When Cotuit opened the 2013 Cape Cod Baseball League season against Orleans on June 12, Caleb Bryson was in Lima, Ohio, going 1-for-3 for the Hamilton Joes in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. Garrett Stubbs was not far away from Cotuit, in Plymouth, going 1-for-4 for the NECBL’s Plymouth Pilgrims against the Ocean State Waves. Austin Byler was rehabbing an injury in Nevada. Jake Fincher and Logan Ratledge were on their way to Omaha. Stanford teammates Drew Jackson and Danny Diekroeger hadn’t suited up yet. Mark Payton was weighing his options after just getting drafted in the 16th round. Rhett Wiseman had just finished his season with Vanderbilt. Evan Beal was one day removed from South Carolina’s heart-breaking Super Regional loss to North Carolina. Wesley Cox and Dalton Potts were playing for the Front Royal Cardinals in the Valley League. Bradley Zimmer was in a Cotuit uniform, but he knew he’d soon be packing his bags for a summer with Team USA.
On August 15, they were all on a Cape Cod field together.
And they were celebrating.
Cotuit’s remarkable season of near-constant change ended with a Cape Cod Baseball League championship. If the Kettleers are getting rings, they’re going to need quite a few. Fifty-one players donned a Cotuit uniform this summer. Every week, they lost somebody. Every week, they gained somebody. Somehow, they were one of the league’s best teams while they rode the roster roller-coaster. Whoever was on the field – whoever wasn’t – the Kettleers found a way to play winning baseball more often than not.
They did it one last time Thursday night.
Cotuit completed a championship sweep of Orleans with a 6-1 victory at Eldredge Park, capturing its second Cape League title in four years.
It was clinched on the strength of a championship-worthy all around performance. Christian Cecilio (San Francisco) went six scoreless innings, turning in his best start of the year when Cotuit needed it most. The offense took an early lead, putting the pressure on, and pulled away late. The defense didn’t make an error. And the Kettleers had to feel like they were living right when Pat Quinn’s would-be grand slam in the seventh inning went just foul.
Cecilio allowed just four hits. Brian Miller (Vanderbilt) pitched a third of an inning and gave up three hits. He’d shut down Orleans’ comeback attempts the night before, but manager Mike Roberts didn’t hesitate to pull him. Wesley Cox (Texas San Antonio) came in, got out of a bases-loaded jam and then finished the job.
The trio held Orleans to one run, just the second time the Firebirds have scored one run since July 17.
And the pitchers had support. Facing Jared Miller (Vanderbilt), who had been fantastic late in the season, the Cotuit offense scratched and clawed. Danny Diekroeger (Stanford) knocked in a run in the third on an infield single for the 1-0 lead. The Kettleers then went two innings without a hit before another infield single, this one by Drew Jackson (Stanford), scored the second run.
Orleans had designs on a comeback, but came up empty on the bases-loaded chance in the seventh. In the next half-inning, Cotuit blew the doors off with four more runs, despite the fact that Orleans went to dominant closer Matt Troupe (Arizona) when it got into trouble. A squeeze, an error and a two-run single by Nolan Clark (Concordia) made it 6-0.
The Firebirds scored a run in the ninth but Cox finished the game by inducing a ground-out.
Cape League champions often have a signature, a brand that defines their seasons or their playoff runs. For Wareham in 2012, it was late-inning magic and overwhelming power. For Y-D’s mini-dynasty from 2004 to 2007, it was terrific talent buying into a winning culture.
This Cotuit team won in many different ways, with many different people. When they lost talent, they brought in talent. When they took the field with newcomers all over the place, it didn’t matter. It turned into a positive. The Kettleers rode players who were thrilled to get a chance in the Cape League.
Their signature is their lack of signature, their ability to play good baseball – and the organization’s ability to build a good baseball team – no matter what.
On a given day, the Kettleers found a way to win that day’s game.
On August 15, with a team that was scattered across the country two months before – and with a whole other team’s worth of former players watching and rooting from Georgia and Texas and California and the New York Penn League – they won a very big one.