COTUIT, MA—The 2021 Cotuit Kettleers got their season off to an early start on Thursday evening against the Lexington Blue Sox. The Kettleers faced off with the Blue Sox, out of the Intercity League, in an exhibition game at Lowell Park. Cotuit topped Lexington by a score of 12-0 in a 10-inning game. The Kettleers produced 15 hits and 13 stolen bases. Four of the 14 hits left the yard, with two homers off the bat of John Rhodes (Kentucky). On the mound, seven Kettleers combined to allow just one hit and strike out 16 batters. In the field, Cotuit made just one error.
Will Jacobsen (Harvard) got the start for the Ketts on the mound. Jacobsen started the day with a four-pitch strikeout. After a walk and a stolen base, the right-handed pitcher stranded a runner in scoring position with two more strikeouts. In the bottom half, Cole Cummings (UC Santa Barbara) scorched a two-out single up the middle for Cotuit’s first baserunner. Cummings promptly swiped second on the next pitch but was stranded in scoring position on a ground out.
Jacobsen worked his first 1-2-3 inning in the second. The California native got help from his defense in the frame. Dylan Beavers (California) tracked down a fly ball near the right field fence for out #1. Cummings made a diving stop and strong throw to first from the hot corner for the third out. RJ Schreck (Duke) led off the bottom half with a first pitch walk. Nate Martorella (California) moved Schreck to third on a single through the right side of the infield. The Kettleers got on the board as Lexington couldn’t handle a towering pop up off the bat of Eric Brown (Coastal Carolina) and Schreck crossed the plate. A trio of strikeouts stranded two Cotuit runners in scoring position.
Jake Brooks (UCLA) took over for Jacobsen on the mound in the third. Jacobsen finished with a final line of 2.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K, and 0 R. After the Blue Sox’ leadoff man reached on an error, Brooks induced an inning-ending double play to set the side down in order. Cummings and Brown combined on the 5-4-3 GDP. The Kettleers also went down in order in the bottom half.
Alaska Abney (Coastal Carolina) got the nod out of the Cotuit bullpen to start the fourth. Abney worked around a two-out single, Lexington’s first hit, for a scoreless inning. The side-armer struck out two in the frame. In the bottom half, Schreck lined a one-out single up the middle to reach base for the second time in as many plate appearances. A stolen base from Schreck and a walk put two on with one out. A double steal put two RISP, before a wild pitch doubled the lead as Schreck crossed the plate for the second time.
Abney returned to the hill in the fifth for his second inning. The right-handed pitcher racked up the swing-and-misses in his second inning of work. with each pitch he threw. Abney worked a 1-2-3 fifth with two strikeouts. He finished with a final line of 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 4 K, and 0 R. Jacob Plastiak (Kentucky) flared a broken-bat single into center field with one out for the Ketts’ fourth hit. Plastiak swiped two bases to put a runner on third with one out. Tommy Seidl (Harvard) drove in Plastiak on a sacrifice fly to left field for the Kettleers’ first RBI. The productive out pushed Cotuit’s lead to 3-0. Beavers followed the sac-fly with a double into the right-center field gap for the Ketts’ first extra-base hit. He was stranded on third after a stolen base.
Justin Meis (Eastern Michigan) entered the game out of the Kettleers’ bullpen to start the sixth. Meis induced two weak grounders and struck out a hitter to end a 1-2-3 frame. With nothing going after two quick outs in the bottom half, Schreck brought life to Lowell Park with a no-doubt home run over the right field fence. The blast was Schreck’s second hit of the game and gave the Kettleers a four-run lead. The Duke outfielder scored three of Cotuit’s first four runs while reaching base in his first three plate appearances. Blake Klassen (Eastern Oklahoma State) followed the homer with a single in his first at-bat but was stranded on first.
Dalton Rhadans (Wofford) became the Kettleers’ fifth pitcher as he took the mound to start the seventh. Rhadans, like Abney, gave the Blue Sox trouble with a side-arm delivery. He started his day with a 1-2-3 frame, including two strikeouts. Brown reached base on an error to start the bottom half. The middle infielder swiped back-to-back bases to reach third base with one out. John Rhodes (Kentucky) followed Schreck’s lead with a no-doubt, two-out homer of his own. Rhodes sent a baseball deep into the Cotuit bullpen for a two-run blast to make it a six-run Kettleers’ lead.
Rhadans continued to miss bats in his second inning of work. The right-handed pitcher worked his second straight 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts in the eighth. He compiled four strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit over two perfect frames. Mikey Perez led off the bottom half with a walk in his first plate appearance. The Kettleers couldn’t get Perez across the plate after two stolen bases.
TJ Brock (Ohio State) came out of the bullpen for the ninth inning and brought the heat to Lowell Park. Brock’s first pitch registered at 98 MPH. The right-handed pitcher froze the first two hitters he faced with back-to-back strikeouts looking. He induced a weak grounder to short to end a 1-2-3 inning. Brown ripped a line drive single into left with one out in the bottom half. Brett Roberts (Florida State) brought Brown across the plate with a sacrifice fly to left to push the lead to seven.
Zach Neto (Campbell) became the 7th Cotuit pitcher as he toed the rubber to start the 10th inning. Neto worked a 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout. Perez made a diving play at third to end the inning with a web gem. The bats caught fire in the bottom half. Rhodes led off the inning with his second homer, a line shot over the left field fence. Beavers followed with his second double and scored on an RBI-single from Perez. Neto, a two-way player, followed with an opposite field single to score Perez. Luke Gold (Boston College) put the exclamation mark on the game with a two-run blast to left field.
The Kettleers played clean baseball on both sides of the ball. Rhodes, Schreck, and Beavers all had a pair of hits. The Ketts were active on the base paths. Both Eric Brown and Mikey Perez swiped three bases, while two other Kettleers had multiple stolen bases. The seven Cotuit pitchers walked just one batter. Four of the seven pitchers struck out multiple batters. The side-armers, Abney and Rhadans, led the way with four strikeouts each.
After the game, Coach Mike Roberts was pleased with how clean his team played. When he gets strikes from his pitchers and clean defense, he expects to win lots of games. Roberts said, “What I tell them, pretty much every day, is no walks, no errors, then we got a much higher percentage chance of winning and so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Roberts was particularly pleased with the way the pitchers attacked the strike zone. “Today, the group of pitchers out there did do a great job of throwing strikes and if you do that, then bunch a couple of base hits, steal a base, maybe hit one out of the ballpark, you have a much better chance to win.”
In recent practices, the coaching staff has worked hard with the players at the fundamentals of base-running. Those efforts paid off quickly on Thursday night. On the aggressiveness on the base paths, Roberts said, “These guys have attacked that pretty well and also use their head with it. We would like to be an elite base running/base stealing team.”
The head coach was pleased to see the ball flying out of the yard, but was even more pleased with the way his players simply put the bat on the ball. Roberts said, “I tell them, most important thing is to make contact, okay, I’m not counting on anybody hitting home runs. We don’t want to strike out, we just want to put the ball in play all the way up and down the lineup.”
After hitting two home runs in the exhibition, Rhodes was excited with how his game is coming into form before the start of the regular season. The Kentucky outfielder hadn’t seen live pitching for a couple weeks, but is starting to feel more comfortable in the box with the wood bat. He said, “It’s just getting acclimated using wood again, seeing live pitching, getting ramped up after really not seeing live pitching for three weeks I guess and so it’s starting to come back.”
The outfielder showed natural and easy power in the exhibition. The home runs were both gone as soon as they left Rhodes’ bat. For Rhodes, they felt as good coming off the bat as they looked flying in the air. “There’s really nothing better than hitting the wood bat center cut. I’m just looking forward to playing up here for the next two months with the wood bat squaring up some more balls,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes has been dreaming of playing in the Cape Cod League for years. He’s excited and ready for that dream to come true starting on Sunday. “I’m super excited, the Cape’s something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life and it’s crazy that finally here and I’m excited to get going and just play some baseball here.”
Cotuit will open the regular season on Sunday at 5:00 PM against Wareham at Lowell Park.