By Matt Feldman
July 6, 2016
CHATHAM — Tuesday night, the Kettleers (6-16) topped the Chatham Anglers (10-12), 7-1 at Veteran’s Field in Chatham. AJ Balta went 4-for-5 in the victory, which marked Cotuit’s first road win of the season. Devon Gradford (UC Santa Barbara) also saw his first start of the season for the Kettleers, fresh out of UC Santa Barbara’s College World Series run.
AJ Balta (Oregon) notched a pair of doubles, and four hits overall, in Tuesday’s victory over the Anglers. The lefty flew out in his first at bat of the game, but came back and batted 4-for-4 in his final four at bats of the game. Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said he “had a talk” with Balta about his first at bat, in which Roberts critiqued some things, but said Balta turned it around the rest of the game.
“I saw the ball pretty well tonight,” Balta said. “Second ball I just sat on an off-speed pitch for a single, and after that I just kept it rolling.”
Balta posted just five hits in his previous nine games, nearly doubling his season-total in last night’s game alone. His batting average went from .121 to .257 after last night’s performance. Balta also posted three RBIs in the victory— he had just one going into Tuesday’s contest.
“AJ, in practice, was swinging the bat better,” Roberts said. “Any time you get four hits… that’s a wonderful night.”
First win on the road
Prior to the Kettleers’ 7-1 victory last night, Cotuit had been 0-for-10 in road games this season. The Kettleers’ road record was the worst in the league, having won all five of their games at home. And while the team wasn’t necessarily winning every game at home— Cotuit has a 5-12 record at home— the 0-10 road record stuck out like a sore thumb in the stat book. After Tuesday night’s victory, the Kettleers’ road record moved to 1-10.
“Getting our first road win is big for the team, I think our mentality on the road had to change,” Balta said. “If we keep this going on the road, it should roll over in our favor.”
Cotuit has three straight home games upcoming before its next road game, a 6 p.m. start in Hyannis on Sunday. Roberts said that a sign of a good team is its ability to win both at home and on the road, and with Cotuit’s 7-1 drubbing of Chatham, he thinks the team is moving in the right direction in terms of becoming a better team.
Gradford sees first action
Devon Gradford saw his first action Tuesday night for the Kettleers. The outfielder saw four plate appearances walking twice. Early in the game, Gradford, who was playing in left field for Cotuit, discussed positioning with Roberts in the dugout. Roberts said the two were talking about how a left fielder should line up with a left hander on the mound and a right handed batter at the plate.
“Most colleges today, (left fielders) themselves up in line with the first and second base bag,” Roberts said. “I’ve never done that, I’ve always lined my left fielder… halfway between where the shortstop and third basemen are, right in that hole.”
Roberts continued, saying that one sign of a good player is asking questions about positioning and continuing to adjust positioning based on situations, which was a testament to Gradford’s baseball IQ in just his first start of the season.