COTUIT – Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina) stormed through Bourne for the first two innings. Two consecutive 1-2-3 outputs, allowing only one hit, that wouldn’t matter due to a double play to end the first. Backed by a 2-0 lead, Bilous entered the third inning ready to roll. Instead, he faltered.
Bilous surrendered two hits and two walks, including two wild pitches, to give up a run and load the bases. Bilous’ command on the game slipped and his velocity dropped drastically. Instead of clocking his fastball in the mid-90s, the starter struggled to break 90 mph at all.
After two quick putouts, without letting in a run, it appeared Bilous would escape the jam practically unharmed. But with two outs, Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) ripped a bases-clearing double down the first base line. That would be it for Bilous, as Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts yanked his starter after 2.2 innings. Bilous’ struggles began once he pitched in the stretch because he opened up too much in his delivery.
“(That) caused my command to go away as well as the velocity,” Bilous said. “(My) fastball became very straight and flat. It probably looked like a beach ball to the hitters.”
The three-RBI double put Bourne on top 4-2, in what became a 5-4 victory for the Braves (3-1) over Cotuit (4-2) this Tuesday evening at Lowell Park. The loss marked the Kettleers’ second straight defeat, after opening the season 4-0.
Tonight’s game flip-flopped as each side took turns in command. Cotuit jumped out to an early lead. Zack Kone (Duke) led the charge in the first. With Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) on third and John Cresto (Santa Clara) on second, Kone smoked a line drive up the middle. Alexander scored easily from 90 feet away, but Cresto jumped perfectly on the ball. Seeing it would land, he took off full-speed, and slid into home safely to put Cotuit up 2-0.
Bourne struck back harder in the third, scoring the four runs against a fading Bilous. But Cotuit returned the favor in the bottom of the inning. Again, Alexander and Cresto reached base with Zack Kone at the dish. The Duke shortstop lined the ball down into the right field corner for a slide-in double. Alexander reached home easily, while Cresto advanced to third, but scored on the next play when Miles Lewis (Michigan) grounded out.
Play remained relatively stagnant until the top of the seventh inning. Bourne loaded the bases on reliever Adam Scott (Wofford), before he was pulled for Chase Shugart (Texas). Shugart yielded an infield single on a short chopper to score one run, but then shut down two straight Braves to end the inning with minimal damage.
That was all Bourne would need though, as Cotuit failed to collectively bring its offense together for the remainder of the contest. Something the team struggled with all game, but especially in tight circumstances was producing unproductive outs. Often times a flyout to center field or an opposite-field ground ball is all a team needs to generate run support. But the Kettleers couldn’t create any productive outs to compliment their hits.
“Just make productive outs,” Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) said. “You have to make productive outs and we didn’t do that tonight.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Kone continued his onslaught by launching a ball into the gap in left center-field. Both outfielders attempted a diving play on the ball and missed. While they desperately searched for the ball, Kone rolled into third base for a triple, his fourth hit of the night in as many attempts. All the team needed was a hit to the outfield, even a flyout. Kone has the speed, he just needed someone to carry the ball the way he did all game.
Instead Lewis grounded out to first, unable to drive the run in. And after Brett Kinneman (North Carolina State) pinch-hit walk to put runners on the corners, Christian Demby (North Carolina State) ended the inning with a popup to third.
An inning later, with their backs against the wall, the Kettleers had one more opportunity. With one out, Conine and Jenista hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. An Alexander fielder’s choice then managed to put runners on the corners with two outs, but Cresto struck out swinging to end the game.
The opportunities were there for Cotuit. The Kettleers left runners on base in seven innings, and left two runners on in both the eighth and ninth innings while they attempted a comeback.
“We hit a ball in the outfield,” Jenista said, “runner scores and it’s a 5-5 game.”
Cotuit didn’t take advantage of the little things tonight. The team left nine runners on base, and walked five batters, four of which resulted in runs.
In the back-and-forth game, Cotuit didn’t match up.
“Right now we don’t have enough pieces of the chess game,” Roberts said. “We had our opportunities and didn’t execute.”
The team looks to return to its winning ways on Wednesday, June 21st, 5:00 pm at home against Harwich (2-4).