By: Matt Liberman
June 22, 2017
YARMOUTH – Cotuit opened the season with a bang. Last year’s last-place team led the Cape League in runs allowed and sat second in runs scored. Every hitter, one through nine, threatened opposing pitchers. Since the team’s first loss against Chatham on Monday night, the team has not been able to string together consistency at the dish. One of the crucial aspects that returning starter Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) touched on after the loss to Bourne was getting productive outs.
“Baseball is 27 outs,” Jenista said on Monday. “Just make productive outs.”
Tonight in a 5-3 road loss to the three-time defending champion Y-D Red Sox, Cotuit again failed to produce in crucial moments. The loss drops Cotuit to 4-4, the fourth straight loss after opening the season 4-0.
The Kettleers opened the game strong, loading the bases with no outs before Zack Kone (Duke) continued his torrid pace with a two-RBI double to right field to score Griffin Conine (Duke) and Jenista, as well as advancing John Cresto (Santa Clara) to third. But Cresto remained at third before walking back to the dugout.
A double play and a 4-3 groundout failed to drive Cresto in, and Cotuit made two poor outs, leaving another run 90 feet from home.
Y-D scored one run in the first against Cotuit starter Zane Collins (Wright State) before the Kettleers found themselves with another opportunity to extend the lead. Brett Kinneman (North Carolina State) singled and stole second to open the second inning. No outs and a runner on second is a promising start for any inning. Unless the team cannot advance him.
With a runner on second, even more so with the speed of Kinneman, anything on the ground to the right side of the field should advance him. Even just a groundout to first would be successful for Cotuit. But his college teammate, Christian Demby (North Carolina State) hit a popup to first base. Kinneman just needed that popup to carry into right field. Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) flied out on the next play, but to shallow left field, just about thirty feet from third base.
After Conine took a pitch off arm to put runners on first and second, Jenista struck out swinging to end the inning. Another missed opportunity for Cotuit.
“(Strikeouts) just kill you,” Conine said. “You have to put the ball in play, and that’s something we haven’t been doing a great job of.”
These scenarios arose just about every inning. In the third, Michael Toglia (UCLA) and Gian Martellini (Boston College) both struck out with Kone on second to end the inning. Toglia then struck out looking with runners on the corner in the fifth inning to prevent a score.
The Kettleers left runners on base in seven of the nine innings against the Red Sox and Cotuit hitters struck out four times with runners on base and grounded into double plays twice.
One of the big reasons the Kettleers cannot drive in runs in those opportunities is they are getting behind in the count. In 18 of 35 plate appearances today hitters fell behind 0-1 in the count and in 14 of those 35 plate appearances hitters fell behind in the count with two strikes.
“We’re swinging off-speed early in the count,” Toglia said, “and not really sticking to our approach.”
Unlike most pitching rotations that command fastballs early in the count, Y-D began counts throwing breaking balls and off-speed pitches to try to fool Cotuit, said Conine.
“First pitch of the game…curveball,” Conine said, “It throws you off. You have to change your approach.”
Y-D took full advantage of their scoring opportunities, as Cotuit actually out-hit the Red Sox and finished with more runners on base. They just happened to finish with more runners left on base as well.
The Red Sox scored two runs in the fourth and fifth innings, coming in the form of deep outfield hits, including a 416-foot two-run home run off the bat of Luke Miller (Indiana).
Keyton Gibson (Georgia Tech) struggled in relief, giving up three runs in two innings of work without recording a strikeout. Kyle Kemp (Lipscomb) shone bright, though, in his first appearance out of the bullpen. The righty tossed three scoreless innings, yielding just one hit and striking out two.
“I don’t think anything needs to change dramatically,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “We out-hit them nine to eight …it’s just when you get those hits.”
Cotuit faces another road test on Friday night in Brewster (4-2-1). The Kettleers are 2-0 against the Whitecaps this season, giving them their only two losses of the campaign.