Kettleers escape darkness with clutch home run

COTUIT, Mass. – Although Saturday’s slugfest between the Bourne Braves and Cotuit Kettleers failed to go past six innings due to darkness, there was no lack of offense as the hosts walked away victorious at Lowell Park in just two hours and five minutes.

The Kettleers saw a complete turnaround with the bats from the night before where 10 runners were left on base in a 4-2 loss to the Chatham Anglers. Every starter recorded a hit, but Cotuit would still need what would become late-game heroics from Tanner Thach (UNC Wilmington) to secure the 8-7 win.

In the early stages, it didn’t appear that Cotuit was headed for a huge come-from-behind effort. The Kettleers overcame a 1-0 deficit after a Camden Kozeal (Vanderbilt) home run in the top of the first as a freshly shuffled batting order came through immediately in the home half of the frame.

“I changed the lineup, obviously, and I felt like we needed to do that and put Grant [Jay] (Dallas Baptist) in the leadoff spot and he started the game with a double,” Cotuit manager Mike Roberts said. “And then Tanner, who's been really hot, singled right behind him and then [Cannon] Peebles (Tennessee) singled right behind him. You get a little bit of momentum and it just kind of flowed.”

Peebles tied the game with a broken-bat blooper to bring in Jay, and the Kettleers would extend their lead the next time through the batting order.

Jarren Advincula (Cal) continued his other-worldly ways of hitting, leading off with a single to the opposite field out of the nine-spot in the Cotuit lineup. With the lineup turned over, Cotuit began to touch up Braves starter Zane Adams (Alabama) after Thach and Peebles loaded the bases with a hit-by-pitch and walk.

Adams couldn’t avoid leaving the ball over the heart of the plate, leading to a sacrifice fly from Devin Taylor (Indiana) to give the Kettleers their first lead of the game. The real damage came from the following two batters as Tyler Cerny (Indiana) crushed an RBI double and Max Belyeu (Texas) brought in two runners with a single to put Cotuit up 5-1.

However, the Kettleers could not stay comfortable for long. In his second inning of work, Luis Misla (SUNY Cortland) failed to record an out in the top of the fourth inning as the first five Braves batters reached base.

Gabriel Nard (Duke) replaced Misla but couldn’t hold Bourne in check as Isaiah Jackson (Arizona St.) tied the game at five apiece with a one-out single. Cotuit couldn’t get out of their own way, either, with the go-ahead run scoring on a wild pitch and added insult to injury as another runner scored on a passed ball on a dropped third strike that would’ve been the final out of the fourth.

Now down by two, Cotuit never felt out of the game by any stretch of the imagination.

“I just think when all else fails, compete,” Roberts said. “And they've really done a great job of competing.”

Leading off for a second straight time at bat, Advincula legged out an infield single as reliever Tyler Fay (Alabama) fumbled the transfer before he could make a flip to first base. Jay followed up with his second hit of the night, setting the table for Thach, who had reached base in six of his last seven trips to the plate.

After taking ball one up and in, Thach twisted out of the way of a wicked sinker that home plate umpire Joe Caraco ruled a strike on the inside corner. Thach didn’t quite agree with the call but channeled his emotions toward his favor on the next offering.

“A lot of times when you express some type of emotion like that they like to go back to the same pitch,” Thach said. “So I was sitting on the same pitch and got it in pretty much the same spot, so I was able to get the barrel out there.”

Thach was indeed sitting dead red and got just enough of Fay’s second straight sinker to put it over the right field fence for a go-ahead three-run shot for Cotuit to take an 8-7 lead.

From there, the pairing of dark, overcast skies and a Cape League hitter’s worst nightmare in the form of Mikey Ebner on the mound (USC) put the Braves to bed.

Ebner maintained his opponent’s batting average at .000, with the only base runner allowed coming as he walked the first batter he faced. Bringing his season innings pitched total to 11, the reigning CCBL Pitcher of the Week used a steady diet of breaking balls to keep the Bourne lineup off balance.

“To be honest, I don't like shaking off the catcher a whole lot and he kept calling it,” Ebner said. “And honestly, I had really good feel for it today and I was able to use it to my advantage more than not, so it was nice to have.”

Ebner faced the minimum, picking off Braden Holcomb (Vanderbilt) to erase his only blemish in the fifth and striking out the side in what would be the last half inning of the game in the top of the sixth as the umpires would call the game due to darkness.

Ebner improved to 3-0 on the season and Cotuit moved to 11-7 on the year and second place in the West Division. The Kettleers wrap up the first week of play in July on Sunday against the Hyannis Harbor Hawks at McKeon Park at 6 p.m. Joey Volchko (Stanford) is set to make his first appearance since returning from the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

Photo by Holden McBerty (Memphis).