By Mac Friday
(Photo: Joey Kurtz/Bourne Braves)
WORCESTER – With two outs in the top of the eighth facing and 0-2 count, Braves third baseman Ryan Enos stepped into the right-handed batter’s box at Polar Park in Worcester, destined to make a difference.
The former Oswego State Laker transferring to Eastern Tennessee State swayed in the batter’s box after taking a strike, swinging at one and fouling one off against righty Josh Mallitz.
After five years under Braves manager Scott Landers at Oswego, the first-year Braves skipper knew what to expect with the greatest hitter in Laker history at the plate.
Enos chopped at a slider low and away and with one hand, blooped a ball into left field to score a charging Chris Brito from third, breaking a 3-3 deadlock as the Braves gained a 4-3 advantage, one they would not relinquish as they beat the Gatemen for the final time on the season at Polar Park.
“I’ve seen that guy get it done for five years,” Landers said of Enos. “I knew he wasn’t going to strike out at the very least and he got the job done for us.”
“I was just trying to do my job and get the runner in any way I could,” Enos said. “He threw me two sliders in a row and they were both really good, so I figured he was going to come back with. He threw me a third in a row and it was good, but I just got my hands there and flipped it into left. I was happy to do my job.”
Bourne got down to business early at the Triple-A home of the Red Sox in Worcester, as All-Star left fielder Evan Sleight smacked an RBI single up the middle to score center fielder Mac Horvath, who reached on a walk and swiped second.
1-0 Bourne. pic.twitter.com/xeyhZwGBvU
— Mac Friday (@macfridayy) July 25, 2022
Sleight struck again in the third, leading off the frame with another single, before his Rutgers and Bourne teammate, first baseman Chris Brito, advanced him to third on a double off the wall in right field.
Sleight later came home on a groundout from shortstop John Peck to first.
Another Braves run came home in between the two innings dominated by the Scarlet Knights, as catcher Tomas Frick logged his fourth hit of the season, a blooper to right which was mishandled by right fielder Owen Diodati, moving the UNC catcher all the way to third.
“It felt so good,” Frick said of his hit. “I’ve been working hard in the cage trying to get my hands a little freer and tonight all I thought about were my hands and just letting them be free and loose and I was able to barrel some balls up.”
Frick also had some good luck on his side from an old friend. Monday was former UNC outfielder Dallas Tesser’s birthday, and Frick made sure to wear Tessar’s lucky undershirt, something he wears under his jersey each game he plays in Carolina Blue. Frick might’ve only recorded one hit, but in his first time wearing the lucky undershirt, he couldn’t help but to feel like it might’ve played a part.
“I wore Dallas’ shirt as I do at school and it came through,” Frick said. “It was my first time wearing it this summer, I might have to wear it more.”
On the other side, Braves starter Cade Boxrucker looked to bring his best stuff to Polar Park. Across his previous two starts heading into the matchup in Worcester, Boxrucker had allowed just one earned run and six hits against Cotuit and Hyannis through nine and two-thirds innings. On Monday against Wareham, he continued his excellence.
The Campbell righty faced the minimum through the first three innings aside from a leadoff double by Wareham catcher Ryan Campos, including an emphatic ending to his first inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
— Mac Friday (@macfridayy) July 25, 2022
In the fourth, Boxrucker ran into trouble as Diodati rattled off a one-out single and proceeded to advance all the way to third on two wild pitches. In the same at-bat, Boxrucker walked designated hitter Brian Morell, then got some much-needed help from his infield to get out of the jam with just one run and no further damage.
More adversity came in the form of a leadoff single and walk in the fifth, but the right-hander navigated the jam flawlessly, getting out with a strikeout, flyout and groundout to end his appearance.
Boxrucker twirled five innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits, three walks and five strikeouts.
Wareham struck back in the seventh against righty Ryan Fischer, as the New Jersey Institute of Technology product permitted a leadoff single and hit-by-pitch. In came left fielder Will Rodgers, a product from Arizona State who demolishes the fastball.
Sure enough, Fischer gave Rodgers a 90 mph heater low and right down Broadway, which was annihilated to left field, scoring both runners. Rodgers attempted to go for third but was thrown out on the play, dashing any further hopes the Gatemen had of taking the lead in the seventh.
Enos’ heroics came in the top of the eighth after Chris Brito demolished a ball to left and advanced to third on a sac bunt. Braves reliever Will Sandy entered for Fischer and shut everything down, allowing just one hit.
The Braves thoroughly enjoyed Monday’s matchup at Polar Park, hopefully catching a glimpse of their future.
“It was really nice having a batter’s eye,” Frick said. “It was a good environment, good crowd and overall an awesome night.”
“The surface was great, batter’s eye was great, overall just an awesome park,” Sleight said. “It was my first time here, but I’ll definitely have to come back, it’s a really nice place.”
The Braves are back in action on Tuesday against the Orleans Firebirds at Eldredge Park. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.