By Dylan Wolter
August 4, 2015
For Tuesday’s Game 2 playoff against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, head coach Mike Roberts left a message for his team underneath the lineup card. The message read, “Nothing is done well without passion. Baseball will always be a backyard game! Relax, get dirty, dream about that game winning play!” Facing elimination, Roberts pleaded for his team to find the spark that would lift them over the Harbor Hawks.
The Kettleers did not win the ball game, losing by a score of 9-5. Even in defeat, Coach Roberts was proud of the fight and passion his team showed. “The first impression is how hard they battled,” mentioned an emotional Roberts, fighting back tears.
Just as they have all season, the Harbor Hawks played with an edge over the Kettleers. Hyannis improved to 8-0 on the year against Cotuit, completing the season sweep and knocking the Kettleers from the postseason.
“As I told the Hyannis coaches, they probably swing the bat as well as any team I’ve seen on the Cape league,” proclaimed Roberts, “you really got to give them credit. I don’t know if I’ve played a team that’s dominated us that way ever.”
Matt Milburn started on the hill for Cotuit. With his velocity down his last couple of games, Milburn faced a giant challenge going against a dangerous lineup. Hyannis jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning following a lead-off single and two walks. A sac fly from Matt Thaiss (Virginia) made the score 1-0.
The second inning only got worse for the Kettleers. Brody Weiss (Riverside JC) let a ball slip through his legs at third base to start the inning, one of the three errors on the day for Cotuit. Errors and poor defense have been a common theme for the Kettleers this season, rarely finding a groove in the field. Ryne Birk (Texas A&M) made Cotuit pay by launching a two-run bomb into the bullpen in right field. The no doubter increased the score to 3-0.
The Kettleers would respond in the bottom half of the second after a walk and double from Jack Klein (Stanford). Klein made his first start in over a week, a welcome addition to a hurting Cotuit lineup. With a man on second and third, Cole Fabio (Bryant) drove in a run with a sac fly, cutting the Hyannis lead to two.
With Milburn’s day done, Nich Eicholtz’s (Alabama) was just beginning. The tall right hander from Alabama gave up four unanswered runs in the top of the third inning. The big blow came on a two-run bases clearing triple from Austin Hays (Jacksonville U). Hays lined a shot to left centerfield that rolled all the way to the wall, arriving at third base standing. He would then come in to score on a Bobby Melley (Uconn) single up the middle.
With the score now 7-1, the Kettleers fought for a run in the bottom of the fifth. Coach Roberts’s anxiousness often showed in his pacing, he would perch himself right below a rally monkey that sat atop the dug-out. Will Haynie (Alabama), as hot a hitter on the Cape League you’ll find, came up with the bases loaded. The 6’5 catcher lined a shot to deep right field; Austin Hays made a jumping catch at the track, limiting a potentially huge inning for the Kettleers. Haynie has safely recorded an RBI in 11 of his last 13 games, a remarkable stat for one of the best run producers on the Cape.The sac fly scored one, all that Cotuit was able to muster that inning.
Justin Dunn (Boston College) pitched an excellent fourth and fifth inning. The Cotuit closer was brought in the game earlier than usual to silence the Harbor Hawks lineup. His contributions couldn’t come early enough, not allowing a base runner in two innings and striking out one.
“It was weird, no doubt about it,” admitted Dunn on pitching mid-game as opposed to the final innings, “but I had a job to keep the score as close as I could and give us a chance to come back and fight. It was definitely a different mentality.”
Dunn could only pitch so long though, in what was his final appearance of the season. The newly acquired Luke Olson (George Washington) came in the sixth inning to pitch and gave up another two runs. A bloop two RBI single from Tristan Hildebrandt (Cal St. Fulerton) increased the score to 9-2.
The Kettleers would show their passion and fight, however, never taking themselves out of the ballgame. They added three more runs to the score on another RBI from Haynie and two from Michael Paez (Coastal Carolina) in the bottom of the ninth. With the potential tying run in the on deck circle, the Kettleers finally fell to Hyannis by a final score of 9-5.
The pain of defeat was evident on the faces of Kettleer’s players and coaches, but prideful in their will to fight back. All season long, the Kettleers battled through injuries and inconsistent play, never losing the drive to compete. “It’s sad because we worked so hard, especially to get that last playoff spot,” mentioned Paez, the offensive player of the year for the Kettleers.
Coach Roberts felt Game 2 came down to getting the big hits. “When you look at the scoreboard, we had as many hits” said Roberts, breaking down the game, “but we just didn’t hit like they did with men on base.”
The loss was certainly hurtful to players and fans alike. After a season filled with highs and lows, the season ending defeat won’t sit well for anyone. The Kettleers have little reason to hang their heads, however, showing the effort and hard work that landed each player in the Cape. Collectively, Cotuit was a place for players to improve their skills and develop as players.
“My goal was to leave the players with the desire to learn to do things better than ever before in your life,” said a dedicated Mike Roberts, “are you doing things the right way? Are you thinking of your actions? Are your work habits good enough?”
With all the questions Mike Roberts wanted to leave his team with, there was one thing the head coach was sure about. “Is it always fun? Is it an incredible experience,” pondered Roberts, “I don’t think it’s a question. Everyone who experienced it would say Cotuit is a very special place.”
The Kettleers may be going home but it was certainly a season to remember for the entire organization. On a team committed to developing its players and growing as a team, they succeeded even in defeat. Following an amazing summer, it’s never too soon to look forward to the next. Kettle Ho!