For seven innings, all was well for Braves fans at Doran Park. As the sun set and painted the sky orange, the air continued to cool and the Braves remained in the lead over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, with an overall happy and content murmur ringing throughout the ballpark.
A wild top of the eighth would shift the contest completely though, as five Hyannis runs would score on three hits and a pair of errors, giving the Harbor Hawks a 5-1 lead which the Bravos could not overcome.
Bravos starter Bryce Cunningham took the bump on Tuesday and after a five-run meltdown in the fourth inning against Y-D last week, he was eager to show out and perform in his second CCBL start of 2022.
Cunningham allowed just three baserunners through five innings of work and faced the minimum in the sixth. The closest opportunity Hyannis had to score came on a leadoff single from center fielder Cole McConnell, who worked his way around the bags all the way to third after a flyout and groundout but was stranded.
Cunningham’s outing ended after the sixth, the longest start by a Bravo starting pitcher this season. He permitted just two hits while walking one and striking out five in a scoreless appearance.
“My fastball and slider were working really well tonight,” Cunningham said. “I felt a lot more comfortable and settled in here at Doran Park, so that certainly helped.”
“I thought Bryce was great to start the game,” Braves manager Scott Landers said. “He did excellent through the first six innings but then we just melted down afterward.”
Making his first appearance for the Bravos, lefty Will Sandy came in to get the ball in the seventh, dealing a hitless first frame. Things turned for the worse in the eighth, as Sandy allowed a leadoff single. After a flyout, a worm burner squirted through the legs of first baseman Chris Brito, putting runners at the corners with one out. First baseman Rocco Peppi then put down a bunt, to which the Braves expected to go foul. The ball dribbled along the first baseline and stayed fair, allowing the Harbor Hawks to tie the game at one run apiece. After a double steal, third baseman Mitch Jebb then stabbed a ball into the middle infield on which second baseman Bryce Eblin could not corral, allowing another run to score. Next came a ground-rule double from left fielder Tito Flores over the center-field wall, scoring another Harbor Hawk. After Sandy was pulled for Tyler Vogel, the Jacksonville product allowed another run to score on a wild pitch, before Flores came in on a sacrifice fly.
“We have to clean it up defensively,” Landers said about his team, who are second in the CCBL in errors. “They had five runs on three hits (in the eighth) if you want to call them hits, but we just have to clean that up.”
It looked to be a much better day on the offensive side of things for Bourne in the first inning, as shortstop Matt Shaw reached on a leadoff walk, stole second and moved to third on a flyout to center. Shaw then scored on a 100 mph lineout to center from Brito.
However, it would be the only Braves run on the evening, as the team only tallied three hits on the evening. It certainly didn’t feel like three hits though, as time and time again the Braves scorched balls into the outfield, only for them to be caught.
“It’s just baseball, right now all the hits that landed are broken bats and bloopers and the good ones didn’t land when they were supposed to,” Brito said. “To rally, it starts with the leadoff guy, and then the guy after him. We found a way to do that in the first, but couldn’t find it after that.”
“I thought we swung it better tonight, we had a lot of barrels that just didn’t fall,” Landers added. “Hard ground balls that were right to guys, line drives that didn’t land, even on a day where the air was heavy and the ball didn’t travel much… Three hits do not resemble what they did today.”
The Braves are back in action at Doran Park on Wednesday against the Harwich Mariners. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.