By: Matt McHugh
July 31, 2017
WAREHAM — After clinching a playoff spot with a win in Hyannis earlier in the day, the Cotuit Kettleers (20-20-1) came up just short of a two-win day as the Wareham Gatemen (18-22-1) rallied for a walk-off 3-2 win at Spillane Field. The Kettleers still have the bad taste in their mouths from Sunday’s 3-2 walk-off loss in 11 innings at the hands of the Falmouth Commodores.
“It was just a lack of execution,” coach Mike Roberts said. “Very similar to the Falmouth game. We have a really good club, we’re pitching really well, but overall execution offensively and defensively needs improvement.”
Kyle Kemp (Lipscomb) got the ball for the 9th inning in a 2-2 game, and he retired the first two batters he faced. Steven Kwan (Oregon State) drew a two-out walk, and Robbie Metz (George Washington) lined an 0-2 pitch down the right field line for a game-winning double.
The Gatemen scored one run in each of the last three innings, coming back from a 2-0 deficit. Cotuit starting pitcher Austin Kitchen (Coastal Carolina) had an excellent start, going 5.1 scoreless innings allowing just three hits and striking out four.
“My biggest thing was taking it one out at a time,” Kitchen said. “I knew if I kept the ball low, threw strikes and stayed efficient it would give me a chance to go deep in the ballgame for us.”
Monday’s game marked just the second start of the summer for Kitchen, who worked exclusively as a reliever for Coastal Carolina this season. Kitchen dropped his ERA to 3.02, and has struck out 20 batters in 20.2 innings.
“I thought he changed speeds well, threw strikes and stayed ahead in the count,” Roberts said. “Too bad we couldn’t pick up the win for him, but he really pitched well and he’s improved in every outing.”
Even though he has changed roles, Kitchen has not changed his approach much on the mound.
“My biggest thing is sticking with the process,” Kitchen added. “I know whatever I threw the first time through worked, so I just try to keep that going, keep it low and I know I can’t get hurt.”
The Kettleers scored both of their runs in the third inning, as Wareham shortstop Ben Baird (Washington) made an errant throw allowing both Zack Kone (Duke) and Griffin Conine (Duke) to score.
The Kettleers stranded seven runners on base in the game, with their other best scoring chance coming in the 7th inning. Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) was up with the bases loaded and one out, and lined into an unassisted double play to end the inning.
Michael Byrne (Florida) was the first reliever out of the bullpen, and allowed an unearned run in the 7th on an error from shortstop Chandler Avant. In the 8th, designated hitter Jake Anchia (Nova Southeastern) tied the game with an RBI single — the first earned run Byrne has allowed all season.
“We pitched really well,” Roberts said. “I’d just like so see us execute better. The guys are capable of making the plays out there, hopefully we see that going forward.”
The Kettleers only had six pitchers available for all 18 innings on Monday, and Austin Kitchen’s strong start saved the bullpen from a potentially tight situation.
“Everyone’s getting their innings in,” Kitchen said. “I think it really helps us going into the playoffs. A lot of guys are getting repetitions, so it gives us a good chance to make a run in the playoffs.”
The Kettleers return home for their final homestand of the regular season on Tuesday, and will host the Bourne Braves, while the Gatemen will host the Falmouth Commodores.