When Donta Williams drove in Coltyn Kessler in the bottom of the fourth inning of Cotuit’s game against Harwich the game was over, just nobody knew it yet. Kessler was Cotuit’s fourth run of the game and the first not to come from a home run for the Kettleers. He reached after Harwich shortshop Hal Hughes bungled a hard hit ground ball toward the second base bag, was pushed to second on Parker Chavers’ hit the next at bat, and to third on Adam Oviedo’s walk, before finally completing his trip around the bases and scoring off of Donta Williams first hit of the night. The run gave Cotuit a 4-0 lead over the Harwich Mariners, and, while no one would know it until the game ended several hours later, the run would decide the 2019 Cape League Championship, and bring the Arnold Mycock Cape League Championship trophy back to Arnie’s beloved Kettleers. In a series of evenly matched teams down to the number of points earned during the regular season the final game was a blow out, ending 10-2 in favor of the Kettleers, giving Cotuit it’s first Cape League title since 2013.
Game 1: Cotuit 7, Harwich 6 (15 Innings)
I am hesitant to use the phrase “instant classic” to describe anything, much less a baseball game. Game One of the 2019 Cape League Finals was a classic; but it was anything but instant. In what would wind up being one of the longest playoff games in Cape League history, consisting of 15 innings played over five hours and forty-five minutes and contested by 37 different players the Cotuit Kettleers would win on an RBI single by 2019 league MVP Nick Gonzalez in the top of the 15th. But neatly six hours before the decisive run the game got off to ta hit start with the first two Kettleers reaching base and driven home on an Oraj Anu homerun giving Cotuit a 3-0 lead after the top of the first. Harwich answered in the second, scoring two runs off of Patrick Winkel’s double before stranding him at second at the end of the inning.
The two teams continued trading scores through the middle innings ended up knotted at four going into the bottom of the 8th inning. Cory Acton drew a leadoff walk to give Harwich a baserunner for Niko Kavadas, the regular season home run champion, who just a few pitches later would strike out on a massive swing that if it had corrected would have swung the game in the Mariners favor. Following Kavadas was Patrick Winkel, already sitting on three RBI’s for the night, “Wink” stepped to the plate and lifted a high fly ball just high enough to clear the wall in left center field, giving Harwich a 6-4 lead going into the top of the 9th with the leagues fastest pitcher, and Harwich’s automatic closer Joe Boyle warming in the bullpen.
Boyle got the first batter he faced on a major league fly to center field, before surrendering a walk and a hit to the next two batters. Then Mason McWhorter stepped to the plate, and in a solid at bat drive a pitch for an RBI single. Boyle for the second out of the inning by striking out Parker Chavers, leaving him just one out from collecting a tough but well earned save, and placing his team just one win away from the league championship. But facing Boyle was Adam Oviedo, the Kettleers hard nosed shortstop from Texas Christian, who proceeded to hit a single to the outfield driving in Casey Schmitt to tie the game at 6. Fowling the blown save Harwich got a single from Dylan Neuse, who then advanced on a scary moment when Chris Galland was hit in the face with the pitch while attempting to bunt. Harwich was unable to bring Neuse in from second, nor where they able to bring him in from third two innings later in the 11th. Both teams played near perfect baseball during the 12th and 13th before Harwich finally got a crack at ending the game in the 14th getting right fielder Joey Weimer to third, just ninty feet away from a win. A ground out to the first basemen and a foul popup caught by the third basemen would get Cotuit out the inning and push the game to the 15th. Riding the high of the great escape from the runner on third the half before Cotuit rallied and relief pitcher Kyle Nicholas struck out the side to give Cotuit the win by the final score of 7-6 in 15 innings.
Game 2: Cotuit 10, Harwich 2
The second game of the Cape League title series got off to nearly as explosive of a start as Game One when Cotuit, after putting the Mariners down in the top of the first hit two solo home runs curtesy of “Double M” Matt Mervis and Casey “The Schmitt Man” Schmitt. Schmitt hit a second solo shot in the bottom of the 4th, and combined with Donta Williams single to knock in Coltyn Kessler, gave Cotuit a 4-0 lead going into the top of the 5th. The Harwich bats came alive as both third basemen Riley Tirotta and first baseman Niko Kavadas hit solo shots of their own to bring the game back within reach for the Mariners.
The bottom of the 5th however would prove to be the Mariners downfall. An early single by Mervis was compounded when Schmitt was hit in the back by a pitch, and Kessler walked to load the bases. Following a sacrifice fly for the second out of the inning, Cotuit recorded five straight singles to raucous applause from the hometown fans and finished six runs in the inning, bringing the score to 10-2 Cotuit. Harwich mounted a small come back in the seventh scoring one run before finally knocking Cotuit starter Sean Sullivan from the game, and then being struck out twice to end the inning by his replacement. Harwich would have an opportunity to score again in the 8th but, in what was a feat of either extremely good catching from Cody Pasic faking out runner Joey Weimer about the ball’s location as it came in on a throw from center fielder Donta Williams, of very bad baserunning from Weimer as he slowed coming to towards the plate and didn’t slide when he arrived, Pasic received the ball and tagged him out easily to record the final out and keep the score where the game would end at 10-3.
Following this play at the plate, the game was over, and the fans in the stands knew it. Harwich fans by the dozen began to depart to beat the late afternoon traffic back to Harwich. Tirotta would walk and steal second on defensive indifference in the ninth, before a line drive from pinch hitter Max Marusak was caught by shortstop Oviedo, and Tirotta was doubled up at second to end both the game and the season. Ovideo and the rest of the Kettleers jumped and cheered, and the hometown fans joined in as their team began dogpiling just to the first base side of the pitcher’s mound celebrating their championship; meanwhile Harwich fans clapped politely, whistled to their beloved boys in blue, and turned to walk back to their cars.
My prediction for this series was that it would end in a decisive Game Three, and while there is to be no such game, the extra innings from Game One mean that more than two games were technically played so I’m going to count that as a correct prediction. As we put the 2019 season to bed, and the Cape League Championship heads back to Cotuit for the record 17th time in team history, this year’s finals serve as a beacon of hope to future .500, and mid standing teams. Both Harwich and Cotuit finished the season with the same number of wins as losses (21-21 and 20-20 respectively) providing just a little more credence to the adage “anything can happen.” As Cape League fans slowly close their scorebooks on the summer of 2019 and turn their attention to Major League Baseball, a single thought permeates through their mind; next year is our year.