By Jon Mettus
July 27, 2016
ORLEANS — Tim Susnara (Oregon) lay with his head in the dirt behind home plate.
About 90 feet away, the Orleans Firebirds dumped a cooler of water on Payton Squier (UNLV) and were mobbing him in a celebratory fashion.
Squier had just hit a line drive up the middle into center field to score the game-winning run and lift the Orleans Firebird over Cotuit (12-25-1), 5-4. Jack Klein (Stanford) bounced his throw to the plate and Susnara didn’t have much of a play.
“One-run losses are the hardest thing,” third baseman Jordan Pearce said. “Especially in extra innings like this. We played our butts off. This is all we can do.”
It’s the Kettleers’ 12th one-run loss of the season — the same as their number of wins — and third in a row. They’ve won just two games decided by one score.
With the loss, Cotuit is still four and a half games back from Hyannis for the last playoff spot in the West with only six games remaining in the season.
“I’ve never seen a team as competitive that just can’t seem to get over the hump,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “You just thank them for their effort. I know they’re tired and it’s late in the year and you’re struggling. But you’ve got to fight you way through it. They’ve done a great job of that.”
Rio Gomez (Arizona) turned in three shutout innings in his start for Cotuit, but the first move to the bullpen didn’t go so well.
Connor Simmons (Georgia Southern) entered the game and Squier blooped a single into the outfield. The next batter grounded one past Jordan Pearce at third base for a single and Roberts already had to make a trek out to the mound to try to calm his pitcher down.
Simmons walked the bases loaded after going ahead 1-2 in the count and a fly ball deep to center scored one. When a ground ball into right field plated another, Roberts immediately signaled to the bullpen to bring in Ross Achter (Toledo).
The Kettleers responded, though, off of singles by Pearce and Pat Dorrian (Lynn) in the next half inning, to tie the game at two. A dropped routine pop up to second base started the inning, letting Klein get on base. He was the first run to score. Dorrian’s RBI came in a pinchi-hit at-bat.
When the Firebirds took a 4-2 lead in the sixth, Cotuit battled back to tie the game again in its ensuing chance.
Riley Adams (San Diego) hit a solo home run off of Achter to leadoff the inning. Justin Jones (Georgia State) drove in another.
Cotuit’s A.J. Balta (Oregon) wiped that all away with a fly ball to the fence in left field that landed him on second and sent two runners over the plate.
“Offensive wise we were better,” Roberts said. “We hit the ball hard.
“You love watching that,” he added of the team’s resiliency.
A new pitcher in Alec Byrd (Florida State) brought the Kettleers stability on the mound, starting with the seventh. He hit two of the first four batters he faced and had to tag a runner out at the plate himself, but he never let in a run.
With the eleventh came Ryan Rigby (Mississippi State). And with Rigby came the loss.
A full count to Brian Miller (North Carolina) resulted in a walk. He slid safely into second with a stolen base when Susnara’s throw bounced into the outfield. Squier came to the plate with two outs and won the game.
“It’s been a very tough season for a lot of people that want to see win, win, win,” Roberts said. “But I can say this: Anybody who likes baseball ought to be very proud of watching this group play. Because they played their hearts out and they’re continuing to do that.”
Video recap by Jon Perez