By Jon Mettus
July 22, 2016
COTUIT — The Kettleers broke out of their five-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Orleans Firebirds at Lowell Park on Friday. Cotuit was ahead 6-0 going into the ninth inning, but Orleans scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning and had the tying run reach the plate to give the Kettleers a scare.
Matt Ruppenthal makes 1 hit, 8 strikeout start
Matt Ruppenthal (Vanderbilt) turned in his best start of the season, going 5 1/3 shutout innings, while giving up just one hit and striking out eight batters.
“I thought he had a lot more fun pitching and I had a lot more fun watching him,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said.
In the first, Ruppenthal gassed a 91 MPH fastball past Ethan Paul (Vanderbilt). Paul tried to check his swing, but the third base umpire said he went around. A runner reached base on an error in the second, but Ruppenthal landed a curveball on the outside corner of the plate on Scott Hurst (Cal State Fullerton) to end the inning.
The Firebirds’ lineup featured four All-Stars in a row and a home run derby participant. It didn’t bother Ruppenthal, though. Just one runner reached base on the error his first time through the order, and he added on two more strikeouts with the breaking ball in the third.
Riley Adams (San Diego) got Orleans’ first hit with a single in the fourth inning, but the three other Firebirds to come to the plate were all sent back to the dugout on strikes.
Ruppenthal got up to about 75 pitches and one batter into the sixth inning when Roberts walked out to the mound to pull the plug — joking that he wasn’t going to over do it with Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin in attendance. The righty averaged less than two innings pitched per outing in his freshman season at Vanderbilt this spring.
“Matt is a hard-throwing reliever,” Roberts said. “He wants to make that transition to start, but he kind of was trying to do it as a reliever instead of realizing, ‘OK, I’ve got to pitch now. I can’t maximize effort on every pitch.'”
Roberts commented that Ruppenthal’s changeup, which he threw about 20-25 times, was his best pitch on the night.
After the game, Orleans coach Kelly Johnson tracked down Ruppenthal yelling, “Hey, Rupp. Nice job today. Way to throw the baseball,” before patting him on the stomach. He surrendered only one walk too.
A.J. Balta slides in at second
Pat Dorrian (Lynn) made two errors and other misplays at second base on Thursday in a six-error, blowout loss by the Kettleers. So on Friday, Roberts stuck A.J. Balta (Oregon) in the infield at second.
Balta has played in the outfield at times for Cotuit this summer and played first base and outfield with Oregon during his freshman year this spring.
“He wants to play second base,” Roberts said. “… We talk about backyard baseball, which I love, and whiffle ball. … You just kind of put somebody in there and let them play. He did a good job.”
He got his first taste of second when Brian Miller (North Carolina) grounded the first pitch of the game to him. Balta slid to his left, fielded the ball and threw easily to first.
With two runners on base in the top of the fifth inning, Balta fielded a one-hopper to make the inning-ending out.
His only miscue at second came in the next inning when he bobbled a ball and his throw was late at first, letting Adam Haseley (Virginia) reach base on the error. But when Haseley tried to steal second, Balta covered the bag and caught a near-perfect throw by catcher Jason Delay (Vanderbilt) and tagged Haseley out in one motion.
He ended the game with about three assists, one putout and an error at second (a box score was not immediately made available by the league).