By Jon Mettus
July 31, 2015
COTUIT — Will Haynie (Alabama) had one last chance.
The catcher came to plate to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning for his last at-bat and his final shot to extend his streak of games in a row with a run batted in. With no one on base, it would take a home run.
Haynie watched the first four pitches. Two balls. Two called strikes. Then came five curveballs in a row. He grounded one off the fence in front of the Kettleers dugout and tipped one back over the press box.
He got a hold of one and launched it deep to left field. The Kettleers fans cheered initially, but it hooked just foul down the line. Two pitches later he hit a towering shot to left-center field. The ball kept carrying and wound up as a souvenir for some fan in the outfield.
“I knew that I had a little streak going there for eight games with the Twitter people going and all that, but I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Haynie said. “After I hit it, it kind of crossed my mind a little bit.
“Hopefully we can get a win, though. I’d like a win more than the streak.”
Head coach Mike Roberts clapped as Haynie rounded the bases and gave him a congratulatory high five.
Haynie recorded an RBI for the ninth game in a row and he extended his hitting streak to nine games. He’s batting .389 (14-for-36) in the span with 13 RBI. He finished 2-for-4 on the day.
His first hit came in the bottom of the first when he hit a hard line drive into right-center field for a single.
Before the streak, Haynie was hitting .141 and striking out in nearly half of his at-bats. There were 10 games where he struck out two times or more. Since then, he hasn’t struck out more than once in a game and has boosted his average to .224.
“The key element is can you handle the failure until you get better and that’s the difficult part,” Roberts said. “He seems to have been able to handle a lot of failure to get to this point in the offensive side.”
SUSNARA, ROJAS ‘MAY’ START SATURDAY
With four errors in Friday’s loss to Hyannis, Roberts said that he will be making some changes defensively. In the bottom of the ninth inning, he brought in Tim Susnara (Oregon) and Josh Rojas (Hawaii) to pinch-hit, no so much for the righty-lefty matchup, he said, but because “both of them may be in the lineup tomorrow.”
Rojas grounded out to first on a diving play by the first baseman and Susnara flew out to left.
Despite being a catcher at Oregon, Susnara has played mostly at third base recently. Rojas is a utility infielder as hasn’t been used in the field since arriving on Wednesday.
ROBINSON PITCHES WELL IN 9TH
In just his seventh appearance all year, Duncan Robinson (Dartmouth) came in in the ninth and faced the minimum three batters. He struck out a batter and induced a double play.
The leadoff hitter, Blake Tiberi (Louisville) hit a liner to center for a single, but then Matt Thaiss (Virginia) hit one on the ground to second. Cole Fabio (Bryant) fielded it, squared to second, and then threw to Mike Paez (Coastal Carolina), who fired to first as Tiberi came sliding into second to disrupt the play.
The throw was in time and Robinson got the next batter to strikeout swinging to end the top of the ninth.
“I feel like every time he’s been out there this year he’s been great,” Haynie said. “It’s good to see that and hopefully he can give us some more innings the next two days and if we make playoffs he can keep giving it then.”
PAEZ, GAA RETURN
Two of the team’s top hitters returned on Friday. Spencer Gaa (Bradley), the leader with a .298 average, batted fifth and started in right after missing two games. Mike Paez, second with a .289 average, started at short and batted fourth after missing one game and being taken out of another early.
Gaa was 1-for-4 with a single on a line drive to left field. Paez batted fourth and Paez finished 1-for-3 with a single on a liner into right-center field.