I had an opportunity to make it a full day of Cape League baseball yesterday and I took full advantage of it. Mother Nature has cooperated with the baseball gods in the early part of the season and with 80 degrees and plenty of sunshine, yesterday was no exception. My first stop was at Cotuit's Lowell Park to watch the Kettleers take on the Chatham Anglers in a doubleheader. The big story for the first game would be seeing Cotuit's Josh Spence (Arizona State) pitching for the first time since the Sun Devils 2009 College World Series appearance. Spence was 10-1 with a 2.37 ERA for ASU in '09 while earning the National Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-Pac-10 honors. He was picked in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Angels. A nerve problem in his elbow kept Spence on the sidelines this spring. In spite of that, the Padres picked Spence in the ninth round of this year's draft. Spence is hoping to use his time in Cotuit to show the Padres he is healthy and worthy of a contract better than that of a ninth rounder.
It was a mixed bag for Spence yesterday. After retiring the first two Chatham batters on an easy ground ball and a strikeout, Spence allowed singles to Dan Paolini (Siena) and Rick Oropesa (USC). Spence should have been out of the inning, but with Mark Ginther (Oklahoma State) at bat, Cotuit first baseman Paul Hoilman (East. Tennessee)dropped a foul popup to extend the inning. With a full count on Ginther, Spence uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Paolini to score. Zack Jones (San Jose St.) followed with a single to load the bases. Spence limited the damage by striking out Joe Pavone (UConn) to end the inning. That was the first of two times that Pavone would end an inning with the sacks loaded but he would earn his revenge later in the game. With three hits, a walk, an error, and a wild pitch, Chatham was only able to muster one run.
Spence walked the leadoff batter in the second, but then proceeded to strikeout the next three Anglers batters to retire the side. That would be the end of the day for Spence. His totals over the 2 innings show that he allowed just the one run, 3 hits and 2 walks to go along with 5 strikeouts. He threw 48 pitches. I spoke to Cotuit GM Bruce Murphy between games and he confirmed that Spence was taken out of the game after just two innings of work only because of the strict pitch count he is on. Spence was smiling and happy between games. He indicated that he felt good and I sensed that he was relieved to get his first game action out of the way while coming out of the game feeling healthy. He did not hesitate to throw off-speed pitches. The only concern I would have would be that the Lowell Park radar gun showed that one pitch touched 84 mph, there were a few at 81-83, and the majority of Spence's pitches were in the 77-80 range.
Kevin Patterson (Auburn) homered in the home half of the first to tie the game. Leaving the bases loaded in the first was just a preview of how the day would go for Chatham. They left one runner on base in the second through fourth innings. In the fifth, it looked like the Anglers might break through. Two hits and a walk loaded the bases with two out. Pavone flew out to center to end that threat. Meanwhile, Louisville's Derek Self was having little trouble working his way through the Kettleer lineup. Self gave up 4 hits while not issuing a walk through 6 innings. After Patterson's homerun, he was not threatened until Patterson doubled with two out in the sixth. Self's day was over after he got C.J. Cron (Utah) to foul out to third.
Cotuit reliever Kyle McMillen (Kent State) walked Oropesa to start the seventh. Oropesa was sacrificed to second by Ginther and stayed at second when Jones hit a ground ball to third that could not be handled. Pavone's redemption came when he lined a hit to left to score Riley Reynolds (Vanderbilt) who was pinch-running for Oropesa. Cotuit got a one out single in the bottom of the inning but UConn's Kevin Vance induced two ground balls as Chatham held on for the 2-1 win.
Chatham left 12 runners on base in the first game and that problem continued when the second game began. Kettleer starter Nick Tropeano (Stony Brook) gave up a single and a walk but struck out Ginther to end the inning. Cotuit wasted no time getting on the board. Zach Cone (Georgia) lead off the first with a walk and later scored on a ground out by Bulldog teammate Levi Hyams.
Chatham starter Mark Zecchino (Virginia Tech) did not allow another run until Cron blasted a homerun to centerfield in the fourth to put the Kettleers up 2-0. Cotuit's lead would be short-lived. After stranding 5 Anglers runners through 4 innings, Tropeano's luck ran out in the fifth. With one out, Brian Humphries (Pepperdine) and Peter Verdin (Georgia) singled. Paolini hit a ground ball but shortstop Taylor Black (Kentucky) dropped the throw from the second baseman, allowing Humphries to come around with Chatham's first run. One pitch later, Oropesa cranked his second homerun of the season, a line shot over the right field fence, to give the Anglers a 4-2 lead. Cotuit got one back in the home half of the inning on an RBI single by Hyams, making it 4-3 heading to the sixth.
After recording the first out in the sixth, Anglers reliever Zack Jones allowed basehits to McMillen and James Foster (Wofford). The Kettleers tied the game when Black bunted the ball and Anglers catcher George Carroll (NYIT) couldn't handle the throw. With runners on the corners and one out, Cone tried to squeeze home the winning run but his bunt was fielded cleanly by Jones who flipped to Carroll who put the tag on Foster for the second out. Patterson flied out to left to send the game to extra innings. Chatham did not have a runner reach base in the extra frames. C.J. Cron ripped a two out single in the bottom of the ninth for Cotuit but Chad Wright (Kentucky) popped to short and the game went into the books as a 4-4 tie.
My third game of the day found me at Doran Park for the second game of Bourne's doubleheader with Yarmouth-Dennis. I arrived in the second inning with the Braves already on top, 2-1. As luck would have it, all the action took place in the first inning, so I missed all of the scoring. This was a good duel between Bourne's Mike Morin (North Carolina) and Y-D's Derek Benny (Fresno State). Morin was very impressive, allowing just one hit and issuing two walks. He struckout 10 in his 5 innings of work. Benny also went 5 innings and gave up 2 hits and 2 walks. Tony Zych (Louisville) earned his first save with 2 innings of one-hit relief. The win allowed Bourne to earn a split of the doubleheader. Y-D won the first game, 7-2.
NOTES: Chatham continued a bad early-season trend by leaving 20 runners on base over the two games. Despite stranding 6 runners in the first game, Chatham's Pavone had 4 hits on the day and raised his average to .455. Ginther is batting .318 and Oropesa sits at .304. This isn't typical of a Mike Roberts team: Chad Wright's successful steal was the only attempted stolen base in both games. It's still very early, but it doesn't look like anyone will be calling them the "Runnin' Anglers" any time soon. Through 6 games, they are 1 for 2 in stolen base attempts. In the second game, Tropeano recorded the first 8 outs by strikeout. For the day, Chatham made one error while Cotuit had 4 errors. With two each, Oropesa and Cron are the only players in the league with more than one homerun. Chatham moved to 4-1-1 on the season. Cotuit is 1-4-1. Chatham hosts Falmouth at 5:30 today while Cotuit visits Orleans at 7:00.
Driving from Cotuit to Bourne, I stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts on Route 151 in Falmouth. I'm told "Sorry, we don't have any coffee." Imagine... a Dunkin' Donuts without coffee! The water ban was still in effect in Falmouth.
After splitting their doubleheader, Y-D is 3-3. Bourne is 2-4. Granted, it was only a 7 inning game, but with a total of 5 hits and 4 walks allowed, the second game was played in a crisp 1:44. The Red Sox host Hyannis at 5:00 today. The Braves travel to Brewster to take on the Whitecaps at the same time.