By: Matt Liberman
June 14, 2017
BOURNE – Griffin Conine (Duke) stepped into the batter’s box, lefty on lefty against PJ Boulin of Bourne. After Zach Mort surrendered a walk, an infield single and a ground out to advance the runners, the Braves made the switch to southpaw Poulin to face Conine.
Ahead 2-1 in the count, with runners on second and third, Conine ripped a line drive opposite field, in between Richie Palacios and Turner Brown for a single. Mitch Bigras (Boston College), who was on third eased into home, while Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) raced around the diamond to put Cotuit on top 5-3.
“I’m happy to do anything to help the Kettleers win,” Conine said. “I’m glad I came up in the right spot and put a good swing on it.”
Conine’s go ahead single provided the game winning runs as Cotuit (1-0) opened its 2017 season with a road 5-3 victory at Doran Park over Bourne (0-1). The Duke sophomore sparked the offense from the three-hole, going 2-4 with three RBIs.
Conine’s single electrified the field, but only an inning before he notched the game at 2-2. He pulled a line drive into the gap between center and right field. As the ball quickly rolled to the warning track, Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss) made his way from first base to home. Bourne focused on the run at hand and finding the cutoff to prevent Dillard from scoring, but while the cutoff went to the right side of the diamond, Conine took advantage, sliding into third in the nick of time for an RBI-triple.
Although Conine was the top offensive performer in the season debut, Cotuit succeeded in doing the little things on the field, something it has struggled to do in the past.
In just the first inning, returning starter Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina) found himself in a jam with one out and the bases loaded. Bourne first baseman Lyle Lin smoked a rocket ground ball to Cotuit shortstop Terrin Vavra (Minnesota). The Minnesota product fielded the ball cleanly, but fell running towards second base, tagging the bag with his glove. But Vavra quickly popped up and gunned Lin out at first for the double play to end the inning and keep the Braves’ offense at bay.
Mike Roberts’ defense stalled Bourne with four double plays in the contest, saving several potential runs.
“Do you expect to turn four double plays,” Roberts said. “No…..But four double plays in a game like that make the difference.”
One of the most important sequences of the opener came from three uneventful, less than memorable, but all the more crucial plays. To begin the top of the seventh inning Bigras drew an eight-pitch at-bat ending in a walk to put a man on first with one out.
Returning to the top of the order, Jenista hit a short chopper down the first base line. Lin charged in to field it, but no one transitioned over to cover first, so he was forced to try to tag Jenista, who nimbly dodged out of the way and found himself aboard first with an infield single and Bigras on second.
Dillard then grounded out to first, but because he lined a slowly-hit grounder down the line, Lin didn’t have enough time to make the throw to second to force a double play, resulting in a fielder’s choice with runners on second and third.
“Greyson did a great job of having a big lead with men on first and second,” Roberts said, “so that (Lin) couldn’t go to second.”
Each of the first two plays could have resulted in easy outs, but instead Cotuit found itself with two runners aboard, and had Dillard hit the ball any harder than he did down the first baseline, Bourne might have been able to turn two and end the inning with the score still locked at 3-3.
The following at-bat Conine knocked the two base runners in to put his team ahead for good.
On the other side of the ball, Jayce Vancena (Michigan) and Clark Cota (UNC Wilmington) provided 4 and 2/3s strong innings of relief, with Vancena earning the win and Cota the save. The pair combined to toss six strikeouts and allow just three hits.
Heads up base running, stingy defense and good eyes all shined for Cotuit this evening. The little things that few notice led up to that game-winning single and earned the Kettleers its first win of the regular season.
“At the end of the day you have to do what you have to do to win,” Jenista said.
The team’s home opener is this Thursday evening at 5:00 at Lowell Park.