18 August, 2005

Roberts takes blame as Cotuit comes up short

The Cotuit Kettleers' dramatic drive to a playoff spot in the last week of the Cape Cod Baseball League regular season ended with a crash when they were swept by the Bourne Braves in the Western Division playoff series. 

Bryan Harris was one of the Kettleers' bright spots at the bat this season.
Staff photo by Dave Colantuono

 "We just did not execute. We pitched well in both games, but we didn't execute offensively or defensively," says Manager Mike Roberts. 

But Roberts refuses to blame the players. 

"That's the coach's fault. I did not do a good job getting the players ready to execute properly," he says. 

The Kettleers did not hit in the playoffs, scoring only three runs in the two games. But Roberts notes that pitching and defense carried the team the last half of the season. 

"If we were going to win, we were going to win a close low-scoring game. We were just unable to do it in the playoffs." Roberts says. 

Errors and walks set up the winning and insurance runs in the 3-1 first game loss. In the second game, Cotuit led 2-1 going into the eighth inning before it all came apart. 

It was a disappointing ending to an oddly successful season for the Kettleers, who fought their way from fourth place early in the season, struggled at third place for most of July, and then overtook the Wareham Gatemen to capture second place, and a playoff spot, in the last week of the season. 

Cotuit finished the season with a 22-19-3 record best, fourth best in the league. 

Characteristic of their run to the playoffs, the Kettleers got good pitching in both playoff games. 

Uncharacteristic of their playoff run, they appeared to run out of gas in critical situations, making errors and not capitalizing on offensive opportunities in both games of the playoffs. 

Roberts says Cotuit was only an average hitting team all season. "We had to finesse out way with singles, some stealing and buntingthe whole season." 

And the Kettleers, were not even that good at stealing, bunting and running this year. 

"This was the first team I've coached in my years in the Cape League where we didn't lead the league in stolen bases," says Roberts.

While the Kettleers got some offense from Bryan Harris, who went on a mid-season hitting spree and Sean Gaston, who hit .300-plus all season, they didn't hit with power. 

"We could swing the bat, but there was no jump, no pop. Extra-base hits were few and far between," Roberts says. "We had to go out and win every one-run game we possibly could." 

So the Kettleers had to rely on pitching and teamwork. 

"In the second half we established five starters in the rotation and all five did an excellent job," Roberts says. 

The starting five were: Clay Dirks, Nathan Culp, Josh Johnson, Barrett Browning and Jeff Manship. 

"Those five guys were very consistent and did an outstanding job keeping us in just about every game. They gave us a chance to get to our outstanding closer, Chris Toneguzzi," says Roberts. 

But Roberts also credits the team's commitment to teamwork as a big factor in its success this season. 

"This team did a tremendous job on the field to get us to the playoffs," Roberts says. "We played with the same kids all the way through. To me, our players made a commitment, and they were rewarded with the playoffs and our fans were rewarded."

By George Kostinas