By Jon Mettus
July 19, 2016
FALMOUTH — Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts perched at his usual spot on the top step of the dugout, beckoning to his starting pitcher.
But he wasn’t. Batter-by-batter, Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina) was slowly unraveling on the mound and it was only the first inning.
Making his second start of the season, Bilous was tagged with five runs through the first two innings — seven overall, six of which were earned — on the way to a 12-0 Cotuit (11-20-1) loss to Falmouth (20-12) at the Arnie Allen Diamond at Guv Fuller Field on Monday night.
Bilous struck out four batters in his four innings of work, but let up seven hits and walked four batters en route to the loss.
It’s the second straight loss to Falmouth for the Kettleers and second shutout in a row. Cotuit hasn’t scored in its last 20 innings and has lost three in a row since going on a four-game winning streak.
“You think you’re beginning to play a little bit better then all of a sudden a couple games creep up on you,” Roberts said. “It goes back, as we’ve said many times this summer, it goes back to pitching and defense.”
Bilous came out of the gate firing, working primarily with his fastball that touched 97 MPH twice. He induced a groundball to start the game, but it rolled by Pat Dorrian (Lynn) at third for a single. A few pitches that missed low resulted in a four-pitch walk of the next batter.
Roberts called out to catcher Tim Susnara (Oregon) and told him to start using all of Bilous’ pitches.
J.J. Matijevic, one of the best hitters in the league, hit a ground ball the opposite way, but between third and short to load the bases.
“That-a-boy,” Roberts called out. “Good pitch. Just found the hole.”
Bilous gassed fastballs by the next two batters, Joshua Watson (Texas Christian) and Willie Burger (Penn State), to get them both swinging. He was one out away from ending the inning damage free.
He jammed Tristan Gray (Rice) with the next pitch, but the broken bat resulted in a two-run blooper into right field. Bilous bounced a pitch that Susnara couldn’t find after he blocked it, resulting in another run on the wild pitch.
Falmouth had three runs before Cotuit could record three outs. Part of the reason, Roberts explained, is that Bilous needs another pitch to get left-handed batters out. He pitches have good movement, but move into the heads of the bats for lefties. Falmouth’s first three batters were all left-handed.
“I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds just from the last start,” Bilous said. “They were just little hits. Unfortunately, they got through. I was making some good pitches. They were just getting lucky on some.”
As he did in the first, Bilous continued inducing ground balls in the second. The fielding behind him was the problem.
Pat Dorrian (Lynn) fielded a slow chopper, but his throw pulled first baseman Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) off the bag to allow the hit (Roberts “really an error”). Next was a bouncer to second that looked to be a double play before Ryan Hagan (Mercer) muffed it trying to make a basket catch on the bounce near his chest.
Those two runners eventually became Bilous’ fourth and fifth runs when Matijevic hit a double that rolled to the fence in left-center.
“When you’re struggling a little bit throwing strikes and you have some ground balls, the plays need to be made,” Roberts said after the game. “… It’s a whole different ball game at that point.”
With the bottom of the third came Bilous’ first scoreless inning of the game. He met with Roberts and assistant coach Matthew Kinney, who has been working with the pitchers, for a brief conversation.
Bilous got his first 1-2-3 inning in the fourth. He jogged back to the dugout to the sound of Roberts asking if he wanted one more inning.
Bilous walked Matijevic on five pitches and Watson followed with a fly ball deep to center field that Jack Klein (Stanford) dropped while robbing the would be home run.
Out went Bilous and in came David Gerics (Pomona-Pitzer) for his first appearance in nine days. Gerics let in the two runners that Bilous left on — one on a groundout to first and another on a wild pitch.
“(The coaches) were pleased with the progress I’ve made,” Bilous said. “Just got to come out next time even better.”