Produced by Cierra Jordan
July 10, 2017
COTUIT – The crack of the bat colliding with the ball echoed through Lowell Park like a firework. Fans rose to their feet. “Oohs and “aahs” followed the ball as it rifled through the air fast enough to hear the wind.
As the ball landed just under 400 feet away from home plate, Michael Toglia (UCLA) rounded first base and clapped his hands together. The youngest player in the Cape League (18) hit a two-run game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to keep the Kettleers’ unbeaten streak alive. The Cotuit first baseman crossed home and jogged over to the dugout where a horde of Kettleers congratulated him.
“It was exhilarating,” Toglia said. “Someone said, ‘that was a bomb’ and smacked me on the helmet. I don’t remember much of it.”
Toglia’s late-game heroics tied the game against Hyannis (9-13-2) at 9-9 on Monday night. That wound up the final score as the game was called after nine innings due to darkness. The tie ended Cotuit’s (14-9-1) six-game winning streak, but it also means that Cotuit has not been beaten in seven straight outings. The tie also keeps Cotuit three points atop the West Division, with Bourne (13-11) sitting just behind.
Monday night’s game proved to be one of the most contentious and exciting games of the year, with four lead changes and three ties. It also featured 18 combined runs and 23 combined hits.
“I was thinking this is really ugly, but let’s keep battling,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.”
Cotuit broke open the scoring in the bottom of the first against Hyannis starter Connor Green (Ole Miss). After a 1-2-3 top of the first from their starter, Zane Collins (Wright State), Cotuit scored three runs on five hits in their half. Four singles and a double put Cotuit on top 3-0 after just one frame. Luke Alexander’s (Mississippi State) RBI-single also extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He is now tied with Griffin Conine (Duke) for the longest Cotuit hitting streak this season.
As quickly as Cotuit took the lead, Hyannis answered back, jumping all over Collins in the second inning. The Harbor Hawks led off the inning with four consecutive hits to score two runs before a sacrifice hit tied the ball game at 3-3.
“We go up 3-0 and give it right back,” Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) said. “That’s kind of a buzzkill.”
Hyannis took their first lead of the game in the top of the fourth, scoring another three runs to extend the margin to 6-3. Two of Hyannis’ three runs in the inning came unearned against Collins. Both were the result of an Alexander error at second base.
With his team down 6-3, Roberts pulled his hitters aside in the dugout before the bottom of the fourth inning.
“He was saying stay true to ourselves,” Jenista said. “We’re a good offense, so play well.”
The team listened, scoring two runs in the bottom frame. Chandler Avant (Alabama) scored the first run of the inning on a fielder’s choice single from Blake Reese (Florida), who made his first appearance of the season. Avant narrowly beat out the tag, wrapping his arm around the catcher’s glove to beat the tag. A call that Hyannis head coach Chad Gassman was not pleased about.
The head man charged at the umpires, yelling nearly an inch from home plate umpire Troy Lare’s face. Roberts didn’t move. He watched from third base, with his arms folded, and a slim grin.
Cotuit added another run in the inning, before the two sides traded blows in the fifth. Entering the eighth inning, the score remained knotted at 7-7.
Hyannis’ Robert Neustrom (Iowa) opened the eighth with a double off of Christian Demby (NC State) before coming around to score just two batters later. Neustrom thrived against Cotuit, finishing 3-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
Jake Mangum (Mississippi State) then knocked in Daniel Robinson (Central Michigan) to add another run to the Harbor Hawks’ 9-7 lead.
Cotuit failed to answer in the eighth, but Toglia emerged in the ninth. After a Jenista popup, Brett Kinneman (NC State) singled to get a runner aboard. Toglia watched five pitches whiz by, three balls and two strikes. With a full count, Toglia jacked the game-tying home run over the right field fence. The ball flew over like a laser.
“I was going to swing no matter what,” Toglia said. “He could’ve thrown it over the backstop and I would’ve swung at it. I was in home run mode.”
As Toglia rounded third base, Roberts held out his hand for a high five. Toglia smacked his hand, as his coach just smiled and watched him
cross home plate.
“That was absolutely the most gorgeous swing,” Roberts said.
Toglia’s game-tying homer kept Cotuit’s unbeaten streak alive and extended it to seven games. The last time Cotuit lost a game was on July 1 at Falmouth.
“That’s a young, young man having a big, big hit,” Jenista said. “Anytime we have someone swinging like that we’ll be in good shape.”
The Kettleers will look to keep rolling in a make-up game on Tuesday against Chatham (11-13) at Lowell Park.