By: Matt McHugh
July 20, 2017
COTUIT — The Cotuit Kettleers (16-15-1) were cruising through the first four innings of Thursday’s game against the Bourne Braves (17-15) at Doran Park, but a four-run fifth inning did them in as they fell 5-3. With the win, the Braves leapfrogged the Kettleers in the standings, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the West Division.
The Kettleers jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning, scoring one run each in the second, third and fourth. A successful squeeze play from Luke Alexander (Mississippi State), and RBI double from Terrin Vavra (Minnesota) and and RBI groundout from Ivan Gonzalez (West Virginia) plated three runs on five hits.
On the mound, starting pitcher Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina) was making his fourth start of the season against the Braves and was cruising through four innings. He allowed two hits, walked three and struck out six in four scoreless frames.
“Up until the fifth inning I was dominating with the fastball, getting ahead early, and shutting guys down with the slider,” Bilous said. “I didn’t throw one four-seam today. I was just working on the two seam, and I think that was why there were a lot of swing and misses. I hadn’t thrown it all summer, and I wanted to try it out and see how it was working. Part of it was to give them a different look, and part of it was just to experiment.”
The fifth inning started out with a base hit from Andrew Fregia (Sam Houston State), and Richard Palacios (Towson) smoked a ground-rule double to left-center to put two runners in scoring position with no outs.
“They just got ahead early,” Bilous said. “They were swinging first pitch. I left one out over the plate to [Jimmy Palacios] and he got the ground rule double.”
At that point, Bilous had thrown 76 pitches, and was starting to work through Bourne’s lineup for a third time.
“Historically when Jason gets to the 70-75 pitch spot, his velocity tends to back off,” coach Mike Roberts said. “He did a great job, but when that tick of velocity drops they start getting the head of the bat on the ball. I would take those four good innings out of him every time. I would love for him to get to that 5th or 6th inning, but he’s very focused and that’s a real plus.”
Roberts decided to make the call to the bullpen, and went with right-hander Jayce Vancena (Michigan), who came in for his 10th appearance of the season to face Lyle Lin (Arizona State). On the first pitch, Vancena left a fastball over the plate, which Lin handled comfortably for a two-run single. After a wild pitch advanced Lin into scoring position, Vancena was removed in favor of Zane Collins (Wright State).
“I have a lot of confidence in Jayce and Zane, but the pitch selection wasn’t great,” Roberts said. “The first pitch fastball to [Lyle] Lin was a mistake and he jumped all over it. On Monday night, the ball just jumped out of his hand, and tonight it wasn’t the same, and you could tell quickly.”
Collins struggled as well, issuing a walk to Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) and giving up an RBI single to Zac Susi (Connecticut). A passed ball from Ivan Gonzalez brought Witherspoon home to give Bourne the lead.
Jeremy Eierman (Missouri State) added a solo shot in the 7th inning off of Chase Cohen (Georgia Southern) to add an insurance run and give Bourne a 5-3 lead.
The Kettleers will look to regain first place as they head to Chatham tomorrow. The Braves will head east as well as they’ll visit Orleans.