By: Madeleine Balestrier
On Friday afternoon, the Bourne Braves and Brewster Whitecaps set out for the age-old battle of dominant arms versus powerhouse bats. Although a seemingly even matchup between the two strengths, the Whitecaps’ offensive dominance proved more resilient as they walked-off the Braves in the tenth inning of their 5-4 victory.
Walk-off aside, Bourne’s pitching staff continued to put together efficient outings in game one of the CCBL Finals as Brian Eichhorn (Georgia Southern) took the mound through five and a third innings.
While the Braves put runs on the board in the top half of the second, Eichhorn spent his first three innings putting down nine consecutive batters. As he secured his season high seven strike outs, Eichhorn also allowed three hits, three runs (two earned) and one walk.
While Eichhorn worked the mound, the top half of the second inning got things going for the Braves’ bats.
Jameson Hannah (Dallas Baptist) extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single. Kevin Radziewicz’s (Fairfield) following at bat sent Hannah to third base on a wild pitch and a single from the catcher. With no outs on the board, Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) loaded the bases on a walk. Hannah’s consistency was rewarded as Richie Palacios’ (Towson) sacrifice fly brought Hannah across for the first run of the game.
The Whitecaps answered with a trio of runs in the fourth as Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) struck a liner over the left field fence.
Missed opportunities in the second and defensive miscues in the fourth helped Brewster achieve the lead midway through the afternoon game.
While Hannah extended his hitting streak, Jared Triolo (Houston) continued capitalizing on his seven-game RBI streak as he doubled to bring Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville) across the plate in the fifth. The Braves cut their deficit to one heading into the sixth.
The dueling west and east teams kept the board at a close 3-2 until the Whitecaps added another run to their scoring tally.
Another error from the Braves’ defense and Darius Hill’s (West Virginia) single set-up an insurance run. As AJ Graffanino (Washington) hit a line-drive single to Witherspoon in right field, Witherspoon overthrew Triolo at third base. Hill came around and Graffanino stranded on third later in the seventh.
The Braves did not roll over easily as they stepped up to the plate in the top of the ninth. A Witherspoon strike out and a Palacios fly out put Fitzgerald in the batter’s box with two outs looming and Brewster fans feeling giddy.
Fitzgerald swung the wood past the pressure to force a single into left field and to keep the game alive. As Grant Williams walked, a struggling Lyle Lin (Arizona State) stepped up to bat.
He went hitless for four appearances on the day, before he tied up the ball game at four with a 2-RBI double. His offensive resiliency sent game one of the CCBL Championship Series into extra innings.
The Braves’ motivation quickly faltered in the 10th as a base running error on Radziewicz quickly changed the tides from a bases-loaded one out situation to two outs with runners in scoring position.
Palacios grounded out to Nick Dunn (Maryland) to end their go-ahead bid.
Back-to-back walks in the bottom half of the 10th sent Sean Leland (Illinois) out to the mound to replace Kyle Marman (Florida Atlantic) in relief.
With runners on the corners, the Braves elected to intentionally walk Bishop, the Whitecap who hit a 3-run shot in the fourth, to load the bases with one out. The next batter, Kyle Datres (North Carolina), flew out to put two outs on the board. With the 11th inning looming, Leland hit Chandler Taylor(Alabama) in the foot to give the Brewster Whitecaps a walk-off walk and game one of the series.
Stat That Mattered
On top of errors, the Braves missed opportunities at the plate were another nail in the coffin. Although Zac Susi (Conneticut) was the only player not to reach base, the Braves struggled to capitalize with runners in scoring position; so much so that nine runners were left stranded on second or third.
Brave of the Game
With two outs and runners on in the top of the ninth trailing by two runs, Lin stepped up to one of the most high-pressure situations in baseball. He quieted the stands of a championship game with a hard knocked double to knot up the scoreboard at four and to send his teammates across the plate with fist pumps and momentum.
Coming up: Saturday night will send the championship series to Doran Park for a 6 pm first pitch as the Whitecaps look for the sweep and the Braves look to stay alive.
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