By Jon Mettus
July 24, 2015
HARWICH — Austin Sexton (Mississippi State) stood on the mound and wiped the sweat off his face. Justin Dunn (Boston College) was warming up in the bullpen, but there were no signs that Sexton would be taken out of the game before he was ready to go.
Cavan Biggio (Notre Dame) chased a pitch outside to go down swinging. Sexton circled halfway around the mound as the infielders threw the ball around.
After a Sheldon Neuse (Oklahoma) groundout, Harwich manager Steve Englert called time to talk to his next batter, Johnny Adams (Boston College), but it didn’t work. Adams whiffed on an off-speed pitch in the dirt.
The fans behind home plate simply laughed. Sexton cracked a smile and shook Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts’ hand as he walked into the dugout. Seven innings, 98 pitches, 12 strikeouts and just two hits after it began, Sexton’s day was done.
“You can’t beat that,” Cotuit closer Justin Dunn (Boston College) said. “The only thing more he could’ve done was thrown a perfect game or a no-hitter.”
Led by Sexton’s performance, the Kettleers (14-23) topped the Harwich Mariners (16-20-1), 3-0, at Whitehouse Field. Cotuit scored each of its three runs in the final two innings and Dunn closed out the final two frames, fanning three batters, to get the win. The duo combined for 15 strikeouts, the most in a game this year for the Kettleers, striking out exactly half of the batters they faced.
With the win and a Falmouth (13-23-1) loss to Orleans on Friday, Cotuit is now a half game ahead of the Commodores for fourth place in the West Division — the final playoff spot.
“You’re not going to see many guys throw too much better than Austin Sexton threw tonight,” Roberts said. “Those two guys, he and (Justin) Dunn, threw the ball extremely well.”
Sexton was locked in from the very start of the game. Adam Pate (North Carolina) went around on a check swing attempt and Biggio fished for one in the dirt in the first. Neuse missed one low in the zone, Adams came up empty on one in the dirt and Preston Palmiero (NC State) got nothing but air in the second.
Sexton tucked his glove under his arm and walked off the mound. He retired each of the first seven batters of the game, striking out six in a row. Each strike out was swinging.
The righty threw almost only one pitch the entire game: a changeup — though Roberts referred to it as a “flubber ball” because of the way it moves. There were no breaking balls and only a handful of fastballs were mixed in.
“I throw a hard changeup and a slow changeup and sometimes it likes to do its own thing,” Sexton said. “She was dancing tonight.”
In the fifth inning, Duncan Robinson (Dartmouth) started warming up in the bullpen, but while Sexton was on the mound, Roberts didn’t even so much as look in the bullpen’s direction.
“As an old catcher, I just kind of sat back and enjoyed watching him pitch,” Roberts said. “… When you throw 90 percent changeups it’s kind of like me throwing (batting practice) a little bit. When you’re not throwing breaking balls you’re not taxing your arm.”
The fifth, sixth and seventh innings went by before Dunn took over, picking up where Sexton left off.
Dunn powered his pitches past hitters in the eighth — the opposite of what Sexton was doing, but still effective — and turned to the curveball in the ninth.
When he gassed a fastball past Biggio for the final out of the game, Dunn turned around and stared into center field as his teammates poured onto the field.
“It was kind of weird because I’ve never thrown that many changeups in my life,” Sexton said. “But it was working. They weren’t making adjustments, so why should I wait for them? It turned out pretty well.”
The Kettleers’ next game is on Sunday when they face the Orleans Firebirds at Lowell Park at 5 p.m.