July 22, 2017
Wareham – Justin Hooper (UCLA) leaned over to hug Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts after the game. The two quickly embraced, each with a few parting words.
“I’ll see you soon,” Roberts said.
As Hooper walked away, Roberts began tearing up. He watched Hooper take pictures with some young fans and sign autographs, all the while thinking of the past two summers.
“I get emotional,” Roberts said. “The reason you come to the Cape is to help young men to improve and help them reach their dreams and
goals…For me, the guys become almost like your children.”
Saturday night, in one inning of relief in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, Hooper pitched what will likely be his final inning in a Cotuit uniform. Hooper is just one of three returning players on Cotuit’s roster, Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina) and Greyson Jenista (Wichita State), and will likely head to the MLB by this time next year.
In Hooper’s two years at Cotuit, Hooper’s pitching has improved tremendously. Comparing this year’s stats to last year’s, Hooper raised his wins and strikeouts while dropping his ERA and walks. In 23.1 inning this summer, Hooper walked just four hitters while striking out 21.
“I had a pitch-to-pitch mentality,” Hooper said, “and attacked each hitter the same way. My job was to get outs and put my team in the best position to win.”
The southpaw will return to UCLA for summer classes before the school year begins.
On the opposite side of the ball, Griffin Conine (Duke) continued his rampage at the dish. The Cotuit right fielder finished 2-4 with a two-run home run over the right field fence, to initially extend the West’s lead to 3-0.
Conine hit his home run against Joey Murray (Kent State) of Orleans. In the four-game season series, Conine finished with just one hit against Orleans, his lowest mark against any team. Saturday night, Conine attacked a fastball while ahead in the count and connected, sending it soaring into the football field behind the fence at Spillane Field.
“I had three at-bats against him at (Lowell Park),” Conine said. “The last about was 2-0, same pitch, and I just missed it…So when I got up tonight, I was looking for something to hit hard.”
With his family in the audience, Conine delivered a showcase, earning All-Star Game MVP honors for the West Division. His two hits and
two RBIs led the team in its 5-3 loss to the East Division.
Conine continues to rip the cover off of the ball, despite the home run not contributing to his season total, it means that the Duke midseason All-American has hit home runs in back-to-back games. He currently leads the Cape League in home runs as well as RBIs en route to a possible Cape League MVP award.
“Winning the MVP,” Conine said, “that’s a dream.
Cotuit returns to action in a rematch against Chatham at home on Sunday.