By Joe Pratt | Baylor University
“We just need a spark, we just need somebody to step up and bring energy to the guys.” These were the words spoken by Ryan Ignoffo (Eastern Michigan) after Thursday’s playoff matchup with Hyannis.
The Harbor Hawks took a one-run lead in the top of the first inning and never looked back as Hyannis stole game 1 of the series 9-4. Kettleer expat Mitch Jebb (Michigan State) continues to mash against his former team and roped the first pitch he saw down the right field line for a double. In 26 at-bats against Cotuit this season, Jebb has recorded 11 hits and 9 RBIs, with an average .423 when facing Ketts arms. The next batter Cole McConnell (Louisiana State University) escorted Jebb home on another two-bagger.
The flood gates were blasted open in the very next inning. Hawks’ third baseman singled up the middle to set up a Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic University) 2-run blast that pushed the lead to 3-0. NU Husky Michael Sirota (Northeastern) reached on the second error committed by the Ketts in the frame. Runners were quickly on second and third for Mitch Jebb, who scored Sirota on a grounder to short. After his single, Rikku Nishida (University of Oregon) stole second and third prior to taking off for home during starter Ben Johnson’s (Georgia Southern) windup. Nishida threw off Johnson as his 0-1 pitch sailed behind the batter Pancho Ruiz (San Diego State).
“The best player in the league is their second baseman [Rikku Nishida],” coach Mike Roberts remarked. “I love watching him play because he’s an old fashioned player and you have to be prepared for every pitch and I think he showed today that when a player is looking for weaknesses in the opponent, every pitch … you’ll find it.”
Ruiz chopped one to third that ended up being another error and Pancho walked into scoring position with 2 outs. Ben Johnson’s night was over when Jackson Ross (Florida Atlantic University) doubled to elevate the score to 6-0. Johnson went 1.2 with 6 earned on 6 hits and was replaced by Carson Swilling (Auburn).
Swilling allowed just one base runner in the third and fourth before falling victim to a Drew Ehrhard (University of Tampa) 2-run bomb. His final line was 3.1 with 2 ER coming from the homer, and the Harbor Hawks put 2 hits on the board against the right-hander.
Enrique Bradfield Jr. (Vanderbilt) smacked the first Cotuit hit with a double in the left-centerfield gap to set the table for Ryan Ignoffo’s 2-run round-tripper. It was just his second hit of the summer, in his fifth plate appearance. Ignoffo entered the game in the top of the third at first base which moved Ryan Galanie (Wofford College) to third and took Caleb Ketchup (Lipscomb University) out of the ballgame.
“I wasn’t expecting to come into the game today,” Ignoffo recalled, “not seeing my name on the lineup and then coach in the second inning came over to me and said, ‘get stretched and get loose.’”
When it was his turn at the dish, Ignoffo delivered his first extra base hit and RBI of the season.
“In the first two games up here, I’ve been kind of hesitant to swing the bat, I’ve just been taking pitches. I knew the stuff I was gonna see would be a lot better than things I’ve been seeing over the past couple of years,” Ignoffo said, “and today I was just trying to attack the first couple pitches. I got a fastball down which is one of my good spots to hit and works with my swing well.”
A Josh Pearson (Louisiana State University) two-out double cut the deficit to 5 runs. Tommy Troy (Stanford) led-off the eighth with a triple and later crossed the plate on a wild pitch which maintained the Hyannis 5 run advantage at 9-4, after Michael Sirota’s RBI single in the seventh.
Two other arms in Cole McNamee (Georgia Tech) and new face Chase Hopewell (Cincinnati) saw action out of the bullpen. McNamee went three strong while giving up a run on 3 hits, with 3 Ks. Hopewell, coming off a summer with the Championship-winning Hamilton Joes in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, threw the final inning for the Ketts. One runner reached base on a walk from Hopewell but no damage was done in a spotless top of the ninth.
“I was a little nervous at first, but the nervousness went away right after the first batter,” Hopewell said, “I enjoyed being out there.”
The Ketts fall behind 1-0 in the 3-game series as game 2 will be played Friday night in Hyannis. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at McKeon Park. Cotuit righthander Harrison Cohen (University of Virginia) squares off against Hyannis southpaw Magdiel Cotto (University of Kentucky). Cotto currently boasts an ERA of 2.67 and tomorrow will be his seventh start on the mound for the Harbor Hawks. Harrison Cohen is right there with Cotto, his ERA being a steady 2.78, and the three year veteran is set to make his ninth start of the year in game 2. Cohen and the Ketts will look to knot up the series at 1 apiece to force a game 3 at Lowell Park on Saturday. Mike Roberts is not fazed by the 1-0 deficit as this position is anything but new to the Ketts’ long tenured head coach.
“In 2019 … we lost the first game at Wareham and came back and won two and then went on to win the whole thing. It’s really up to the players right now.”
Reporter’s Notebook: Takeaways from the game
by Clara Richards | Washington University in St. Louis
- Two Kettleers were honored in the Cape League awards delt out at the end of the regular season. Cam Schuelke (The College of North Florida) was given the Russ Ford Award for outstanding relief pitching. Schuelke has pitched eleven outings and 22.1 innings, recording a .81 ERA. He leads the Cape League in wins, pitching five. Although he doesn’t qualify for the minimum innings pitched, stepping in for the team in mid-July, he was deadly for the Ketts all summer.
“It’s a different arm angle, so not a lot of guys see it,” pitching coach Andrew Schriener said. “When they finally do see it, they really don’t know what to do with it. He has a lot of sink, so when he gets underneath the baseball, the ball sinks. So it doesn’t go side to side, it goes down.”
Tommy Troy (Stanford) was also honored pregame, credited with the Robert A. McNeese award for being an outstanding prospect. He played thirty games at shorstop, batting .310 and slugging five home runs. He held a .386 on-base percentage on the season.
- Bullpen catcher Padyn Kesselring (Alma College) is one player who stays off the screens of the TV broadcast. Still, he’s one of Lowell Park’s most frequent residents; he’s in the bullpen late, catching BPs for pitchers who want to get a few more throws. Just sometimes, it’s in the dark.
Kesselring’s job is to warm up pitchers before they stride through the gate to start their batting outing. His sole focus is to make sure that they’re physically ready — after all, the worst nightmare of any baseball player is to get hurt. He wants to make them confident in every single pitch that they throw. For some of the pitchers who have been here the longest, he knows some of their mechanical focuses. He’s seen a lot of arms come through Lowell Park, so he sometimes offers suggestions based on what he’s seen work before.
The position players are at Lowell Park to get at-bats against the best arms in collegiate ball in front of the eyes of scouts who could help them enter pro careers. Pitchers are there to get innings against the hottest bats to emerge from the spring season. Kesselring’s reason for being in Cotuit? “In all honesty, I just love baseball.”
He attends a DIII university, Alma College, an environment that sometimes feels far away from a big Power 5 university. He’s confronted the reality that he might be going into his last season of baseball this coming season; he’s just focused on soaking up as much knowledge as he can to bring back . “When I hang up my cleats, I want to be able to hang up my cleats and sleep easy for the rest of my life, knowing that in my last season I was the best possible player I could be,” he said. “And I think being here pushed me a lot closer to that player, and that person.”
He had some initial adjustments, going from Division III to pitchers like Kenya Huggins and TJ Brock, who threw in the upper nineties. After a week of catching, his index finger was so swollen that he’d have to sit with his hand in ice every night to keep the swelling down. His adjustments were trial by fire; either he caught the ninety six mile-an-hour fastball or he’d get hit. He learned to catch them pretty quickly.
In a group of thirty-one athletes who play for the team, he’s the ultimate team player. If any given pitcher needs to throw a bullpen at 11 p.m., Kesselring will be waiting for them, he said. “We’ll find a way to make it happen until I can’t see the baseball anymore. Those are the longer nights, and I’ve been hit, but it’s just bumps and bruises. The memories stick.”
Before coming to Cotuit, Kesselring’s coach told him that he was going to have the best summer of his life. The catcher rolled his eyes a little. Yeah, okay; you’re just trying to get me to play summer ball, he thought. Now, forty-five games later, he’s realized that his coach wasn’t lying to him.
“The caliber of baseball, the quality of human beings, and everything else — there’s no better place. I see why this is the place where baseball dreams come true,” he said. “God forbid, this is my last baseball season coming up, then this will have been the best summer ever spent in my life. And probably will ever be.”