By Joe Pratt | Baylor University
Zach Cole (Ball State) entered game fifteen with a .167 batting average, 5-for-30 with 5 singles and 12 strikeouts. Cole stepped up for his first at-bat of game fifteen as the lead-off man for the bottom of the second. On the third pitch, Cole sent a ball off the short fence of Lowell Park out in center field and used his long strides to stretch a triple. Cam Collier (Chipola) scored Zach Cole on a ground ball to third. In the fourth inning, Zach Cole dug in as the lead-off man once again. Cole took ball one low, and on the second ball he faced, he crushed it to deep right field, far enough to clear the fence this time. The triple and solo homer were his first two extra-base hits on the season, but batting from the left side, he still has made solid contact despite not recording doubles and homers.
“It has just been a lot of preparation and a lot of failure in the last couple of games,” Cole said, “I’ve been hitting into a lot of hard outs the last couple games and just blessed to be able to actually hit the ball hard and find some grass out there. I just needed to feel that barrel and feel connecting with the ball hard again after a couple games of not being able to get some success.”
One hitter who is anything but new to hitting the long ball is Tyler Johnson (Coastal Carolina). Johnson, who hit 19 home runs in 51 games started in his 2022 season, made his third plate appearance in the fifth inning with two gone. On the third pitch, Johnson sent his third solo home run of the summer out to deep right-center. In four at-bats, Tyler Johnson had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.
The Firebirds also boarded the home run train with one of their own in the top of the third, a solo shot that tied the game at one after three frames. Orleans battled back in the seventh and threatened with the bases loaded but could only manage to get one run across the plate. It was up to the Ketteers’ bullpen to hold off the Firebirds for the last two innings of play.
Max Gieg (Boston College) was responsible for the final nine outs. The tall righthander allowed just a run on two hits against 13 batters faced.
“I didn’t really have my fastball but [I was] really relying on my secondary pitches and kind of trusting that,” Gieg said, “Coach Roberts came out and visited a couple times and … he said ‘just throw what you have,’ and I did that and I think it worked out pretty well.”
Adam Boucher (Duke) made the start for the Ketts and, just as in his previous start against Falmouth, the right-hander was replaced after three innings of work. He gave up a run on two hits in his third outing of the year. Isaiah Coupet (Ohio State) relieved Boucher with three no-hit innings in a shutout appearance. Coupet has pitched over ten innings in relief and has five hits and just one earned run against him.
“I came in a little excited and [was] trying to calm myself down,” Coupet said, “but other than that, I felt pretty good. Coach Roberts always teaches [us] to stay directional towards the plate – before I came here I was falling off a little bit. So in my pregame work, I just stayed directional and that practice helped me throw more strikes.”
It was yet another impressive showing from the Kettleers pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Tuesday night, the ‘pen tossed six one-run innings.
“Pitching was the key without a doubt. We went three, three, and three and all three guys did a marvelous job. Pitching is a key to so many great games and it was a great game, their pitching was outstanding as well and we’re fortunate we got a couple of big swings,” Roberts said.
Wednesday night, the Kettleers travel to play the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox at 5 p.m. ET. Cotuit will look to bounce back after coming up short 5-3 to Y-D in their first meeting on June 25.
Reporter’s Notebook: Takeaways from the game
Clara Richards | Washington University in St. Louis
- Before today, Zach Cole (Ball State) had hit .167, struggling a bit in his transition from his collegiate season to summer ball. Over the last few games, he’s shown his potential for slugging power, but on Sunday night, his outfield shot landed squarely in the defender’s glove instead of on the other side of the fence. That all changed today for Cole, who hit a leadoff triple in the second inning and then followed it up with a blast to the outfield trees for a home run in the fifth. Cole made a splash in his first game against Bourne, hitting a single on the first pitch thrown to him in the Cape Cod League. From there, he said he was riding a high because of that success early on. “You have to work through some failure and be able to come out here and see some good pitching every single day,” he said. “You really have to train your eyes and learn how to make adjustments.”
Heading to the plate today for his second at-bat, he had Roberts’ advice and critiques running through his head. He’s been trying to stay on the inside half of the baseball, making sure that he doesn’t let go of the bat too early. With offspeed pitches specifically, he’s been thinking about keeping two hands on the batt for as long as he can, staying on his back leg so he has more time to react.
His attention to detail paid off as his ball arced over the fence to the trees of Lowell Park to put the Ketts into a 2-1 lead.
“I wish I wish there was a way to describe to all the people what hitting a homerun feels like, but you just have to do it,” Cole said. “It just makes you feel like a kid again, and it puts a smile on my face.”
At the bottom of the third, the Firebirds’ batter poked a hard-hit ground ball through the infield. It dove past the glove of third baseman, Cam Collier, but shortstop Ryan Ritter (Kentucky) was right behind him to scoop it up. Almost in the shadow of his teammate, Ritter made a leaping throw to first base. Ritter has had a challenging few games, earning two errors in one of the team’s recent losses. Moving forward from those losses, though, Ritter has fielded with agility and grace, keeping the ball in front of him and making seemingly effortless 6-3 plays across the field.
- At the top of the ninth, the Ketts needed a solid arm to close out their game after a one-run lead. Roberts could have relied on proven closer Will Jacobsen (Harvard) or newer arm Mark McLaughlin (Tennessee), who pitched a 2.01 ERA in 31 innings out of the bullpen. Instead of making the change, though, Max Gieg (Boston College) strode back out to the mound after pitching the previous two innings. The pitcher had primarily served as a midgame reliever, so it was a sign of trust from Roberts to leave him in.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve always coached by my gut, and tonight, to me, it was Max to close, and he did a marvelous job,” Roberts said.
Gieg usually relies on his fastball, and although he threw his highest velocity pitch at 95 for strikes, he primarily relied on his secondary pitches for the final outs. His last inning, he threw seven pitches for the final three outs, using his slider for the last four. This season, he said he worked on limiting walks, and over the past few weeks, his command has been apparent. In 7.0 innings pitched, he’s only allowed three hits and one walk. In a bases-loaded situation in the seventh, he left the mound with only one run allowed.
“I’ve worked on really utilizing my legs; I’ve been very arm dominant throughout my career,” Gieg said. “It started with Roberts last summer, but definitely getting into my legs and being more repeatable and directional.”