By: Matt McHugh
June 18th, 2017
COTUIT – The Cotuit Kettleers (4-0) continued their undefeated start to the season with a 2-1 win to cap off a doubleheader sweep of the Brewster White Caps (2-2).
Following up a thrilling 3-2 walk off win in 8 innings to end game one, the Kettleers tabbed left-hander Justin Hooper (UCLA) as their starter for game 2.
Hooper was solid in his four innings of work, allowing just one run and three hits. The run came on a solo shot from Marty Costes (Maryland) in the 4th inning.
“Keeping guys off base definitely opens up a lot of pitches for me,” Hooper said. “I think the best thing for me right now is attacking the zone and letting the hitters deal with me.”
Hooper, who just arrived in Cotuit a few days ago, was a reliable pitcher for the 2016 Kettleers, compiling a 3.19 ERA over 8 games in the 2016 season.
At UCLA, he started in 9 of his 20 appearances in the 2017 season. He had a 3.69 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 46.1 innings. His 6-7 frame and his mid-90s fastball make him an attractive target for MLB scouts.
“I’m definitely going into the season competing for my team. Right now, my main focus is giving Cotuit a chance to win,” Hooper said.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Kettleers had a huge boost from another returning player, in the 5th inning. With runners on first and second with one out, Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) smacked an RBI single to centerfield to score Zack Kone (Duke), which broke the tie and put the Kettleers up 2-1. Jenista was hitless in his last nine at bats before that single.
“I’d been struggling at the plate lately, and coach and I talked about that,” Jenista said. “I made a few adjustments and it worked out.”
After that, the game was in the hands of the Kettleers bullpen. Zane Collins (Wright State) struck out Michael Gasper (Bryant) to start off the 6th, but back-to-back singles put runners on the corners, and Mike Roberts went to right-hander Chase Shugart (Texas) for the first time this season.
“Trying to control the emotions was a big thing,” Shugart said. “Coming into that situation, I don’t know of any pitcher that wants to go in there. It’s all about mentality, pounding the zone and making quality pitches.”
Shugart struck out Costes and induced a groundout to end the inning unscathed. He finished off the White Caps in the top of the 7th to earn his first save of the season. He gave a lot of credit to his catcher, and new friend, Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss).
“I met Dillard the first day here, and after that me, him and [Greyson] Jenista became best friends,” Shugart said. “We’ve been hanging out, getting to know each other, so it was like throwing to my catcher back home.”
The win improves the Kettleers to 4-0 on the young season, a vast improvement from their 2-14 start to the 2016 season.
“I don’t want to look at the record as much as I want to look at the people who are doing the job,” coach Mike Roberts said.” “What I like to look at is how we played today. The reason we’re having success is because we’ve been playing well in all different phases of the game.”
As a returning player, Jenista has noticed that this group is different.
“It’s always fun to come back,” Jenista said. “Coach told me we had a good group of guys coming in. This year is special. Every year is different. We all enjoy being around each other, and we all hype each other up and build off of that.”
The Kettleers will make up Friday’s rained out game in Chatham on Monday, June 19th. First pitch is at 7 p.m.