story by Steve McCarthy
July 12, 2009
CHATHAM – During the top of the ninth inning Sunday at Chatham’s Veterans field, Cotuit Kettleers starting pitcher Chad Bell (Walters St. JC) was the only person able to sit still.
As he strode out of the dugout for the final time, with a zero still in the Anglers’ hit column and an empty Cotuit bullpen, the capacity crowd on hand was masked by an eerie silence. Then, when catcher Cameron Rupp’s mitt popped and he held strike three for the final out of an 8-2 no-hitter, Bell had even the most loyal Anglers fan rising in appreciation.
“I did tell Coach yesterday he wasn’t going to need the bullpen,” Bell said. “I was planning on a complete game – wasn’t really planning on a no-hitter, but it worked out pretty good.”
Bell (2-1) needed 121 pitches to stymie the potent Anglers lineup for nine innings. It was his highest pitch count of the season by 29 pitches, and followed a July 6 outing in Brewster in which he retired sixteen batters in a row before being relieved after six innings. Bell said it was his second no-hitter. He recorded one in high school as well.
“You just sit back and watch and enjoy it right there,” Cotuit pitching coach Scott Gurss said. “That’s all you can do is just sit back, take in the moment, and just let Bell do his thing. He threw unbelievably well today, and I’m definitely proud of that guy.”
The southpaw from Knoxville, TN hinted at the spectacle when he retired the first 14 batters in order. After a two-out walk in the fifth inning allowed Chatham their first base-runner, Bell sent Phillip Pohl (Clemson) back to the dugout the same way all but one of his teammates eventually did, with one of eight strikeouts.
Bell was noticeably laboring trying to get the final three outs. He walked Tyler Rahmatulla (UCLA) to lead off the inning, then a throwing error by Cotuit third baseman Chris Bisson (Kentucky) gave the Anglers two runners in scoring position, and Kettleers reliever Matt Grace (UCLA) jogged out to the bullpen.
Bisson’s mishap was the only blemish in the Kettleers’ defensive performance all night though. A grounder up the middle fielded cleanly by second baseman Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina) recorded out number 25, while Rahmatulla came in for an unearned run. Whit Merrifield (South Carolina) slid in from third for the second unearned run on a wild pitch.
With the bases empty again, Chatham’s Joey Terdoslavich (Long Beach St.) sent a slow grounder to Noel, who threw to first baseman Brandon May (Alabama) for the second out.
In stepped clean-up hitter Rick Oropesa (USC), who at the time was one of two Anglers yet to be fanned. A valiant swing at a 2-2 change-up proved fruitless, and Rupp sprinted out to embrace his battery mate.
“The ninth inning, the only thing I could throw for a strike really that last thing was my change-up,” Bell said. “My fastball was kind of all over the place.”
Everything that had ailed the Kettleers through a six game losing streak- more errors than runs, inconsistent pitching- was left in the past. Bell received support from home runs by May and Kevin Keyes (Texas), and the benefits of opposing pitchers losing command.
“We came out and just relaxed finally,” Gurss said. “We got a lot of line drives, a lot of balls that left the park. That’s all we just tell them to do is just relax, and just enjoy and play the game.”
A three run fourth inning opened up a 4-0 lead for Cotuit. Chatham starting pitcher Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma St.) loaded the bases with three straight walks, then an RBI-single by May, a walk by Bisson, and Brian Guinn’s sac-fly brought all three home.
May was the offensive catalyst for Cotuit, driving in four runs with two swings of the bat, the second being a three run homer in the eighth inning.
“The pitching’s so good up here, each night you want to have good at bats, and tonight I did,” May said. “It was good for that, because I feel like I’ve been struggling a little bit.”
Keyes lifted a towering solo shot to right-center field in the first inning from the third spot in the batting order that barely cleared the fence. He also went 2-for-5 with a double and reached base four times.
Lyons (1-2) stayed in the game through five and two-thirds innings and took the loss. He allowed four runs on four hits and struck out six. He also walked four and hit two batters.
Ryan Leach (UNC) allowed May’s home run, before handing the ball over to Thomas Keeling (Oklahoma St.) with two outs in the eighth. Keeling walked Rupp with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to allow Cotuit’s final run.
Along with five walks between the three Chatham pitchers, six Cotuit batters were hit by pitches.