COTUIT -----The 2010 season started slowly for the Cotuit Kettleers, who found themselves at the bottom of the Western Division standings. But they rode a five-game winning streak last week to within sight of the first place Bourne Braves (12-11), improving their position as they receive two fresh arms to boost the pitching staff.
The 10-11-2 Kettleers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, with their winning streak being snapped in a 9-6 loss to Harwich.
“Two weeks ago, we were struggling in lots of ways,” field manager Mike Roberts said about the lackluster 0-2 start, a first in his seven years at Cotuit. “Now we have a little more continuity in our club, because we have some stability. Secondly, we’ve run the bases better. We stole as many bases last week as we did the first three weeks.”
Roberts’ squads are notorious for their base-stealing and bunting. This season, the Kettleers have swiped 50 bases, bested only by Brewster’s 62.
“Our main focus is to come together as a team,” Roberts said. “Play the running game, the bunt game, get consistent pitching, and learn how to close out games. Those are the things we’re really focusing on, because people don’t remember how you start, they remember how you finish.”
A key area that Cotuit struggled with early on ---- and continues to struggle with ---- is pitching.
“We need one or two closers,” Roberts said. “I was blessed to have Drew Storen in 2008 and then Daniel Tillman in 2009 and they were both pretty good. They were first and second round (draft choices). This year, I’ve just struggled trying to decide who’s the best person.”
The Kettleers’ staff has 163 strikeouts and a 3.44 ERA. By comparison, Bourne’s staff has limited opponents to a .206 average and a 2.76 ERA.
Southpaw Josh Spence (Arizona State), perhaps Cotuit’s best starter, was released recently after signing a contract with the San Diego Padres. He had struck out 11 in 10 innings, with a 0.90 ERA.
Arriving to join collegiate teammate Caleb Busheyhead (Oklahoma) are pitchers Ryan Duke and Bobby Shore. Roberts plans to use them as a closer and starter, respectively.
Shore was a Sooner mainstay last spring, going 10-5 in 17 appearances, and striking out 77 in 94 innings. Duke had 12 saves in 25 appearances, holding opponents to a .244 batting average.
Now it’s a matter of buckling down and working through the rest of the season to finish strong.
“I think the key is how bad players want to play,” Roberts said. “In summer baseball, some of them have played since early February. It’s how bad they want to play. That’s really a key more than a five-game winning streak.”