Video recap by Jon Perez
By Jon Mettus
July 24, 2016
WAREHAM — Mike Roberts has built his team in Cotuit on two pillars — among many others. Unlike most teams in the league, the Kettleers don’t call pitches. And Roberts protects his pitchers’ arms, often pulling starters earlier than critics think he should.
Come next season, though, those pillars may crumble. Sunday, and this season as a whole, were the breaking point.
“Next summer, I’m not going to worry about it because it’s bitten us pretty often,” Roberts said of pulling pitchers before they get high pitch counts.
” (And) we’ve got to take a really, really hard look at whether or not we’re going to go back like a lot of other teams and call pitches.”
Roberts, the Cotuit head coach, pulled Justin Hooper with one out to go in the fifth inning and his team ahead 4-1. By the time the next out was recorded, the Kettleers were onto their third reliever and the Wareham Gatemen (19-14-3) had taken the lead with five runs. Though Cotuit tied the game at five, the bullpen faltered again, giving up the winning run on the bottom of the eighth inning and lose 6-5.
“You get beat in a one-run game which is, after being up 4-0, that’s pretty tough,” Roberts said.
The Kettleers (12-23-1) are now four and one half games back from Hyannis and Bourne for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West with just eight games left in the season. They’re in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and just the fourth time in Mike Roberts’ 13 seasons as coach.
Sixty-eight pitches and the last of three wild pitches, which let in a run from third and cleared the bases, are what ended Hooper’s day after a 4 2/3-inning, three-hit start — his final start of the season. Rio Gomez (Arizona) was the first to enter in relief.
Cole Freeman (Louisiana State) hit a line drive past a diving Ryan Hagan (Mercer) at short. Joey Bartosic (George Washington) grounded up the middle for a single before Joey Bart (Georgia Tech) sent both home with a double to the gap in right-center.
Roberts came out of the dugout with his hands on his hips and looked to the bullpen in left field.
Gomez got one more pitch for a ball before Connor Simmons (Georgia Southern) took over. Simmons though, lated even less time than Gomez.
He pitched around Colton Shaver (Brigham Young), a home run derby participant, but let Adrian Tovalin (Azusa Pacific) double to right to give Wareham the lead.
“Struggled a little bit I would say from a command standpoint,” catcher Jason Delay (Vanderbilt) said, “I would say. Just trying to get ahead of batters. When you fall behind they can typically sit on a fastball and you kind of have to give them one and it just gives them something good to hit.”
“We made some pitches that certainly I wish we hadn’t,” Roberts said.
Roberts headed immediately to the mound, nearly beating Simmons back to the rubber after he was backing up at the plate. Roberts called bullpen coach Matthew Kinney in from the pen and had a passionate conversation with him in foul territory in left field as Josh Roberson (UNC Wilmington) warmed up.
Wareham’s lineup features seven right-handed hitters and a switch hitter, but in came another lefty pitcher. The only right-hander on the board for Cotuit was David Gerics (Pomona-Pitzer), who has only thrown 17 1/3 innings since the beginning of the season.
Roberson got a ground out to finally end the inning and was the bright spot in the relief rotation. He lasted 2 2/3 innings and kept the Wareham off the board — something none of the other pitchers could do.
But when the eighth inning rolled around, Roberts started worrying about his pitcher’s arm. After a strikeout, he pulled Roberson in favor of Ryan Rigby (Mississippi State). For the second time in the game, the move of pulling someone early did not go well.
Rigby was tagged with a single and then threw the next ball that was grounded back to him into the outfield to stick runners on second and third. A hitter batter loaded the bases and a ball chopped over Greyson Jenista’s (Wichita State) head at first, that second baseman A.J. Balta (Oregon) fumbled around trying to pick up, let in the winning run.
“Guys got a couple lucky hits and guys missed on the plate too much,” said Hooper, who was one out away from the win and one out away from preventing the disastrous fifth inning for Cotuit.