Story By John S. Condakes
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
COTUIT — Sam Brown was a dead duck. The NC State pitcher looked into the eyes of Bourne catcher Brandon Bantz (Dallas Baptist) and lowered his shoulder like a linebacker ready to tackle a running back and then in the blink of an eye he slid around the outstretched arm of Bantz and crossed the plate to give the Kettleers an exciting and wild walk-off win. The 1-0 victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Cotuit as they won their final contest at home before the All-Star break and earned them a crucial two points in they very tightly knit Western Division.
The Kettleers once again got a stellar outing from Arizona State’s Seth Blair. Blair proved that his last outing and Cape League All-Star selection weren’t flukes as he handled the Braves well and held the league’s leading hitter, Marc Krauss of Ohio University, hitless. The young righty scattered four hits over eight and two thirds shutout innings with a walk, four strikeouts and two hit batters but wasn’t involved in the decision. “Tonight I was more effective with my breaking ball and luckily it kept them off-balance,” explained Blair.
Aside from a first inning double by left fielder Brett Jackson of Cal Berkeley, the Cotuit bats remained as cold as they’ve been the last four games as they managed only the double and a single by third baseman Jeff Kobernus (Cal Berkeley) against Bourne’s Nick McCully of Coastal Carolina. McCully virtually matched Blair inning by inning as both starters did not allow a run to come across. McCully’s final line was an outstanding seven innings of two-hit shutout ball with four strikeouts.
Blair’s night came to a close with two outs in the top of the ninth after he hit Braves first baseman Kyle Roller of East Carolina and shortstop Dusty Coleman put the ball into no-man’s-land in the infield for an infield single to put runners on first and second. Coach Mike Roberts called Daniel Wolford of Cal Berkeley came on into the pressure cooker and struck out Bourne third baseman Tyler Cannon (Virginia) to eliminate the threat.
Wolford’s timely strikeout set the stage for an absolutely bizarre play to finish the game. Catcher Joey Lewis of Georgia led off the bottom of the ninth with a double down the left field line to put the winning run in scoring position for the Kettleers. Lewis was lifted in favor of Brown who, although a pitcher, is a bit faster. Center fielder Jason Kipnis (Arizona State) sacrificed Brown over to third and then Bourne chose to intentionally walk Jackson and bring the infield in to protect the scoreless tie.
Kobernus stepped in with the winning run on third. After taking a couple of pitches, he made contact with an offering from Bryce Sowell (UC Irvine) that bounced over to Cannon at third base. Cannon quickly fired it over to the outstretched Bantz who never flinched at the oncoming Brown. As Brown slid, Bantz made an attempt at the tag but it was in vain as the umpire called Brown safe and the Kettleers and Cotuit faithful erupted with joy. The win was the second straight shutout for Blair after he blanked Harwich last week with a one-hitter.
Cotuit’s local nine will have the night off on Wednesday as they prepare for one final away game at Chatham on Thursday before the All-Star Break. The first pitch is set for 7 p.m. and another important two points will be on the line as they make their push for the playoffs.