By Ben Gainsboro, Stetson University
Photos by Josh Muir, Endicott College
Video by Jacob Cohen, Boston University
July 13th, 2019
BOURNE, MA – Coach Mike Roberts took a step back and popped up a ball high into the air for his catcher, Coltyn Kessler (Kentucky), to snag.
The “Manager pop-up” is an art, something that is practiced time and time again but rarely executed to perfection.
As the ball arced up into the air and fell towards Kessler’s mitt, he misjudged it, and the ball popped out of his mitt and onto the freshly cut grass below.
“I learned to do that when I was a teenager,” Roberts said. “I would set my mitt on home plate and I would take a regular bat…I would take my K55 Mickey Mantle bat, and I would hit myself pop ups, grab my mitt, and go run and catch them.”
Kessler looked at his bat in disbelief, gave it a soft punch, and looked back up at Roberts, smiling. Roberts chuckled in return, right before picking up another ball and doing the exact same thing, this time towards the third base line.
This time, Kessler made the play, and the remaining Kettleers jogged off the field with smiles on their faces to prep for game time.
Compare this scene to that of yesterdays rain-out vs. Harwich, a game in which Cotuit was trailing 12-0 when the rain hit.
Somber faces, heads dipped in the dugout, catchers warming up to pitch in the bullpen…all backdropped by a gloomy sky and impending rain.
The scenes were night and day.
Instead of tiptoeing around that performance, however, Roberts tackled the struggle head on.
“I hope it’s an aberration,” Mike Roberts said. “Those days happen, and I think we’ll learn from that game. Not only tonight, but I think in the future [as well].
The rest of the Kettleers seemed to have a short memory, too.
In the early goings, it appeared like maybe the Braves had figured out Zach McCambley (Coastal Carolina), who had pitched against them just six nights prior in the same ballpark.
Bourne got runners on first and second with just one out in the bottom of the first, but McCambley was able to strike out Jackson Greer (East Tennessee State) and force Cody Morisette (Boston College) to ground out to end the threat.
In the next inning, it was runners on first and second with one out again for Bourne, but McCambley was able to rebound, striking out both Jake Mackenzie (Fordham) and Jud Fabian (Florida) to leave the inning unscathed.
“He’s really aggressive,” Coach Mike Roberts said. “He’s attacking the hitters; he goes after them. I’ve enjoyed watching him pitch. He not only has a great arm, but he has a really sharp breaking ball and he stays ahead in the count.”
After that, it was smooth sailing for the Chanticleer, as he cruised through his remaining four and a third innings of action with just two hits against. He also finished the night with seven strikeouts, tied for a season high.
While McCambley was keeping the Bourne bats at bay, Cotuit’s offense was once again producing at the dish. The scoring started in the third inning, when Adam Oviedo (Oral Roberts) singled home Joey Loperfido (Duke). It was Oviedo’s second RBI in Cotuit’s last two games.
“I have a lot of confidence in Adam,” Mike Roberts said. “I don’t think he’s ever in a slump, I just think he sometimes doesn’t attack it like he should. In the last three or four games, if you look at the game situation, he has had some really big hits.”
Cotuit would strike again in the fifth, when Mason McWhorter (Georgia Southern) brought home Parker Chavers (Coastal Carolina) from third to give the Kettleers the 2-0 advantage. McWhorter would finish the game with two RBI. It was his sixth RBI in the last six games.
In the sixth, with runners on first and second with just one out, Casey Schmitt (San Diego State) took over on the bump with Matthew Mervis (Duke) going from the bench to third base.
In a high-pressure situation, Schmitt was able to get Kyle Hess (Pitt) to fly out to right field, before getting Brendan Rivoli (Virginia) to ground out to Joey Loperfido at second.
The Braves would not threaten for the remainder of the game, and the insurance that Cotuit got in the top of the seventh via a Mason McWhorter single, an Adam Oviedo single, and a wild pitch would prove to be enough. Cotuit led at that point 5-0, and Schmitt was able to strike out five batters in the remaining two innings to close the door.
For Mike Roberts and his club, it seems like they are starting to find a consistency in their play.
The funny thing about consistency? It it can come from something as simple as hitting a pop-up to your catcher before the game.
“I think most people don’t realize,” Roberts said. “It’s not in the swing, it’s in the toss. You need to throw the toss actually behind you. Most people throw the ball in front of them. I am fairly consistent at that. I’m going to take care of my catchers.”
Cotuit (15-11-2) is back in action Sunday night to face off with the Orleans Firebirds (14-11-2). That game will be played at Lowell Park, with the first pitch being set for 5:00 P.M.