Braves come back to beat Mariners, Keener shines in relief

The Braves came back to beat the Harwich Mariners 4-2 after a four-run sixth inning, bolstered by five innings of bulletproof relief by Seth Keener.

Braves come back to beat Mariners, Keener shines in relief

By Mac Friday

(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)

Twice this season, the Bourne Braves have found themselves on a three-game win streak, firing on all cylinders with every aspect of their game going their way. Each time though, they have fallen apart in that fourth game for a loss full of mistakes. One of these losses was a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Falmouth Commodores. Another was a 6-2 meltdown in South Yarmouth at the hands of the Y-D Red Sox in which the Braves committed numerous errors and looked extremely sloppy.

After rattling off wins against Wareham, Orleans and a home victory against the Harwich Mariners, it looked as if the Braves were en route to another faltering loss, this time with the Mariners looking for revenge for three straight losses at the hands of the Bravos. Harwich lefty starter Johnathan Santucci looked invincible, facing the minimum through five with no hits, two walks and seven strikeouts, bolstering a 2-0 Harwich lead.

In the fifth, the Bourne comeback kids finally shone through, fighting through adversity for a four-run sixth in which they grabbed the lead and found a way to keep it across the rest of the contest, sweeping the Mariners with a 4-2 win at Whitehouse Field.

“I told the guys I was proud of the way we hung in there,” Braves manager Scott Landers said. “Santucci was excellent with his no-hitter through five, but we strung some things together in the sixth… Overall, it was a great night for us.”

The rally in Harwich began at the hands of the man who sparked the biggest comeback of the Braves season just 20 days ago, shortstop John Peck. The Pepperdine product smashed a double the other way to right field for a standup trip to second base. Next came catcher Alan Espinal, who delivered his sixth hit of the season, a single through the right side to flip the order over with runners at the corners. Center fielder Nelson Taylor then drove home Peck with an RBI single to right field. Second baseman Matt Shaw walked, allowing right fielder Mac Horvath to get the party truly started.

Horvath poked a 2-2 pitch to left to bring home Espinal and the speedy Taylor from second, bouncing the once rock-solid Santucci from the game. Shaw then scored on a wild pitch from reliever Cameron Mayer.

“Today was one of those days where it felt like the barrel was missing the ball,” Horvath said. “So I just tried to shorten up and do what I could. My focus was just to put bat on ball and see what happened.”

On the mound, it was lefty starter Hunter Furtado who fell behind to the Mariners in the first, as a double off the bat of former Brave turned Mariner second baseman Nick Goodwin which was misplayed in left by left fielder Evan Sleight allowed a Harwich run to cross.

In the fourth, Furtado navigated out a bases-loaded jam with a walk, single and hit-by-pitch with minimal damage, permitting just one run on a sacrifice fly hit to center by catcher Brian Arondt.

After a double play and strikeout to end the fifth, Furtado was pulled for All-Star Seth Keener, who had missed his last two starts on either side of the All-Star break due to muscle spasms. Landers and Co. brought Keener out of the pen and the Wake Forest righty brought the good stuff.

Keener sat down the first eight hitters he faced in rapid succession, striking out the side in the seventh. In the eighth, he allowed back-to-back two-out hits but was bailed out by Taylor in center.

As the ninth rolled around, closer Nigel Belgrave was seen warming in the pen for the save, but Landers stuck to his guns, keeping Keener in the game despite a one-out single. The right-hander put down the next two Mariners to earn himself a much-deserved win. He allowed four hits, no runs, no walks and six strikeouts.

“Keener said he was healthy and we wanted to get him in before the playoffs,” Landers said. “We had to get him going and he pitched great tonight backing up Furtado.”

Keener, as well as his pitching company also received a special treat for the victory. For four wins in a row, the pitchers get to take batting practice.

“It feels awesome to win four, but more importantly we get pitcher’s batting practice,” Keener chuckled. “It’s the best news I’ve heard all week!”

With the win, the Braves are now one win out of first place in the West and take a season-series sweep of Harwich.

The Braves round out their East Division schedule with a game against the Chatham Anglers on Saturday night at Veterans Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.