July 31, 2017
HYANNIS – Hyannis head coach Chad Gassman stormed out from his perch in the dugout. With his face bright red, he pointed and yelled at home plate umpire Michael Finn. After Griffin Dey (Yale) drew three consecutive walks, Cotuit starter Mark Moclair (Tampa) rifled a fastball on the upper inside corner for a called strike to bring the count to 3-1.
“That was the same pitch as the last one,” Gassman said. “You’ve been calling it tight all game.”
Gassman said 17 words before Finn directed Gassman to the stands. After just 1.1 innings, Hyannis had no manager and the game only spiraled out of control for the Harbor Hawks as Cotuit bombarded them for the next seven innings.
“That was the fastest ejection I’ve ever seen,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said.
In the first game of a road doubleheader of make-up games, Cotuit (20-20-1) bounced Hyannis (15-23-3) 11-4 at McKeon Field to earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. After a week of low-scoring outings, Cotuit scored 11 runs on 15 hits to cap the season series against Hyannis at 4-1-1. The win also moves Cotuit back into second place in the West Division, one point ahead of Bourne.
Cotuit started the game on fire. Four straight Kettleers reached to start, capped with a Michael Toglia single (UCLA) that knocked in two runs. Two batters later, with one out, Chandler Avant (Alabama) tripled into the gap in right center-field to score Toglia. Avant scored himself on the next at-bat, a Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) single.
After just one inning, Cotuit led 4-0. Moclair couldn’t stop the Hyannis offense though, as the Harbor Hawks answered in the bottom of the second with four outs of their own, and Moclair couldn’t make it out of the inning.
With just six available pitchers over the course of Monday’s doubleheader against Hyannis and Wareham, the Kettleers expected Moclair to pitch much deeper into the first game.
Taylor Lehman (Penn State) entered in relief, and provided perhaps his biggest performance of the year. Pitching 3.2 innings, Lehman did not give up a single run, as his offense poured them on. While he held Hyannis scoreless, Cotuit scored three runs. This all came after the Kettleers scored just 12 runs since the All-Star Game.
The biggest spark came in the middle of the order in Toglia and Avant. The two finished a combined 7-8 with seven RBIs and two walks.
Both have struggled of late. Toglia’s batting average dipped to .202 earlier this week, and from July 12-July 30 Avant had just four hits. But in Monday’s clobbering of Hyannis, they made hard contact, and led the Cotuit offense.
“It was a good feeling,” Avant said. “I wasn’t worrying whether it was a hit or not. Just a boost of confidence.”
Saving Lehman’s arm with a hefty lead, Roberts subbed in Jayce Vancena (Michigan) to close the game. The righty threw four shutout innings to preserve the lead. Vancena and Lehman’s outings were crucial for the bullpen, as their ability to stretch saved Roberts from having to possibly pitch a position player. Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss) and Brett Kinneman (NC State) were prepared to pitch in the night game.
“Usually late in the season the bullpen wins games,” Lehman said. “I knew I needed to stretch.”
Overall, Cotuit performed exceptionally. Aside from Moclair’s rough inning and a third, Lehman and Vancena did not allow a run, and the offense recorded the most hits it has all season. Playing out of rhythm, with an extra-innings loss on Sunday night, the Kettleers surged Monday morning, clicking on cylinders.
“We can play more relaxed now,” Avant said, “and play to our potential.”
Cotuit fell in the second half of the doubleheader, losing to Wareham in walk-off fashion, 3-2. But the team does still own the second spot in the division.