July 30, 2017
Falmouth – A horde of Commodores swarmed George Janca (Texas A&M) as he reached first base. Coolers encircled the third baseman as ice and water danced through the air. After the teams shook hands, and the players left the dugout, Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts sat silently at one end, staring out to the field.
“(I thought about) lots of things,” Roberts said. “I won’t share those thoughts. It doesn’t make any difference what coach Roberts thought was going on.”
Janca’s single in the bottom of the 11th scored Trevor Larnach (Oregon St.) from third to cap off a 3-2 extra-innings thriller at Guv Fuller Field. Crucial mistakes at the end of the game cost Cotuit an opportunity to rise to second in the West Division and earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2015. Instead Cotuit’s (19-19-1) loss to Falmouth (21-19-1) keeps the Kettleers in the third spot in the West, out of position for home-field advantage.
The Kettleers opened the game hot, with back-to-back hits from Griffin Conine (Duke) and Greyson Jenista (Wichita State). Jenista lined a double down the left-field line to score Conine from first and mount a 1-0 lead just two batters in.
Falmouth responded quickly in the bottom of the frame on a Josh Breaux (McLennon CC) two-run home run off the scoreboard. In the previous two games, Breaux has accounted for three of Falmouth’s four runs driven in against Cotuit.
Both pitching staffs settled in nicely after the first, as Cotuit earned just one more run in the fourth off of a Michael Toglia (UCLA) home run to snap a five-at-bat strikeout streak.
From the fifth inning until the tenth, both teams combined for just seven hits in six innings. Brian Rapp (Boston College) pitched a gem in relief for the Kettleers. The righty senior tossed 4.1 innings of scoreless baseball, giving up just two hits and fanning six.
While Rapp pitched effortlessly on the mound, his offense couldn’t muster any support, and failed to convert in key situations.
In the top of the tenth, Zack Kone (Duke) singled with Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) on base. The single put runners on first and second with two outs and Conine at the dish. On a passed ball, Alexander got a strong lead and easily slid into third, but Kone jumped late off the bag and couldn’t reach second base in time to retire the side.
“You have to take care of the baseball,” Jenista said.
The following inning, Jenista singled to put one runner on with one out and the heart of Cotuit’s lineup set to bat. In a 1-1 count, Vavra popped up a sacrifice bunt to the mound, but instead of catching the ball, Falmouth reliever Derrick Adams (Jacksonville State) let it fall, with Jenista a few steps away from first base, and Vavra racing for it. The bunt in the air forced Jenista to hang back to first base to avoid the double play, but Adams letting the ball fall meant he could get an easy out at first, and then possibly an out on the tag at second.
Falmouth first baseman Cameron O’Neill’s throw made it to second in time to apply the tag and end the inning.
“I was surprised to see the (bunt) sign given,” Vavra said. “But it is what it is and I didn’t execute.”
In the half inning, the Commodores struck. Two hits against Cotuit reliever Josh Andrews (Grand Canyon), who was making his first appearance in the Cape League, put runners on second and third.
Roberts decided to swap pitchers, subbing in Christian Demby for Andrews. The last time Demby came in for relief at Falmouth, Alec Bohm (Wichita State) launched a three-run home run to put Falmouth on top 6-3 in an eventual loss for Cotuit.
Demby intentionally walked Breaux to load the bases with two outs against Janca, who was 1-4 in the game prior to the at-bat. After taking ball one, Janca lined a ball into right field, easily scoring Larnach from third, and celebrating in walk-off fashion.
The Kettleers bowed their heads as they shook hands with Falmouth. Heading into the dugout, Jenista and Vavra huddled into one end of the dugout as they removed their cleats. Sitting in the corner, to the right of them was Roberts, looking out at the field.
“My thoughts,” Roberts said, “What can coach Roberts do to help our team get better.”
He can see if his thoughts pay off on Monday as Cotuit is on the road for a double-header make-up day. First the club will hit the road to face Hyannis (15-22-3) in the morning, before returning west and crossing the bridge to take on Wareham (17-22-1). A win in either game earns Cotuit a spot in this year’s playoffs.