WAREHAM – The 2018 Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs get underway today as the Wareham Gatemen will be taking on the Cotuit Kettleers tonight at 6:30 p.m. live from Spillane Field.
Before sitting down to watch the playoffs, here’s everything you need to know about the opponent, the Cotuit Kettleers, as this series gets underway.
The Opponent: Cotuit Kettleers
Cotuit enters the playoffs as the number four seed in the West Division, but are very deceptive as a four seed. The Kettleers are no slouches as they finished the season with a 22-18-4 record, good for 48 points which was four points behind the division winning Gatemen.
In fact, their season was so good and the West was so close that they have become the first team to finish in fourth place with as many as 48 points dating back through at least 1999.
The next closest point total came in 2007 when the Whitecaps and Firebirds tied for third and fourth place with 47 points each. In other words, the West Division this year is just that competitive… and good.
For Cotuit, this summer was almost a tale of two teams. The first team went 14-16-3 over the club’s first 33 games and was nothing to write home about. Cotuit found themselves at the bottom of the West Division battling it out with Bourne for the final playoff spot.
Then, the Kettleers got hot. Cotuit went 8-2-1 over their final 11 games over the regular season and almost made a run at the division title. The Kettleers are peaking at the right time and are playing their best baseball as the postseason rolls around.
The Prior Matchups: Gatemen (1 seed) vs. Kettleers (4 seed)
Wareham went 3-1-2 versus Cotuit this summer and outscored the Kettleers by a combined score of 29-15 in those games. Let’s take a closer look at how those six games went.
Game 1 – June 14: Gatemen 4, Kettleers 2
Scoring was tough to come by in the third game of the season as both teams entered the sixth inning without a run. Cotuit struck first to take a 1-0 lead, but Wareham responded with two of their own in the bottom half. Parker Phillips added on two more insurance runs in the eighth when he singled to make it a 4-1 game. Mason Feole and Connor Lunn combined to go eight innings for Wareham allowing just one run in the win.
Game 2 – July 3: Gatemen 8, Kettleers 1
The Gatemen cruised to a dominating 8-1 win behind excellent pitching by Joey Matulovich in his final career start for Wareham. Matulovich got the win going six scoreless innings before turning the ball over to Cody Carroll and Zach Hart. The Kettleers would finish the day with just three hits and one run scored. Gian Martellini had the big offensive day for Wareham by hitting his first homer of the summer to drive in three.
Game 3 – July 12: Gatemen 2, Kettleers 2
In a game that was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel, Wareham led 2-1 entering the ninth after getting two outstanding performances from Ryan Garcia and Easton Lucas. The two combined to pitch 8.1 innings and carved up the Cotuit lineup all afternoon. Unfortunately for the Gatemen, Zach Hart allowed an inherited runner to score in the ninth as the Kettleers knotted the game up. The score would remain tied as it ended due to darkness.
Ryan Garcia gets the start in Game 1 tonight and will be making his third appearance against Cotuit this summer (via Caroline O'Connor).
Game 4 – July 13: Gatemen 8, Kettleers 2
After giving up a run in the top of the first, the Gatemen stormed back for four runs in the bottom half of the inning and two more in the second. Sahid Valenzuela and Austin Shenton had the good days at the plate for Wareham as the duo combined for six hits and reached base safely in seven of 10 at-bats. Will Proctor recorded the win in this route by pitching five innings allowing just one run to score.
Game 5 – July 21: Kettleers 4, Gatemen 3
Cotuit recorded their first and only win of the summer versus Wareham in game that went to 10 innings. With the score tied 1-1 in the seventh, Jeremy Ydens hit an RBI single to put Wareham up a run and they would score another off a wild pitch to take a 3-1 lead. Fast forward to the next half inning, Ryan Stoudemire was on the mound and walked Michael Toglia with two out. The next batter, Garrett Wolforth made Stoudemire pay for the walk as he proceeded to hit a two-run homer to tie the game at three all. The Kettleers would score the winning run in the 10th and the Gatemen would go down 1-2-3 in the bottom half to end it.
Game 6 – July 31: Gatemen 4, Kettleers 4
If you showed up just to see the ninth inning, you basically saw the whole game Trailing 3-0 entering the ninth, Wareham had just three hits all day and was dominated by Cotuit pitching. The Gatemen scored four in the inning to take the lead in what was their most impressive comeback of the season. Gian Martellini tied the game with a two-run RBI single before Isaac Collins singled to Wareham up one. Instead of rolling over, the Kettleers managed to string three straight two-out singles together and tied the game 4-4. Cotuit would just get the one run in the inning and the game would end due to darkness after the ninth.
Taking out the two blowout games, the season series between the two clubs becomes closer. Wareham would just barely have more runs scored over Cotuit, 13-12, without the benefit of their two eight run games.
So are the Gatemen expecting blowouts in the layoffs, like two of their wins, or closer games, like the other four?
“Tight ballgames. They played us tough all the time. I would almost rather have somebody else to be honest with you,” Don Sneddon said. “Cotuit seemed to have our number as far as pitching and keeping us in tight ballgames. I am looking forward to it. This is what it’s all about. Now the season gets really fun.”
Cotuit owns one of the league’s best offense as the Kettleers scored 228 runs which was good for third most in the Cape League. For comparison, Wareham came in first with 237 runs scored.
Cotuit is led on offense by Will Robertson from Creighton and Brady Smith from Florida. Both players were the only two members of the Kettleers to hit above .300 this summer. Michael Salvatore has also been a mainstay in the lineup as he hit .287 this summer and manned shortstop for Cotuit.
The team is hitting .312 over the last week and is getting on base at a .384 clip. Most notably, Robertson is hitting .583 over the last seven days and will be the main focus for the Gatemen pitching staff.
If there is a weakness to this Cotuit team, it lies within the pitching staff. Cotuit’s team ERA this summer was nothing special, sitting at 4.44. Additionally, Cotuit had the highest opponent batting average allowed at .269. Despite their recent run of team success, the Kettleers’ pitching staff did not do much to help it as they had a 4.25 ERA this last week.
John Baker and his team-high 34 IP are no longer with the team this as he was released with two weeks left in the season. Instead, Cotuit will have to turn the ball over to Seth Shuman, Luke Chevalier, and Zane Collins. All three of these pitchers had ERA’s under four and they look to do the majority of the starting pitching in the series for Cotuit.
Should the Kettleers get a lead late in the game, it will be awfully tough for the Gatemen to comeback. Stephen Schoch and Garrett Gayle are the most formidable 1-2 punch in the league. In 39.2 innings this summer, the duo has allowed just three runs. Let me repeat: only three runs allowed all summer.
The Kettleers are not an average four seed in the playoffs. Had they been in the East Division, their 48 points would have been good for second place. However, Wareham enters the playoffs 7-4-1 over their last 12 and have home field advantage for the series. While the winner may not be certain, one thing we do know is this battle should make for a great postseason series.