12 August 2008
THIS WEEK IN THE CAPE LEAGUE
Cotuit Edges Falmouth, 3-2,
Returns to Title Round for First
Time since Taking Crown in 1999
COTUIT, Mass. -- After a divisional series that looped its way through every conceivable delay, from a tight race that required a tiebreaking game between Bourne and Falmouth to a three-game series between Cotuit and Falmouth, to a postponed game due to rain, there is finally a winner in the Cape Cod Baseball League’s West Division.
The Cotuit Kettleers beat the Falmouth Commodores, 3-2, Tuesday in front of a home crowd of approximately 2,800, securing a spot in the championship series starting right back here at Lowell Park Wednesday afternoon against the Harwich Mariners.
Harwich Prevailed in 1983
Title Series against Kettleers
COTUIT, Mass. --- It’s been a quarter of a century since the Harwich Mariners and Cotuit Kettleers last met in a Cape Cod Baseball League championship series. Harwich won that best-of-five set in 1983, three games to one. Until this year, it was the only time these two teams had played for the league title.
The Mariners returned to the finals only once since then, but they were again victorious, defeating Yarmouth-Dennis, two games to one, in what had by then become a best-of-three championship round.
Cotuit’s last Cape League title was a little more recent. The Kettleers beat Chatham for the crown in 1999, two games to one. They did the same thing four years earlier against the A’s.
Since the “modern era” of the Cape League began in 1963, Cotuit has captured a league record 10 championships while losing in the finals on three occasions – a .769 percentage. Harwich has managed to make the finals just six times, winning two titles.
Chatham leads the league in championship round appearances with 16, but walked off with the title just four times. Wareham won six of its 10 championship series; Falmouth won six times in 11 appearances; and Orleans won four times in 11 tries.
Joe Sherman, CCBL Public Relations Staff
Cotuit will be looking for its first league championship since 1999, when the Kettleers prevailed in three games over a Chatham team that won 30 games during the regular season.
Cotuit hasn’t been back to the finals since. And their manager, Mike Roberts, will be managing in his first Cape League championship series. He nearly made it in 2006 when the Kettleers finished first in the West, but they lost two one-run games in a row to Yarmouth-Dennis and were ousted in the divisional round.
On Tuesday, for the third time in the best-of-three series, Falmouth struck first. And, as in the first game, Cotuit quickly answered back. Falmouth’s Brian Fletcher (Auburn) hit an RBI double in the top of the second inning, scoring Ryan Jones (Wichita State). But Cotuit came right back in the bottom of the third when Joey Lewis (Georgia) singled home Dallas Poulk (North Carolina State) to tie the game.
With two outs in the third, Cotuit’s Evan Crawford (Indiana) slapped a ball between first and second that skipped past the glove of second baseman Brandon Macias (Mountain View CC) and allowed Michael Gilmartin (Wofford) to cross the plate.
Lucky number Evan came up big again in the sixth inning. After stealing third, he made it home on an error by third baseman Kevin Nolan (Winthrop) to give Cotuit a 3-1 lead.
“That felt pretty good … they were key turning points in the game,” Crawford said of his RBI and his run.
Crawford appreciates the opportunity to open the finals at home on Wednesday, saying, “We have a big crowd here that gives us momentum. It feels better playing here.”
Cotuit skipper Roberts seemed most pleased by the improvement shown by his team since the season opened in mid-June. “We’re not the team we were starting the season,” he said. “Some of these guys came early every day to work on individual skills. They matured as players. We’ve got guys who picked up the pieces.”
One of those players is right-hander Brandon Cumpton (Georgia Tech). “He hasn’t started many games for us this summer … most came early on,” said Roberts. “Then at Wareham last week and again today he gave us 10 of the most important innings of the season. I admire him for his patience -- he waited his turn and improved as an individual.”
Cumpton entered the matchup against Falmouth with a 2-1 record and a 4.43 ERA. He threw six innings, striking out five, before being relieved by John Lambert (Santa Fe CC), who was followed in turn by Daniel Wolford (California-Berkeley).
Closer Drew Storen (Stanford) came in to pitch the eighth, working his way out of trouble by striking out Trevor Coleman (Missouri) and getting League MVP A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame) to fly out. In the top of the ninth, Falmouth’s Darin Ruf (Creighton) scored a run off the bat of Jones, but it was a case of too little, too late. Storen ended the inning, the game, the series and the question of who would face Harwich when he retired Fletcher on a fly ball to center-fielder Brett Jackson (California-Berkeley).
“This team has a great will to win,” Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy said of the victorious Kettleers. “They fight. They believe in themselves.”
“We’re a team,” said Roberts. “The most important thing is these kids want to play well — for themselves, for the community. I told them it’s important to appreciate that we have this opportunity. Some will never play in the College World Series. Most will never play in the World Series in the Major Leagues. This is the World Series for some of the players’ careers. Cherish it.”
“He doesn’t know what to expect, just like us,” Crawford said of watching Roberts get his first opportunity to manage for the Cape League championship. “We play for the fans, for him. It feels good.”
Seth Blair (Arizona State) and Nick Hernandez (Tennessee) are Cotuit's scheduled starters for games one and two of the championship series. Despite using four pitchers in Sunday night’s 18-inning, series-clincher against Orleans, Harwich has had two days off, so its pitching staff is relatively well rested. Mariner manager Steve Englert has not yet announced his starters.
Ashley Crosby, CCBL Intern ([email protected])
Interns 2008: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Stefanie Marini, Laura Rasmussen