Four Kettleers ready to make an impact back from Team USA

Usually, the annual Collegiate National Team camp held by USA Baseball every summer is seen as a burden to Cape League teams.

The Cotuit Kettleers are no stranger to having key members of the roster poached as a collection of the top 58 freshmen and sophomore baseball players in the country are chosen to showcase their skills against international competition.

Seven Kettleers went to Cary, North Carolina, for a week and a half of baseball at perhaps the highest level they’ve experienced in their careers. It could have been easy for all of that group to wrap up their 2024 season with playing for Team USA serving as a final stop of a long stretch of baseball that started in February.

But a core four have emerged, returning to Cotuit with a purpose — Brooks Bryan (Troy), Devin Taylor (Indiana), Max Belyeu (Texas) and Joey Volchko (Stanford) are all back for the second half of the Cape League season.

“[I want to] just get some more work and get some more at-bats,” Bryan said. “I feel good about myself and trying to help this team win something big here.”

The group of four all performed well in their time wearing the red, white and blue. The trio of position players participated in the International Friendship Series against Chinese Taipei while Volchko showed out in two appearances, one against a collection of American players and one on the Summer League Tour.

“Wearing it there, it just meant a lot more, representing everybody that's fought for this country with military veterans, like the World War, everybody — it almost brought tears to my eyes, just playing in the same uniform colors as what they wore,” Taylor said.

The camp started with two intrasquad games between the Stars and Stripes on June 26 and 27. In the first game, Volchko got the starting nod for the Stripes team where Taylor and Belyeu had the number of their Kettleers teammate, recording back-to-back base hits in his lone inning of work. Taylor scored and Belyeu stole a base in the frame as well.

In his second at-bat of the game, Bryan drove in three runners on a home run to left-center field off Liam Peterson.

The next day, Taylor notched another hit while Belyeu and Bryan combined to draw seven walks as all three proved themselves worthy of the international stage.

Team USA swept Chinese Taipei in their five-game series, but the players on both sides had fun outside of the game.

“A couple of them speak English, so we traded some clothes, did some cool things like that,” Bryan said. “We played some ping pong with them. It was an awesome experience.”

Across the entire series, each player had a breakout performance. Bryan’s came on Wednesday in the finale, when his eighth-inning grand slam put an exclamation point on the week as he put the Americans up by six runs. Taylor went deep on Monday as part of a two-extra-base hit and two-RBI performance.

Belyeu continued to be a threat on the basepaths, stealing four bases in Tuesday’s contest with the help of bringing momentum into his jumps that he attributes to the teachings of coach Mike Roberts.

Volchko bounced back as well, dominating his second start against the Coastal Plain League Select squad on Sunday. Over four full innings, the flamethrower struck out seven while allowing just one hit.

Now back with Cotuit for the long haul, the experience those four members gained have reinvigorated a hungry group that could really help a Cotuit squad on a 1-3 skid this week.

“I remember putting that jersey on and feeling a different feeling I haven't felt before,” Belyeu said. “I just want to play every game like that the rest of my career.”