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Ep. 10: ‘Bordering on Elite’

The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 10. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.


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August 24th was a big day for Cole Uvila. It started off with him getting the news that he’d been selected to compete in the Arizona Fall League, a prestigious honor, and a goal he had sought since the offseason. On top of being able to look forward to that, his Down East Wood Ducks had about a week left in their season, before entering the Carolina League playoffs. And Cole continued to pitch well.

Later that day of the 24th, after receiving the big news, Cole got into a game against the Wilmington Blue Rocks, his first action in six days. Entering in the 5th inning, Cole pitched 2.2 innings, allowing just a single and no walks, striking out four. Everything was trending upward.

But there were a couple of nagging things going on at the time, one of which wasn’t really grabbing Cole’s attention, one of which was. The first was a storm that had formed about 700 miles east of Barbados. It was called Tropical Storm Dorian.

There was no telling where Dorian might go at that point, or whether it would even become a hurricane, but it was a looming possibility nonetheless. The other thing that was going on, that Cole was very much aware of was that, he hadn’t quite felt like himself. The end results of that Aug. 24 outing were good, but his body was kind of out of sorts, at least at the beginning. And it was a little bit concerning.

COLE: “It was weird. I kind of talked about this to the trainer and talked with a couple teammates, but I hadn’t pitched in six days and I got out there and my shoulder just felt really slow. It kind of felt like I was moving through water, it kind of felt tight, just not loose, and like the first pitch, I threw a curveball the first pitch and the second pitch was a fastball and it was at 91. And I’ve maybe thrown two or three 91 mph fastballs this whole year. So yeah. I wasn’t loose.”

This was one of those things where, it was unclear how concerned he should be. Maybe it was simply the long layoff, maybe it was something else. … There were a couple of reasons he hadn’t been pitching as frequently. One was that the Wood Ducks had added a pitcher to their bullpen, so there was another arm to get into games. Another was the team was trying to extend their starters a bit in preparation for the playoffs. So there were fewer innings to go around. On top of all of this, Cole’s increased efficiency had led to his outings being longer. Instead of one inning, he was more frequently pitching two or more innings. And when your outings are longer, you’re going to get longer breaks between appearances.


But overall, he was feeling really good. And the biggest reason for that, was that his curveball continued to progress at a stunning rate. That pitch, which he had worked on developing in the middle of the season, was so effective now that he was not only throwing it for strikes, he was now throwing it about as frequently as his fastball. Which is amazing when you consider that the fastball had always been his calling card. The fastball was the pitch that had made him a pro in the first place.

COLE: “I’m throwing my curveball almost 40-50 percent of my pitches anymore. It’s almost became my best pitch in my arsenal, which is, if you’da told me 6 months ago that my whole career wouldn’t be determined on how good my fastball was, I probably woulda laughed. But it is super exciting to me that I have that pitch that always was just a third pitch, like kind of just a show-me pitch. Now it’s bordering on elite. Like as far as the metrics go on the pitch and the results I’m getting with the pitch — I didn’t give up a hit with it in the second half, at all, and I threw it over a hundred times.”

No hits off his curveball in the second half – at all. That statistic had Cole thrilled about the possibilities.

Cole Bordering on elite[3585].pngCole Bordering on elite[3585].png


As Cole was more or less cruising in the final couple weeks of the regular season, the Wood Ducks had wrapped things up with five games against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, then prepared to turn around and face the same team in the first round of the playoffs. While this was going on, Dorian made its move. It progressed to hurricane status, then set up camp off the coast of the Bahamas at the start of September and sat there for a couple of days, pounding the tiny island nation and leaving an estimated 70,000 people without homes. Then, the hurricane turned north and started working its way up the East Coast of the United States.

Cole says that from a baseball perspective, Dorian wasn’t that big a distraction. Both Kinston, where Down East is located, and Fayetteville, are inland. So the expectations were that both cities would get a lot of rain, but were not in danger of suffering hurricane-caliber damage.  

COLE: “It’s on the news and there’s been some buzz in the locker room about it, like, what’s gonna happen. In 2017 Down East had their playoffs canceled for the same thing, and they ended up just being co-champions because they won the league so that’s happened before. Obviously we don’t want that. We want to earn the championship that we’ve worked for, so we want to play. So we’re hoping for that. So when I say block it out we’re trying not to rely on it or bank on it and just kind of like how this whole season’s been, just focus on the task at hand.”

Unfortunately, this has kind of been the norm over the last few seasons in the Carolina League. It was Hurricane Irma that disrupted the 2017 playoffs. And last season, Hurricane Florence caused the final round to be shortened to a one-game, winner-take-all championship. Here’s Wood Ducks play-by-play broadcaster Matt Present:

MATT: “So this year was the third year in a row that the hurricane was coming at that exact time of the year, and so I think the league, they obviously wanted to err on the side of caution but I think the effect is to ‘man are we going to have to scrap the championship or change the championship for the third year in a row?’”

So even though Hurricane Dorian was not expected to damage Kinston, or Fayetteville, there was still going to be a substantial amount of rain, enough to affect the schedule. After the regular season ended on Sept. 2 in Fayetteville, the Wood Ducks stayed there, then opened the best-of-five series with a doubleheader on the 4th – and when I say doubleheader I mean two shorter, seven-inning games, which they often do in the minor leagues. The teams split those games, then moved to Kinston for the rest of the series, hunkering down for a couple of days to wait out the weather as Dorian slid up the coast.

MATT: “In terms of when it actually hit, it was just heavy rain for a day. I mean I remember being bored because everything was closed and there wasn’t anything to do. I think I actually went to the stadium and hung out in the clubhouse with a few guys for part of the day. but I mean I never felt unsafe. I know there were some tornado warnings and watches kind of in the area, but it really was just kind of like a heavy thunderstorm that lasted for a really long, long time. 

“The morning after the rain stopped the dugout was completely filled with water. There was a lot of rain but outside of that, I mean I know that, I don’t mean to mitigate the impact of the people who live on the coast like there certainly was damage not terribly far from us, but in terms of like us that day, it was just heavy rain.”


The teams returned to action on Sept. 7 for another doubleheader consisting of two seven-inning contests. After having gone five days without pitching, Cole got into the early game – Game 3 of the series. He entered in the fifth inning and pitched an inning and a third without allowing a run, but he was not sharp. He issued four walks, and was removed from the game with two outs in the sixth inning, leaving the bases loaded.

Teammate Michael Matuella replaced Cole and struck out a batter to end the threat, and the Wood Ducks went on to win the game 5-4 to take a 2-1 series lead.

COLE: “It was you know one of my worst outings of the season unfortunately. Was maybe a little too amped up, trying to do a little too much. Kind of been a theme this year. My worst outings are typically when I’m overthrowing. So again it was, I didn’t give up any runs but I had some walks and stuff, so it was a learning experience. But again not something I’m really going to harp on or beat myself up over. It’s just you know, funny how you recognize something back in June, about how when I overthrow it’s not normally the best results. It takes like, you’ll make progress but it still will never go away.”

Cole wasn’t too worried. He had been excited to pitch after the long layoff, and in addition to overthrowing, had found himself getting a little too cute. Having seen so much of Fayetteville at the end of the season thanks to a scheduling oddity, he was overanalyzing how he pitched to their batters.

COLE: “We played those guys 10 times in a row. I think my last four outings of the regular season were against Fayetteville. And when you see those guys, you start overthinking. You’re facing the same guys. They’re making adjustments and you’re making adjustments and you just, I just over-complicated it. I think I, I got two quick outs in that second inning I came out, and I got a guy 0-2, and I ended up going, throwing like 7 pitches, which a couple got fouled off, three got fouled off and four ended up being balls. And I think of the seven pitches I think six I threw were breaking balls, breaking balls or changeups, which if I just would’ve thrown another fastball I would’ve just got him out.”

That would turn out to be Cole’s last appearance for the Wood Ducks in the 2019 season. Down East would lose Game 4 later that day, then fall the next day in Game 5 to lose the series. With the season over, it was time for Cole to shift his focus to Arizona. …

*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Rip My Jeans” —

Broke For Free — “If

Kevin MacLeod — “Perceptible Shift”, “Whiskey on the Mississippi

(All music edited for time purposes)


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