By Jon Mettus
June 16, 2016
COTUIT — The Kettleers (1-5) came back from an early four run deficit only to ultimately lose to the Firebirds (4-2), 6-5, at Lowell Park on Thursday. Cotuit scored five runs in the third inning and maintained a one run lead until Orleans took the final lead in the seventh inning.
Here are four things we learned from the game.
Aaron Maher will continue pitching
Seeing outfielder Aaron Maher (East Tennessee State) out on the mound against Orleans wasn’t a mistake nor will it be the only time it happens this season. Maher has primarily been an outfielder with sparse pitching appearances throughout his career. But with plans to pitch at school next year, he’ll come out of the bullpen for the rest of the summer, head coach Mike Roberts said.
He’ll still be available for pinch hit and late game fielding opportunities.
Maher entered in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and induced a ground out to end the jam. Through his first 2 1/3 innings pitched he didn’t allow a hit and he battled through spurts of inaccuracy that led to three walks.
The lefty was pulled after allowing a single to start the seventh inning. That run later scored making Maher’s final stat line 2 1/3 innings pitched, one hit allowed, one run — earned — three walks and no strikeouts.
“He’s a good lefthander,” Roberts said. “He’s not a pro left hander, but he’s a good college left hander. … I enjoyed watching him pitch. For a guy that hadn’t been out there in a year or two, whatever it was, I thought he really did a nice job.”
He hadn’t pitched against live hitters since October, but Roberts had watched him throw a bullpen session two days earlier. He was on the board to be available in relief one day later and finally made his debut on Thursday.
“First day we got here, (Roberts) talked about everyone is whiffle ball player,” Maher said, “just playing in the backyard. A bunch of guys were moving around. Being left handed, I can’t really go many places besides first and outfield, so I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve thrown a little bit if you want to see me.'”
The infield is a double play threat
The infield had a very shaky start to the season, but now has settled into a combination of Jordan Pearce (Nevada) at third, Ryan Hagan (Mercer) at short, Josh Shaw (St. John’s) at second and Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) at first. The combo was errorless in Wednesday’s win and converted on three double plays in Thursday’s loss.
Shaw was the pivotal piece in each play, catching the throw from the left side of the infield and making the turn to throw to first.
The infield had a shot at another double play right after Maher came out and Dave Gerber (Creighton) took over on the mound. A ball was hit back up the middle and Gerber tipped it with his glove, knocking it out of the reach of Hagan.
Those two runners ultimately scored with two outs in the inning, going down as the tying and then winning runs.
“(It was) the real play that actually made the difference,” Roberts said. “… I’m not going to say you ever have a routine double play, but if Hagan fields that ball it is a double play without a doubt.”
It’s unclear how the arrival of second baseman Alonzo Jones (Vanderbilt) will shake up the infield.
Tim Susnara has matured since last season
As the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the third inning, Tim Susnara (Oregon) put a first pitch bunt down the third base line and legged it out for a single.
That small play proved crucial as it was the start of a five-run inning that unraveled Orleans starter Sean Guenther (Notre Dame).
“I doubt it,” Roberts said when asked if that’s something Susnara would have done at this time last year. “Not five games in. No way.
“We work on that. Timmy is very mature in his baseball thought processes and it takes a while, depending on the program that you come from, whether or not you even think about that when you go to the plate. His play is maturing and he’s a lot better player than he was last year.”
Roberts expects to be in every game going forward
With three new pitchers arriving in Cotuit over the past few days and the roster transforming more toward what it will look like at the end of the season, Roberts expects almost every game to be close.
The Kettleers were outscored 26-4 through the first three games of the season — losing by an average of more than seven runs.
“You’re going to see some other guys roll out there that have got some pretty good arms so I’m excited about that,” Roberts said. “I think that’s really going to help us going forward. When you see those good arms go out there I think you’re going to see us pretty much in every ball game here on out. … We’ve got a chance to be a lot better.”