Double-play grounder wins pitching-dominated All-Star game
Hyannis Athletic Association, Mets do CCBL signature event proud

 August 4, 2005


              It was a fitting resolution for a game ruled with a succession of iron hands on the hill, the hands of the stingiest of pitchers: the winning run - the only run for either team - scored in the ninth inning on a double-play grounder.

STANDING ROOM ONLY - An overflow crowd looks on as Jason Donald of the Cotuit Kettleers breaks from the batter’s box during Saturday’s Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star game at McKeon Field in Hyannis. 
David Curran /Barnstable Patriot

The strategy may have been surprising - conceding the run in exchange for two outs in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, leaving your team just the bottom half of the frame to tie or win a game in which it had mustered just two hits, both singles, and none since the fourth - but the tenor of the game was not, and afterward, none of the hitters tried to pretend it had been. 

“It was fun,” said Cotuit third baseman Bryan Harris, an unexpected characterization coming from one of his team’s leading hitters after an 0-for-2 day. “There were some great pitchers. That’s why they’re on the All-Star team.”

It was the Cape Cod Baseball League’s annual showcase, and after 2004’s aberrational 9-0 slugfest, the usually pitcher-dominated contest in a pitcher-dominated league returned to form with a vengeance Saturday at McKeon Field in Hyannis. Solid contact was desperately hard to come by - the two teams combined for 10 hits, and the number of hard-hit balls probably was smaller still, even if you include the three or four that fell harmlessly foul.

Harris started to talk about facing 10 of the best college pitchers in the country in a single afternoon, but then stopped, deciding not to bite off more than he had to, and spoke only for himself.

“Facing four of them in one day is pretty exciting,” he said.

In fact, Harris had faced only two - could his uncertainty have been a testament to their dominance? - but he and fellow Kettleer All-Stars Brad Boyer, Sean Gaston and Jason Donald faced six of the eight pitchers used by the Eastern Division, going a combined 1-for-12.

Boyer had the hit, leading off the bottom of the first, and when Wareham’s Lance Salzgiver was hit by a pitch and the pair advanced to second and third on a double steal with one out, it looked like the West might be in business. Look again. A line drive to the second baseman and a strikeout later, the West’s first and last threat of the day had been squelched. First baseman Andrew D’Alessio, the Hyannis Mets’ only All-Star, had a similarly frustrating day at the plate, and a similar reaction, equal parts wide-eyed and philosophical.

“It was a great experience,” he said after the game. “There’s so much talent out there, it was great to be part of it.”

The East had threatened in the first as well, loading the bases with two out, but a strikeout ended the threat, the last for either team until the top of the ninth.

Cotuit closer Chris Tonneguzzi got in on the pitching fun, tossing a scoreless eighth, allowing a harmless ground single through the right side. The frame also offered Gaston, who played right field for most of the game despite having no experience as an outfielder, a chance to take his usual station behind the plate - it had been decided before the game that Gaston would catch his Kettleers battery mate’s inning - and he took advantage, catching a pop foul for the first out and throwing out a would-be base stealer for the second.

Orleans outfielder Colin Curtis started the winning rally with a liner inside the left-field line that went for a double. Chatham’s Evan Longorria followed with a single to put runners at first and third with no outs. The West coaches decided to play the infield at double-play depth, and when the grounder came to Donald, he fielded it, stepped on second and threw to first for the twin killing while Curtis became the only player to cross the plate all day.

After the game, the other Kettleers sounded a lot like Harris and D’Alessio. “I never expected this when I came out here,” said Gaston. “Being on the field with 50 of the best guys in college was special for me.” The Notre Dame catcher said he enjoyed his cameo in the outfield, handling the couple of routine plays that came his way, a stark contract with his usual every-pitch role as a backstop.

“It may sound cliche,” said Donald, “but there really aren’t words to describe it... You’re with the best of the best here... I’m very fortunate.” He said he enjoyed everything about the day, signing autographs, taking batting practice in front of an already substantial crowd three hours before game time, watching the Baseball Factory Home Run Hitting Conest - everything except the bad-hop single that ate him up in the ninth, though it proved harmless, coming after Curtis scored.

“It’s the best,” said Boyer. “It’s the best competition in the country. You see all these players, five, six years from now, they’re going to go to the big leagues. One or two of these pitchers’ll probably be in the big leagues in a year or two.”

Tonneguzzi seemed a bit more blase, but that may be easier to pull off when you’re one of the iron-handed rulers, not a wood-bat-wielding victim. “It’s good to have on the resume, you know?” Tonneguzzi said. “It’s a great memory.”

The closer and his fellow All-Stars have the CCBL All-Star Game Committee, headed by Bill Bussiere and Phil Edwards, to thank for the event’s smooth operation.

“I am really awesome,” Bussiere said as the last few fans trickled away shortly after the game.

He was referring, clearly, to how he felt, not to his organizational prowess, though he might as well have been.

From batting practice and the home run derby (won by Brewster Whitecap Aaron Bates, topping a field that included, among others, Boyer and Hyannis’ Justin Tellam) all the way through the postgame Most Valuable Player awards (Wareham ace Daniel Bard for the West, Orleans outfielder Curtis, he of the 3-for-4 outing, scorer of the only run, for the East), the day came off without a hitch. 

Bussiere was quick to spread the credit, even as the more than 80 volunteers who worked on game day continued the load-out, taking sponsors’ banners off the outfield fence and breaking down canopy tents, among other tasks. “It takes a lot of planning,” Bussiere said, citing the committee that had worked for months getting ready for the event: himself, Edwards, Maura Bussiere, Will Bussiere, Tim Ellstrom, John Howitt, Peter Scarafile, Jim Hurley, Karen Hurley, Geoff Converse, Pat Goral, Rich Goral, Tino DiGiovanni, Terri DiGiovanni and Cheryl Walsh.

Bussiere said all their work had - well - worked. 

“We couldn’t ask for better,” he said

By David Curran



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