July 9, 2017
Cotuit – Ahead 2-0 in the count, Griffin Conine (Duke) stared down Harwich starter Tyler Baum (UNC). The Tobacco Road rivalry made its way into Lowell Park and Conine wanted to take home the glory. Hitless in the game thus far, Conine sat on a fastball, right down the middle, and crushed it over the right field fence.
Conine’s 430-foot moonshot cleared the trees and gave Cotuit a 4-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning. That home run marked the longest home run for Cotuit this season.
“In my 14 years,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said, “I think I’ve only seen one left-handed hitter that hit a ball that high and that far.”
Conine’s two-run home run padded Cotuit’s lead, and proved to be the game winner as the Kettleers (14-9) topped Harwich (7-15-1) 4-2 at home to win their sixth straight game of the season this Sunday afternoon. The last time Cotuit won six games in a row dates back to 2012.
The six games that the Kettleers have won have been close. Only one game has been decided by more than three runs.
Much of the difference has come from the lead-off spot in Conine. In his last three games, Conine is hitting .417 with three home runs, seven RBIs and six walks. He has hit in each of the team’s previous six games.
“The last couple nights he’s really turned on the ball pretty well,” Roberts said. “He’s a quality veteran hitter.”
Conine opened the first inning with a four-pitch walk before coming around to score on a Michael Toglia (UCLA) 1-4-3 groundout. But Conine fell short in his next two at-bats, lining out to left field and striking out.
During those two at-bats, Baum was effective, mixing his fastball and off-speed pitches. But in the fourth encounter between the two, Baum missed two breaking balls to open the at-bat, falling behind 2-0. With a commanding lead in the count, Conine knew Baum had to get something in the strike zone, and he wanted to pounce on it.
“I was just looking for something right down the middle,” Conine said, “and that’s where he threw it.”
The ball soared through the air as Conine flipped his bat and trotted around the bases, before meeting Miles Lewis (Michigan) at home, who also scored on the bomb.
To try to take Conine off his game, coaches of late have been instructing their pitchers to throw around Conine with breaking balls to get him to chase out of the zone, he said. But breaking balls are much harder to command and he has gotten ahead in many counts from pitchers missing those early breaking balls like Baum did.
“I get rewarded for laying off pitches,” Conine said. “They get in 2-0 counts and then they have to throw a fastball.”
Conine’s home run moves him out of a tie for second in the league, making him the sole runner-up in the home run race. Only Marty Bechina (Michigan State) of Falmouth leads Conine, 7-5. His two RBIs also give him 20 on the season and move him to within one of Bechina who leads the league with 21.
“Anytime you have one or two power guys in this league,” Roberts said, “it’s a big advantage. But to have someone that consistently puts the ball deep into the outfield, hitting in your lead-off spot is kind of unique.”
This Sunday’s win against Harwich marks the first game of a three-game homestead of Cotuit. The Kettleers play Hyannis (9-13) on Monday. Cotuit is 2-0 this year against the Harbor Hawks. Cotuit will then play a make-up game against Chatham (10-13) on Tuesday at home.
- Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) extended his hitting streak to nine games with a double on Sunday night. One more game and he will tie Conine for the Cotuit record this season.
- Lewis’ five-game hitting streak ended on Sunday. Lewis finished the game 0-2 with one walk and a run scored.
- During the six-game winning streak, Cotuit starters have pitched into the sixth inning in all but one game.
- Eight of the nine hitters in the lineup got on base against Harwich. Only Gian Martellini (Boston College) failed to reach.
- John Cresto (Santa Clara) missed his second straight game. The two games are the most Cresto has missed in a row all season.
- Toglia now has hits in three straight games and RBIs in all three games as well.
- Cotuit is now 2-1 against Harwich in 2017.