By Ben Gainsboro, Stetson University
Photos by Josh Muir, Endicott College
Video by Jacob Cohen, Boston University
July 26th, 2019
COTUIT – It was pitch black on Friday night at Lowell Park, yet the Kettleers were playing.
Not playing baseball, but rather playing with friends and families, young ones and parents, as a part of the Kettleers first ever “Youth Day.”
The name of the event figured to be catering towards, well, youth, but look around you and what you saw were plenty of people, young and old, having a heck of a time.
Start at the souvenir stand and you had Jackson Wolf (West Virginia) dancing to “Mamma Mia,” while the army of kids surrounding him seemed to only grow and grow as the night went on. The other thing growing was Wolf’s sweat towel, as the big lefty put in a full, nine inning workout trying to keep the kids entertained and the tunes bumping.
To the left of Wolf was the games station, where Richard Brereton (Emory) and Jacob Nemith (Azusa Pacific) battled it out in a game of cornhole against some younger fans. Behind them, interns tried to spot the frisbee flying at their faces in a (much too dark) game of Kan Jam.
To the right of them were s’mores.
To the right of that were hot dogs and drinks.
All around, everywhere you looked, were happy people enjoying the beautiful July night.
What prefaced the excitement and encouragement about the event was a darn fine performance by Cotuit on the ball field.
The Kettleers came into this one scuffling, losing three of their last four and tying the other.
The bats were cold, the bullpen was a bit shaken, and the normally boisterous fans were just a tick quieter.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell watching this one.
The Kettleers struck first when Casey Schmitt (San Diego State) was able to bring home Oraj Anu (Kentucky) with a first inning sac-fly. Wareham starter Lukas Veinbergs (Missouri) was hit early and often in this one, lasting only four innings and allowing five runs.
The second of those runs came when Joey Loperfido (Duke) was able to rifle a single into center field, scoring Nick Gonzales (New Mexico State) to give the Kettleers a 2-0 lead. It was Joey’s 9th RBI of the season.
In the fourth, we had the play of the game for the Cotuit offense.
The spark, the big hit, the bomb, whatever you want to call it; Cotuit got it.
It came when Oraj Anu was able to handle a 1-1 pitch, lacing a three-run shot to right field for his 5th home run of the season and first since July 9th (vs. Bourne).
“[Oraj] is just using his legs, instead of hand hitting so much,” Coach Mike Roberts said postgame. “He’s really trying to rotate, which is what we are going to work on tomorrow. But his legs are dramatically better from both sides of the plate.”
The blast gave the Kettleers something they haven’t had a whole lot of in recent games: Comfortable breathing room.
“My mom just told me, stay loose up there,” Anu said postgame. “Don’t overswing, stuff like that. And I feel like it’s been helping out a lot.”
Since the all-star break, Anu is hitting 5-13 (.384) with a home run and three RBI.
While Anu was carrying Cotuit with his bat, Reid Johnston (NC State) was shutting Wareham down on the mound.
“Reid has been very consistent,” Roberts said postgame. “He does a great job, it is very interesting, he is one right-hander that does a really good job against left-handed hitters. He brings the breaking ball into the left-handers off of the right-handed box, and he has enough speed off of that pitch that they really have trouble zeroing in on his breaking ball.”
The righty pitched another gem for the Kettleers, going 4.2 innings and allowing just a single run off of three hits. His strikeout total was a modest four, but he also walked just one Gateman through his work.
Picking him up and going the other 4.1 was Casey Schmitt, who was equally, if not more dominant, than Johnston.
“He (Schmitt) is a unique athlete,” Roberts said. “We don’t get many college baseball players with his versatility, his feel for the game, whether he is at third base or on the mound. It’s really fun to watch. I think he’s a joy to watch on the mound and if I was a scout sitting back there, I’m not sure that’s where I wouldn’t draft him.”
Schmitt struck out three Gatemen in his four-plus innings of work, allowing no hits and no runs. His season ERA now sits at just 2.11.
Johnston would be tagged with an earned run in the fifth after Braiden Ward (Washington) singled, putting the score at 5-1.
In the eighth, Coltyn Kessler (Kentucky) broke out of an extra-base hit slump of his own, doubling to deep left center to bring home Schmitt from second.
The score of 6-1 would stay that way when the game finished up, improving the Kettleers record to 18-16-4, while simultaneously dropping the Gatemen to 19-17-1. Even though Wareham has one more win than Cotuit, the Kettleers are now one point (40) above their rivals (39) for second place in the west.
Cotuit is back in action tomorrow at Chatham (23-12-2). First pitch at Veterans field is set for 7:00 P.M.