand up, motioning for him to stop and retreat back to the dugout.
Klein drove the ball to right field, but it was caught. He ran three-fourths of the way to first base then clapped his hands loudly in frustration. As he jogged back to the dugout he clapped his hands together again.
He batted again in the eighth and flew out to right.
TWO FORMER KETTLEERS PLAY IN MLB FUTURES GAME
Two former Cotuit Kettleers players played in the MLB Futures Game, an annual exhibition game between the top minor league players in country, on Sunday. Tony Kemp, who played with the Kettleers in 2012, and Bradley Zimmer, who was in Cotuit for 2013, started for the US team, which defeated the World team, 10-1.
Kemp batted leadoff and played second base for the US. He went 0-for-1, but drew two walks and scored a run.
Zimmer played center field and batted ninth, finishing 0-for-2.
Kemp is currently with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies and Zimmer is with the Class A-Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats, leading the team with a .305 batting average.
“Tony played here in (2012),” Roberts said. “Very polished offensively, we were still working some on his defense, great base runner, base stealer. And Brad Zimmer was a very polished guy. That’s the reason he went in the first round in 2014, which is just one year ago.
“Zimmer helped take is to the 2013 championship. Tony led the team that won 30 games in 2012 so it takes players like that to get you to the top of this league. We’re thrilled and they’re both great, great young men.”