June 21, 2017
Cotuit – In a league dominated by pitchers, Cotuit appeared in top form. Through the first four games of the season, in which the Kettleers sat atop the league with an undefeated record, Cotuit pitchers allowed a measly seven runs. While the offense averaged 5.25 runs per game, the pitching limited opponents to just 1.75 runs per game.
Cotuit followed up the four-game winning streak with back-to-back losses against Chatham and Bourne. In the two games the Kettleers let up 13 runs on many hard-hit balls. Pitchers struggled with command, couldn’t find their spots and let pitches hang out over the plate to be crushed. But the struggles would not last the entire game. In both games, one inning triggered the downfall.
Cotuit gave up six runs in the sixth inning against the Anglers, four runs in the third inning against the Braves and three runs in two separate innings tonight. All of those bursts at least tied the Kettleers’ total each of the three nights.
The trend continued tonight at Lowell Park as the Kettleers (4-3) fell 6-3 to Harwich (3-4-1). Harwich jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Cotuit starter Dylan King (Belmont) in the first inning, with that total eventually being the difference in the outcome.
One of the most important parts of that undefeated stretch was the pitchers’ ability to escape jams. The key to pitchers’ success in these games was the ability to induce ground balls by pitching low and establishing first-pitch strikes. In each of the three losses, multiple line drives to the outfield has led to base-clearing innings.
“We need to bury the hitter,” King said. “Get ahead in counts and throw the ball low.”
In the first game against Bourne, a 5-3 victory, Cotuit forced Bourne into four double plays and in game one against Brewster, a 4-3 win, Brewster left nine runners on base in the first four innings. Pitchers forced groundouts that resulted in double plays, force outs at home or ahead of the batters, and easy infield popups. Of late, hitters are taking Cotuit pitchers deep into the outfield, often on line drives or deep fly balls that can advance and score runners. And it typically happens in short, sudden bursts.
Harwich opened the game with two hits and a walk, leading to a run scored and two runners on base. In all three at-bats King fell behind in the count to start. After two quick putouts, King surrendered another walk to load the bases, this time on four pitches. The two quick outs made spectators believe Cotuit would walk away relatively safe from another dangerous situation, but once again hitters made the Kettleers pay. Ahead 1-0 with the bases loaded Jordan Verdon (San Diego State) ripped a line drive to right field, scoring two runners and increasing the lead to 3-0.
After Cotuit battled back to tie the game at 3-3, Harwich responded in the seventh. Chase Cohen (Georgia Southern) toed the rubber for Cotuit, and struggled mightily, giving up a leadoff home run to put Harwich back on top 4-3. Cohen yielded three more hits in the inning, two of which came after Cohen fell behind in the count.
A big struggle of late, especially among such a tall pitching staff is leaving balls up in the zone and losing command of fastballs.
“Balls are just up to much,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “When you pitch up the ball gets in the outfield. When you pitch down it doesn’t get in the outfield as much.”
Getting behind in these counts is making pitchers predictable, and once opposing hitters see the same material two or three times in a row, it becomes easy to spot and target weaknesses.
“When you get behind in counts,” bullpen coach and former Kettleers’ pitcher Jonathan King said, “you’re going to get punished for it. Guys know what’s coming.”
The pitching staff looks to turn things around tomorrow night on the road against the defending champion Y-D Red Sox (4-1-1).