The Cotuit Kettleers are peaking at the right time. The Kettleers have won four straight games and are currently in the last playoff spot from the Western Division. Cotuit has been fueled by the middle infield of Eric Brown Jr. (Coastal Carolina) and Ryan Ritter (Kentucky). Both Brown and Ritter have been in Cotuit from day one of the summer and been building a special bond ever since.
Head coach Mike Roberts has been coaching at the college level for over forty years. He’s never had a better middle infield than the one he has this summer. Roberts said, “Best middle infield I’ve had since 1983-1985 at North Carolina. Guy named Walt Weiss played shortstop. As far as the two of them, in my almost 50 years of doing this, it’s the best two amateur players up the middle I’ve ever seen on any team.”
Brown, a Cape League All-Star, leads the Kettleers in hits, runs, and stolen bases. He’s also second on the team in RBI and homers. He believes he’s shown off a five-tool skillset against some of the best players in the country this summer. Despite that, he knows he still has room for improvement. “I still feel like I need to work on my speed and I feel like I need to become more consistent hitting. There’s always room to grow and there’s always room to become better, but I still believe that I hold all five tools.”
On days that Brown hasn’t made an impact with his bat, he’s changed the game with his glove. In thirty games this summer, the middle infielder has made just one error. Brown said, “Your bat is going to go through slumps, going to go up and down. Well, your glove can never slump. I feel like if you’re not having it with your bat, then you have to be there with your glove.”
Coach Roberts has been amazed with some of the plays the Coastal product has made this summer. “He defies the odds sometimes, I’d take him home with me. He reminds me a lot of my son, Brian Roberts, playing the game. He loves to run the bases and that sparks a team.”
The Kettleers have scored double digit runs in three of their last four games. The biggest change in Cotuit’s lineup has been the development of Ritter’s bat. After going 0-3 at Chatham on July 21st, Ritter’s average sat at .218. Heading into August, the shortstop is riding an eight-game hitting streak and is fifth in the league with a .325 average.
Ritter said, “I just took a look back at my summer so far and I wanted to make a change to it. I tried some new things and I just stayed true to myself and a lot has changed for me.”
Roberts mentioned that the change for Ritter has come in practice. Rather than trying to hit homers in batting practice, he’s worked on hitting a ‘humble BP.’ Roberts said, “He’s just done a fantastic job. Since I moved him up in the third slot, our team’s been totally different.”
Both Brown and Ritter came to the Cape as shortstops. Early in the season, both played short at a high level. The competition between the two has made each of them better. Brown said, “It makes us better. We get to sit there and compete with each other every day at practice. We push each other and see who can make the better plays.” Ritter added, “We compete like crazy. If somebody gets hit, it’s like ‘okay, next person needs to get a hit.'”
The two have displayed their chemistry not just through double plays, but also handshakes. In between innings, the two like to show off unique handshakes that have helped the Kettleers’ socials go viral. Brown likes to take credit for the handshakes, “I’m the creator of all the handshakes. We sit there and try to watch Tik Tok videos and Tik Tok dances and just try to have fun with the game.”
The defensive ability of the two has provided a drastic advantage for the Kettleers. “It’s an advantage for our pitchers and it’s an advantage for our entire team. They’re guys who have spent hours and hours and hours practicing. They seem to really enjoy playing together. It’s the best I’ve ever seen for a team that I’ve coached on the shortstop side and the second base side combined and I’m just enjoying it all the way to the last pitch, whenever it may be,” said Roberts.
For Brown, there’s ‘no doubt’ that him and Ritter make up the best middle infield on the Cape. The Coastal product knows there’s a lot of talent around the league, but none others can match the chemistry built between Brown and Ritter. “I would say that there’s tons of great infielders on the Cape, but there’s just a connection that Ritter and I have. We just gel well together on the field and we like to have fun. I don’t think there’s another duo on the cape that has the amount of fun or has the same fundamentals we do.”
The dynamic duo has stacked good days on top of each other by having fun with the game. “It’s been a lot of fun. Honestly, me and him, we just have a lot of fun. We’re good up the middle together so we’re just having a good day every day,” said Ritter.