By: Jacob Janower
Through their first 41 games, neither the Bourne Braves nor their opponent had hit a grand slam in a game. On Tuesday, not only were two hit, but both came in the same inning.
Jameson Hannah (Dallas Baptist) drew first blood by clearing the bases with a blast to straightaway centerfield in the top of the fifth inning for his first home run of the season. The grand slam moved the Braves from down two runs to ahead by two.
The lead was short lived, however, as Michael Toglia (UCLA) responded with a bases clearing home run of his own for the Cotuit Kettleers in the bottom of the inning. The Kettleers carried that momentum to a 8-6 win in the final game of the season series.
Toglia’s grand slam came against Kyle Martin (Fordham), who was making his Braves debut. It was the second time in the last three games that Bourne has been defeated due to the struggles of a pitching newcomer.
The Braves downward trend into the playoffs continued as they lost their fifth consecutive contest, although the offensive performance was much more improved from the previous few contests.
Hannah’s grand slam came off of Kettleers’ starting pitcher Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina), who looked like he was going to escape the jam in the fifth after he recorded a strikeout and popout with three on, but Hannah’s blast temporarily changed the tide of the game.
“He was throwing me a lot of changeups,” Hannah said. “I was able to sit back on a changeup and put a good swing on it.
The Braves are no stranger to Bilous. The Kettleers’ starting pitcher has now faced the Braves five times this season, which is more than they have faced any East Division team.
He had posted a 6.00 ERA in his first four starts, but you would not have known that based off the way he started the game. The right-hander faced the minimum through three innings and escaped a tough spot with runners on the corners and no outs in the fourth without any damage done. He was pulled following the grand slam by Hannah.
Braves starting pitcher Andrew Crane (Troy) was plagued by damage done by the leadoff hitter of the first two innings.
Griffin Conine (Duke) started off the first by hitting his ninth home run of the season, which tied him for the CCBL lead. In the next frame, Chandler Avant (Alabama) took advantage of a misplay to advance to third base. He would come around to score two batters later on a single by Zack Kone (Duke). Conine would walk to start the third, but was stranded when Crane rebounded to retire the next three.
Hits continue to hurt Crane, as he let up six in four innings and has now allowed 31 in 19 and 2/3 innings this summer.
Nevertheless, the rising senior exited with the lead before Martin surrendered the grand slam.
Following Martin, P.J. Poulin (Connecticut) tossed two hitless innings as he continues to cement his role as one of manager Harvey Shapiro’s most reliable arms, but the Kettleers added two insurance runs with back-to-back two-out singles off of Kyle Marman (Florida Atlantic).
The Braves had an opportunity to tie the game in the ninth inning as they loaded the bases with no outs, but settled for just two runs on a run-scoring groundout by pinch-hitter Grant Witherspoon (Tulane) and another RBI by Hannah.
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The Braves slipped further into third place, as the loss puts them three points behind the Kettleers for second place, making it look even more likely that the two teams will once again meet in the postseason.
With Falmouth’s win, first place is out of reach.
Stat That Mattered
Eight of the nine Braves hits came from the top six hitters in their order, as the bottom three combined to go 1-for-10.
Brave of the Game: Jameson Hannah
Hannah was slotted as the leadoff man for the first time since July 8, and it worked well for him.
“I led off all at school this past season, and I’d say I feel pretty comfortable at it,” Hannah said.
Not only did he hit a grand slam, but he also walked in his first two at-bats, seeing 16 total pitches during his pair of free passes and added his fifth RBI on a single in the ninth inning.
Coming Up: The final two games of the season have suddenly become more pivotal than ever for the Braves. On Wednesday, they will play the first of two remaining games against the Wareham Gatemen.
You can contact the author via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter (@JanowerJacob).