By Mac Friday
(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)
After two games with vengeful implications against the team which beat it in the 2021 CCBL Championship and a faceoff with its former manager, it would be Bourne itself who fell victim to vindication, losing a back-and-forth slugfest between Western Division rival Cotuit 6-4 on Tuesday evening.
Wake Forest right-hander Seth Keener took the bump for the Braves on Monday in his first CCBL start, and despite navigating a baserunner in each of the first three innings, he managed to navigate and defuse each jam.
“The first three innings were very good for me, even after running into a little bit of trouble which I was able to get out of,” Keener said. “My fastball felt good, as well as my changeup. I felt really good about it even though I faced some adversity.”
The Braves notched their first runs of the night in the fourth, starting with a leadoff walk from Sunday night’s scoring catalyst first baseman Chris Brito. Following the walk, Brito advanced on a groundout back to the pitcher hit by right fielder Jack Duffy. On a payoff pitch issued to third baseman Wyatt Henseler, Brito bought in and ran from second to third, hurdling over Henseler’s grounder to short.
Cotuit shortstop Ryan Ritter hesitated as Brito came across but managed to field the ball away from his body and turned to make the throw. However, the delivery was errant and airmailed over the head of the first baseman, scoring Brito. Catcher Ryan Leitch followed up with a walk on a full count.
Then UMass Lowell catcher Ryan Proto stepped up to the plate. The Braves backstop muscled past the second pitch he saw, blooping a single into no man’s land in center driving both Bravos into score, giving Bourne a three-run lead. The trio of Bravos scores were the first runs let in by the entire Kettleers pitching staff in this young 2022 CCBL season.
“With guys in scoring position I just wanted to try and stay short, stay simple and put the ball in play,” Proto said. “I got a good pitch to hit over the plate and I was able to drive it to center.”
However, eager to respond on their own Opening Day at Lowell Park, the Kettleers brought their own offensive heat in the fourth.
Center fielder Victor Scott was speared in the foot for the second time on the evening by Keener, starting the rally for Cotuit as its initial baserunner. Highly touted MLB prospect Cam Collier slotted a single on a hit-and-run play despite a tremendous effort from Braves shortstop John Peck, who drew Brito off the bag with his throw, putting runners on the corners.
An RBI single to right from left fielder Kade Kern scored Scott, before a Keener wild pitch allowed both runners to advance to scoring postion. A sacrifice fly to right scored Collier, but it was Ritter who drove in the game-tying run with an RBI double.
With one out in the seventh, Bourne found a way to break the deadlock, starting with Proto. The Braves catcher advanced to first with a free pass on four pitches, before stealing second base. Following a strikeout from second baseman Bryce Eblin, Peck stepped back in and drove an RBI single to right to score Proto from second.
However, the vengeful Kettleers once again replied with runs of their own in the seventh. Second baseman Chandler Simpson speared a fastball, breaking his bat and sending shards and debris towards Brito at first, who struggled to corral the ball and reach the bag. A bunt single and fielder’s choice scored Simpson, tying the game again at four runs apiece.
With a runner on first, Scott stepped in for his fourth plate appearance of the evening and put a charge in a hanging breaking ball over the plate. Scott’s towering shot flew over the right-field fence with ease, giving Cotuit a two-run lead that it would not relinquish.
In the eighth, Bourne got runners on with a Jack Duffy double and a Wyatt Henseler walk, but couldn’t turn their lemons into lemonade.
Despite a much better night in the batter’s box and solid performance defensively, the Braves were unable to overcome the Kettleers’ responses in the bottom halves of each frame. Braves manager Scott Landers chimed in on the transition from metal bats to wood as a force for struggling offense. With six hits compared to a trio of knocks on Tuesday, there was certainly some growth.
“I thought we got a couple of timely hits,” Landers said. “But I think the bigger issue is learning how to hit with wood in our hands compared to the metal these guys have been swinging all year… There will be progress – tonight was better than last night but we still have some work to do.”
Cotuit also swiped 11 bags on the evening, a major point of emphasis for Landers with several matchups against the Kettleers looming later in the season.
“We got to hold runners better and eliminate free passes. We have to clean that up,” Landers noted.”
After an off day on Wednesday, the Braves return to Doran Park for a rematch with the Kettleers, one of five games between the two sides this summer. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.