The 2019 Cape Cod Baseball League Championship is finally upon us. After 44 games played over eight weeks starting in early July, it all boils down to this. The Western Division Champion Cotuit Kettleers will take on the Eastern Division Champion Harwich Mariners for the Cape League crown. But before we get into the match up itself lets look at how we got here.
Harwich Mariners vs. Y-D Red Sox
Gm.1: Harwich 5 Y-D 1
Gm.2: Harwich 5 Y-D 1
Harwich Advances 2-0
Many people, including this blogger, thought the Mariners would be bounced early in this year’s playoffs. Coming up against the Eastern Co-Champion Chatham Anglers it seemed like an easy round win for a team that had been as consistent throughout the season as the Anglers, despite their troubles down the stretch. Now this blogger is prepared to eat his hat. What I saw from the Mariners last night was a well-rounded team with astonishingly good pitching and timely hitting, the two qualities most likely to equal playoff success, and success it has been. Following a two-game sweep of the Anglers (detailed in our last column) game one looked to be a return to the regular season, and the end of Harwich’s cinderella run when Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly St. Luis Obispo) scored early to put the Red Sox up 1-0. That lead would hold until the fifth inning when the Red Sox defense fell apart, committing the first two of what would end up being five in the game and at least one in four consecutive innings. Joey Weimer (Cincinnati) and Niko Kavadas (Notre Dame) scored to give the Mariners a lead they would never surrender. A home run by Patrick Winkel (UConn), another run scored by Cory Acton (Florida), and a third in the inning by Dylan Neuse (Texas The) would round out the scoring, combined with the dominant Harwich pitching led by Carson Seymour (Kansas St.) and Will Helfin (Tennessee) put the game in the bag for the Mariners, final score 5-1.
Game two was a pitcher’s duel in the finest sense, and as day turned into night at Whitehouse Field in Harwich it soon became apparent that the fans were in for one of those classic Cape League duels. The crowd kept growing as the night wore on and cheers erupted with every out, Y-D fans ringing bells and blowing horns every time something good happened, with Harwich fans roaring back every time. Y-D once again got on the board early with a Tate Samuelson (Cal Poly St. Luis Obispo) single to drive in Austin Wells (Arizona). Y-D kept the league for just one inning however as a towering shot from Cory Acton just stayed fair down the third base foul pole to tie the game at one a piece. In the seventh inning both starters finally relinquished the ball, both going 6 innings of nearly perfect baseball as Harwich starter Jacob Palish (Stanford) allowed just the one run off six hits which striking out six, and the Y-D starter, Ryan Hare (UNLV), allowed one run off of just two hits, both collected by Cory Acton. Neither pitcher would end up with a decision, a sad reality for a game where both starters pitched extraordinarily well. It was in the bottom of the seventh when the game finally broke open. Harwich managed a walk and a hit off of new Y-D pitcher Carlos Lomeli (St. Marys) and a sacrifice fly by Patrick Winkel would bring Acton in to score. A hit by Michael Ludowig (Wake Forrest) would score another before LSU’s Hal Hughes hit a no doubter off Y-D’s third pitcher on the night to put the game away. Nick Stewart (James Madison) threw three perfect innings to round out the game for Harwich, and with the crowd standing and applauding recorded the final out of the game, sending the Mariners to their first Finals appearance since 2011.
Cotuit Kettleers vs. Falmouth Commodores
Gm.1: Cotuit 5 Falmouth 0
Gm.2: Cotuit 5 Falmouth 3
Similar to Harwich Cotuit’s playoff success has depended on both their dominant pitching and timely hitting. This pitching performance continued in game one of the Western finals as Cotuit starter Trey Holland (U. of the South) pitched 6.0 innings, allowing only 4 hits and keeping Falmouth off the scoreboard while on the other side, Cotuit hitters scratched across four runs (three earned) against Justin Wrobleski (Clemson) and send the Commodores into their bullpen after just three innings. Bo Hofstra (Purdue) took the ball for the Kettleers and allowed just two hits over three innings to put the game to bed for Cotuit, final score 5-0.
Game two looked to me much more dramatic with Falmouth coming in needing a win to stay alive. Feeling the energy of an elimination game Falmouth jumped on Cotuit’s starter Jackson Wolf (West Virginia) scoring three runs in the first and knocking Wolf out of the game after just a third of an inning. Falmouth pitching stayed strong with a quality start from Chris Gonzalez (Stetson) before he departed in the sixth inning with the ‘Dores on top 3-2. Slowly the Cotuit offense began to come alive and would push across two runs in the seventh to take the lead and another in the 8th to take a 5-3 lead that they would not relinquish. Falmouth got two runners on with two outs in the ninth but it was not to be, as Kyle Nicolas (Ball St.) came in to save the game for Cotuit and sent the 16 time Cape League Champions to fight for title number 17.
Coming into the season the odds of a Harwich vs. Cotuit Championship were very long. In fact I heard from many people that the mostly likely matchup was in fact a rematch of least years championship series between the Wareham Gatemen and Chatham Anglers. Even coming into the playoffs most eyes were on the Commodores, the Cape Leagues best team, to finally end their nearly four-decade title drought. As I have often said in this blog the Cape League can be a crapshoot, early predictions almost never play out and its not always the best team of the season who walks away with the title at the end of the year. Such is the case with the Kettleers and the Mariners. Cotuit finished the regular season solidly in third place in the West, going 20-20-4 and earning 44 points. Meanwhile Harwich barely qualified for the playoffs after a protracted battle with the Brewster Whitecaps and wound up the season just four points ahead of them in fourth place in the East at 21-21-2 also earning 44 points, and the toughest road to the finals.
Nevertheless, both teams have fought and won throughout the regular season and playoffs. In what will truly be a battle of great pitching and great hitting. As usual this blog will not pick a favorite or take a guess as to who will hoist the trophy just a few days from now. But with what I have seen throughout the season I will say I wouldn’t be surprised if this series go three games.