By: Matt McHugh
July 5, 2017
FALMOUTH — The Cotuit Kettleers (12-9) keep rolling, as they won their second straight game against the Falmouth Commodores (11-10) 9-3 on Wednesday. The Kettleers have now won four straight games, and have moved into sole possession of first place in the West Division.
Although the final score wasn’t close, the game hinged on a tense and action-packed seventh inning. Cotuit starting pitcher Adam Scott (Wofford) was sharp through his first six innings, and with solid run support the Kettleers built a comfortable 5-1 lead. However, a leadoff home run from Marty Bechina (Michigan State) cut the lead to 5-2, and coach Mike Roberts called in Chase Cohen (Georgia Southern). Scott finished with six innings pitched, two runs allowed, five hits, two walks and four strikeouts in his final game with the Kettleers.
Cohen entered Wednesday’s game with a 2.38 ERA in four games this summer, but struggled immediately, giving up three straight singles before being pulled. Cotuit was officially in a jam, with runners on first and second and nobody out in a 5-3 game, and they turned things over to right-hander Jayce Vancena (Michigan).
“We were in a pickle. You know he’s going to throw strikes,” Roberts said. “He’s not going to walk many people – they’re going to have to swing the bat against him.”
Sure enough, Vancena, who only walked four batters all season at Michigan, retired the next three batters in order to escape any further damage and maintain Cotuit’s lead.
“He’s a mature young man going into his senior year,” Roberts added. “Those are the kind of guys you need to count on – guys who are older, wiser, with some more experience.”
In the top of the eighth, Miles Lewis (Michigan) ripped a one-out double to left field to score Zack Kone (Duke) and extend the lead to 6-3. Then, after a walk to catcher Ivan Gonzalez (West Virginia), right fielder Griffin Conine (Duke) blasted his third home run of the season to left-centerfield to give Cotuit a 9-3 lead.
“That was big to get off the field there with the tying run on second base,” Conine said. “That was a big momentum shift when we got out of that. We got back into the dugout knowing we would need a few insurance runs. We took that energy and turned it into a big inning.”
Roberts agreed, saying, “That’s something that turns over to the offensive side when that happens. Griffin [Conine] put a good swing on that pitch and allowed us to relax a bit. They’ve got a lot of big bats in that lineup that can hit the ball a long ways.”
Conine’s home run was his first opposite-field shot of the season, something he is paying attention to. “I’ve been known as a pull hitter my whole life,” he said. “Teams are starting to shift me, so it’s definitely good to keep them honest and take that ball the other way.”
Conine’s home run was also his third hit of the day, and his batting average is up to .351, and he leads the team with 16 RBIs. Conine was in Omaha on June 30 and July 1 for the College Home Run Derby, and was just 3-13 in his first three days back. However, now he’s fully rested and back into the rhythm of the season.
“Now we’re back to having fun,” Conine added. “We’ve won every game since I’ve been back. I missed it when I was [in Omaha], and it’s just been a blast.”
Overall, with the Bourne Braves losing 13-2 at Wareham, the Kettleers have jumped into sole possession of first place while riding their four-game winning streak. This is their second four-game winning streak of the summer, as they started 4-0.
“I’m learning that we’re a very streaky team,” Conine said. “We’re going to enjoy this for sure, but we can’t get too comfortable. It’s about where you end up, so hopefully that’s on top.”
After nine consecutive games, the Kettleers will get a much-needed off day on Thursday, as will the Commodores. The Kettleers next game is at home against the Chatham Anglers on July 7, 5:00 pm.