July 15, 2017
Cotuit – Brett Kinneman (NC State) sat in the dugout staring at an empty Lowell Park. Most of the Kettleers had left the dugout, but Kinneman remained, just looking aimlessly ahead. To his left sat Griffin Conine (Duke). The right fielder religiously shook his head back and forth while untying his cleats.
“And I thought yesterday was bad,” Conine said to his teammates still in the dugout.
For the second consecutive night, Cotuit (14-13-1) was held to just two hits in a 1-0 shutout against Wareham (12-15-1). The Gateman held Cotuit to just four base runners this Saturday night at Lowell Park, the Kettleers’ lowest total this season.
Justin Hooper (UCLA), Clark Cota (UNC Wilmington) and new addition Michael Byrne (Florida) combined to toss nine innings of one-run baseball, but it wasn’t enough as they had no run support.
“I try to tell the offensive guys that come July it gets a lot different,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “A lot different.”
This was Byrne’s first appearance of the season. He just arrived in Cotuit, coming off of a College World Series championship with Florida. Like Byrne, many of the league’s top pitchers didn’t arrive to the Cape until early July. Many teams now have a new crop of talent that players here haven’t seen before, and many of them come from dominant programs like Florida.
“What big boys are here,” Roberts said, “they come out in July.”
During the previous four games, Cotuit’s offense has faltered as it has battled some of the top pitchers in the Cape League. During this four-game losing streak, Cotuit has tallied just eight runs. And tonight,similar to the Hyannis loss on July 12, the pitching excelled while the lineup was silenced.
Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) and Michael Toglia (UCLA) recorded the only two hits for Cotuit, and neither hit escaped the infield. Conine finished 0-4 with three strikeouts and no walks. This marks the first time all season that Conine failed to get aboard in two consecutive games.
For nearly the entire game, Cotuit and Wareham remained locked in a pitcher’s duel. Wareham starter Griffin Roberts (Wake Forest) threw six scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out six. The Demon Deacon did not walk anyone and did not throw a single ball in the dirt.
Hooper countered with five scoreless innings, three hits, four strikeouts and no walks. Cota and Byrne also provided strong relief outings, with Cota relieving Hooper of a jam with runners on second and third, and Byrne ending the eighth inning with the bases juiced. The lone run came against Tristan Pompey (Kentucky) in the top of the eighth inning.
Cota allowed two hits to open the inning, leaving runners on second and third. With no outs, Roberts called Byrne from the bullpen. After forcing John Toppa (UConn) to fly out, Pompey lined a fastball into center field, driving home Kyle Kasser (Oregon) for the Gatemen.
“You can’t dictate a lot in a ballgame like that,” Roberts said. “You have to take it as it comes and hope that you get a key base hit and they were fortunate to get (it).”
Cotuit saw some promise in the seventh inning when Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) and Toglia reached first and second with just one out, but Alexander proceeded to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to retire the side.
Cotuit never reached third base the entire game.
The team’s final chance came in the bottom of the ninth inning. Down 1-0, Terrin Vavra (Minnesota) walked to board a runner. Brett Conine (Cal State Fullerton), unrelated to Griffin, entered in relief following the walk. Against the heart of Cotuit’s lineup, the righty fanned Conine, Toglia and Kinneman to end the game.
“You want to get that big hit for the team,” Kinneman said. “I battled… I wish I could’ve down more.”
Cotuit has the opportunity to even the season series on Sunday night as the team travels to Wareham.