By: Madeleine Balestrier
Three homeruns, 10 pitchers and 22 hours later the first game of the Bourne Braves and Cotuit Kettleers’ series is finally over.
The Brave’s offense gained the momentum from the top of their order and never looked back as they secured a 6-3 victory in the 11th inning.
“We just stayed loose and approached it like any other game,” Scott Schreiber (Nebraska) said.
The summer may be winding down, but the Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs are in full swing.
Cotuit’s lack of lights overshadowed the lights out pitching from both bullpens when the league decided to suspend Saturday’s matchup. The decision came from the league at the end of the 10th just as Kyle Marman (Florida Atlantic) secured a double play to keep Bourne alive in extra innings.
“Getting started back up in the 11th inning is something you really don’t go through,” Schreiber said. “We acted like it was going to be a first inning of any other game.”
Lowell Park hosted a pitching battle on Saturday afternoon. Right-handed pitcher Brian Eichhorn (Georgia Southern) and southpaw Zane Collins (Wright State) dueled it out through five innings.
Eichhorn allowed five hits, three earned runs, no walks, six strike outs and two shutdown innings on the day, while Collins dealt with three hits, two earned runs, two walks and four strike outs.
The only blemishes on their lines were a Schreiber two-run homerun for Bourne and two solo homeruns from Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) and Michael Toglia for Cotuit (UCLA).
Eichhorn’s day ended through five and a third after a Toglia hit stretched behind the fence.
PJ Poulin (Connecticut) came in on relief for Eichhorn in the bottom of the sixth inning. Poulin stranded runners in scoring position through consecutive innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, a Gian Martellini (Boston College) single and a Griffin Conine (Duke) line drive to right field put runners on the corners for Cotuit. The Cape Cod Baseball League MVP, Jenista, stepped up to the plate.
Poulin faced down the big bat with runners in scoring position and two outs on the board. A fastball cruised past Jenista’s hungry bat to secure the final out of the seventh as Poulin walked off the mound with an arm pumping and momentum flowing.
Both teams left their bats in the sixth, while the pitching efforts became the story of the day and sent the dueling teams into extras. They even threw the game into the next day.
The Braves bats came out firing as the sun hung high over Lowell Park on Sunday. Anthony Prato (Connecticut) hit a lead off double in the top of the 11th to spark the offense early.
Grant Williams (Kennesaw State) saw four consecutive balls from Austin Kitchen (Coastal Carolina) to put him on first base. Then a fielder’s choice from Lyle Lin (Arizona State) turned into disaster for the Kettleers.
As Zack Kone (Duke) tried to kick-start the double play from third base, he overthrew the bag into right field to allow Prato’s pinch runner, Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville), to come home. Adding insult to injury, Conine bobbled the ball in the outfield to push Williams across the plate in easy fashion.
Although any momentum drained from Cotuit’s core and the excitement seeped out of the stands, the Braves kept on swinging. Later in the inning, Jared Triolo (Houston) knocked a line drive single to bring Lin across for the third run of the 11th inning.
As the Braves’ bats woke up, their bullpen looked exactly the same; calm, cool and collected. Even with a new debuting face on the mound in Jared Skolnicki (Kent State), the Braves got it done. Switch pitcher Skolnicki struck out two and walked one as Luke Alexander (Mississippi State) lined out to Williams to put the Braves up one game in the playoff series.
Stat That Mattered
Schreiber led the Braves’ offense as he reached base six times through 11 innings. No other Brave has reached that many times in a game this entire season.
Brave of the Game
The stat that mattered helped elevate the Braves to a crucial victory in playoff baseball; so much so that it also warrants Schreiber’s nomination for Brave of the Game. The most notable play on the day was his homerun to center field in the top of the second inning. He also reached base on a walk, hit by pitch, single, single and walk.
While Bourne and Cotuit have a quick turn around between games, Schreiber and his teammates hope to carry their extra inning resilience into game two of the series.
“We will definitely have some momentum coming in,” Schreiber said. “Obviously getting that first game is huge, it puts the pressure on their team so I think we will stay loose and play our kind of baseball.”
Coming up: A quick turn around brings the Braves to their backyard tonight at 6 p.m. The Cotuit Kettleers travel to Doran Park for the second game of a Western Division playoff battle. Skolnicki’s college teammate and fellow lefty, Eli Kraus, will take the mound.
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