Produced by Cierra Jordan
July 2, 2017
Cotuit- There was no time to react. Jake Mangum (Mississippi State) lined a missile directly at Cotuit starter Justin Hooper (UCLA). The 6’7” lefty threw his arm and glove in front of the rest of his body, and the ball bounced off, rolling back in front of the mound. The crowd gasped, the infield headed for the mound and Cotuit manager Mike Roberts marched out from the dugout to check on Hooper.
After taking a rocket of a line drive to the body, Hooper took the mound for the next batter. He cleared everyone away, took two warm-up pitches, and continued the inning.
“I was thankful that he wasn’t my height,” Roberts said. “Because if he’s my height that’s in his face. That was honestly the first thing I thought. I’m very grateful he’s that tall.”
Hooper tossed 2.1 more innings of scoreless baseball, finishing the day with five innings, four strikeouts and just one unearned run given up. He earned the win in Cotuit’s (9-9) victory over Hyannis (7-10-1) this Sunday night. The win brings Cotuit back to .500 and extends their regular-season lead to 2-0 over Hyannis this year.
The UCLA product struggled a bit to open the season. Through his first three appearances, Hooper’s carried an 0-1 record and a 6.14 ERA. But tonight, Hooper was lights out.
Things got off to a shaky start as Hooper gave up a lead-off double to right field. But he cruised through the next three batters to end the inning without harm.
Hooper then shut down the first two Harbor Hawks to open the second, before hitting Ford Proctor (Rice) in the side. Proctor then stole second after John Cresto (Santa Clara) missed the pick-off throw at first base. This Sunday night was Cresto’s first start at first base. The error put Proctor in scoring position and he took advantage of it, scoring on a double down the third-base line on the following at-bat.
That would be the only run Hooper would give up as he rolled through five innings. When he left the game, Cotuit held an 11-1 lead that they would manage to hold onto. The start gave Hooper his first win this season and his first career victory for the Kettleers.
“He’s just loaded with talent,” Adam Scott (Wofford) said. “When he’s on it’s hard for anyone to square him up.”
There was a scare in the third inning when Mangum drilled Hooper with a line drive. But Hooper bounced right back, and continued his start, as if nothing had happened.
I thought it was coming at my face so I protected (it),” Hooper said. “I was kind of mad because I totally could’ve caught it.”
But the rest of the team had no idea what happened, they briefly thought Hooper was seriously injured.
“At first when he ran back,” Scott said, “We were like, ‘does he know where he is right now.’”
The five innings earned Hooper his longest outing of the year, and although the numbers aren’t eye popping, Hooper made some key plays to keep his team ahead. In the first inning, with no outs and a runner on second, Hooper fielded a ground ball and turned to second instead of first.
Reece Hampton (NC State) headed for third, but paused when Hooper turned towards him. Instead of throwing to second or third to force a pickle, Hooper chased down Hampton himself. The 6’7” Hooper dove after the 5’10” Hampton to make the tag and eliminate the lead runner.
During the season, Hooper at times has shown powerful velocity, great location and the ability to command several pitches. But he hasn’t showcased them all at the same time. Against Hyannis he did.
“When you have a guy with his size,” Gian Martellini (Boston College) said, “the ball gets in on you quick. When you can locate it like that, it’s tough for anybody.”
After returning to .500, Cotuit travels to Wareham (8-10) to face the Gateman at 6:30 p.m.
- Griffin Conine (Duke) returned from the College Home Run Derby to hit lead-off. He finished 1-4 with 3 RBIs.
- Three different players homered for Cotuit: Martellini, Chandler Avant (Alabama) and Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss.)
- Every player in the lineup got a hit for the first time all season.
- Despite giving up 8 runs, only 3 of those runs were earned because Cotuit recorded a season-high 5 errors.