05/18/2009 9:17 AM
2008 Finalist Cotuit Ready for Another Title Run
COTUIT, Mass. -- Cotuit is gearing up for the 2009 Cape Cod Baseball League season with some strong arms and quick feet and several veterans from 2008 coming back to make another run at the championship under manager Mike Roberts, who will be starting his sixth season with the Kettleers.
Cotuit ended last season 26-20-2 after winning the West Division playoffs by beating Falmouth in two of three games to win a spot against Harwich. The Kettleers were swept in the finals by an unstoppable Harwich team, which won the league title for the first time in 21 years.
The 2009 Kettleers include four returning veterans. First baseman Kevin Patterson (Auburn) will return after last year’s solid .296 season which saw him belt four home runs and drive in 27. He was the Kettleers’ MVP and a West Division All-Star.
Also returning are ace pitchers Brandon Cumpton (Georgia Tech), Seth Blair (Arizona State), and closer Drew Storen (Stanford), all veterans of playoff action in 2008. Cumpton got off to a slow start but turned up the heat for the playoffs, showing how his fastball and curveball can keep batters on their toes. Blair, the Kettleers’ pitching MVP and another All-Star, pitched well through the season, carving out a 1.55 ERA and a 4-1 record, and Storen was Roberts’ go-to closer with five saves and a 2.76 ERA.
Joining Storen with closing duties will be a pair of right-handers, Mike Nesseth (Nebraska) and Daniel Tillman (Florida Southern).
Robbie Shields (Florida Southern) will also be returning. After a hot start last summer, Shields sustained an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Despite being unable to play, Shields stayed on the Cape and cheered on his teammates, earning their respect and that of the entire Cotuit organization.
Three newcomers on the roster --pitchers Ricky Hague (Rice) and Gerrit Cole (UCLA) and infielder Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt) – have accepted invitations to attend Team USA tryouts. Their positions will be held open with Cotuit until June 24 when Team USA makes its final cuts.
Others on the new roster include outfielder Jonathan Taylor (Georgia), whom the Kettleers will look to for speed on the basepaths, along with Brock Holt (Rice) and Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina); right-hander Justin Grimm (Georgia), who was the Red Sox’ 13th-round draft pick in 2007; left-handers Chris Dwyer (Clemson) and Sean Gilmartin (Florida State), and right-handers Chance Rufflin (Texas) and Jake Buchanan (North Carolina State).
The Kettleers have signed a number of players with outstanding credentials from other summer leagues, including Texas outfielder Kevin Keys and catcher Cameron Rupp, the No. 1 and 2 prospects in the California League; plus the Valley League’s MVP, first baseman Tyler Townsend (Florida International), and outfielder Cory Vaughn (San Diego State), the No. 1 prospect in the Northwoods League last year.
Vaughn’s dad, Greg Vaughn, played for the Kettleers in 1984 and 1985 and enjoyed a 16-year Major League career.
The elder Vaughn is just one of many eventual big league stars who have worn Kettleer uniforms over the years. The list includes infielders Garrett Atkins (1998 & 1999) of the 2007 National League Champion Colorado Rockies and Chase Utley (1999) of the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Right-handers Adam Harang (1998), Scott Erickson (1989) and Mike MacDougal (1979) all played for the Kettleers, as did current New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi (1984) and infielders Lou Merloni (1992) and Mark Bellhorn (1993).
Lowell Park has seen some improvements since last season. According to General Manager Bruce Murphy, fans can look forward to a new scoreboard with a speed indicator and plans call for additional “raised grass seating” in the outfield area where the old scoreboard stood.
Cotuit will open its 2009 season at Harwich on Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the 2008 championship series. The Kettleers’ first home game will be June 14 at 5 p.m. against the Falmouth Commodores.
Ashley Crosby, CCBL Intern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Garner, Jr.
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