By: Carson Field
Redemption: that’s the mantra for the Bourne Braves in 2019. After missing the playoffs a year ago, Bourne looks to reload and re-emerge as a force in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
The new era of Braves baseball begins on June 10. On that day, the Braves will head to Orleans for the 2019 season opener against the Firebirds. Two days later, Bourne returns to Doran Park for its home opener against the Wareham Gatemen.
The 42-game regular-season slate comes to an end on July 31, when the Braves play a road tilt against the Gatemen. One day prior, Bourne hosts Wareham for the Braves’ last home regular-season game of 2019.
If Bourne finishes in the top four of the West Division, it will qualify for the playoffs, which start on Aug. 2. Last year, the Braves missed the postseason and finished 18-25-1.
As far as personnel, it’s a new look for the Braves. Of Bourne’s 30 players on the roster for 2019, only three are returners from the previous year: infielders Jake MacKenzie (Fordham) and Alika Williams (Arizona State), and pitcher Gavin Williams (East Carolina).
A year ago, MacKenzie and Alika Williams batted .286 and .245, respectively, in a combined 63 at-bats. Gavin Williams only played four games in 2018, posting a 12.00 ERA in three innings pitched.
Even though the majority of the Braves will be newcomers, there won’t be a lack of talent at Doran Park. The 27 new players are spread among some of the nation’s top college baseball programs from a wide range of states and conferences. Most have made noteworthy contributions to their respective programs this year.
Two of Bourne’s strongest hitters come from the same college: University of Arkansas.
Casey Martin, an infielder, is batting .305 this season with eight knocks for the Razorbacks. He was named SEC Player of the Week in mid-April. In the outfield, Heston Kjerstad is batting .324 with 10 home runs.
Both Martin and Kjerstad — now sophomores — were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and All-SEC Second Team a year ago.
On the other side of the country, Nick Brueser has made a sizable impact for Stanford, the No. 3 team in the country. In 59 at-bats, Breuser has driven in 11 runs, while posting a .410 on-base percentage.
Some of the other schools represented by position players include South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, among others.
The group on the mound is just as deep.
Bourne’s pitching staff is scheduled to have players from Florida, Louisville, East Carolina and other prolific programs.
Specifically, Louisville’s Michael Kirian is expected to be one of the Braves’ key contributors this summer. A year after having an ERA above 12.00, Kirian’s 2019 ERA of 1.29 is among the ACC’s best. All of Kirian’s 14 appearances have come out of the bullpen, and he has three saves.
At the mid-major level, Austin Pope has been dominant for the Fairfield Stags. Pope has recorded a 2.19 ERA in his 10 starts. Additionally, Pope’s opponent batting average is below the Mendoza line.
When June arrives, 30 baseball players from nearly every corner of the United States will meet in New England. With this many players from so many different programs, it could take time for the team to gel.
But make no mistake — the Braves have the talent. If it all comes together, Bourne’s win column will surely outweigh its loss column.