Braves ride long ball to beat Harbor Hawks, advance to Championship Series for second year in a row

The Braves beat the Harbor Hawks 7-4 to advance to the Cape League Championship Series for the second time in as many years.

Braves ride long ball to beat Harbor Hawks, advance to Championship Series for second year in a row

By Mac Friday

(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)

Knotted 1-1 after four innings with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks at McKeon Park, the Bourne Braves were looking for someone to make a difference and step up to break a one-run deadlock after a high-speed first inning. With pitching settling in, the pace of the game had slowed significantly, but everything could change with one swing of the baseball bat.

Enter Braves first baseman Chris Brito. The Rutgers slugger hit two of the longest home runs in the Cape League this season but hadn’t found a way to put one over the fence in four playoff games against the Falmouth Commodores and the Harbor Hawks. With two on, two out and in a 2-2 count, Brito found a fastball down Broadway and sent it to the moon, a towering three-run shot that separated the Braves from their opponent in a game that they would go on to win 7-4, securing their place in the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship Series against the Brewster Whitecaps for the second time in as many years.

“I just wanted to give the team the lead,” Brito said. “That’s what I did that at-bat. I found the ball up and the rest was history.”

Brito’s four-RBI night began long before his moonshot over the left field fence, though. In the first, shortstop Matt Shaw advanced to first on a single to center field, before swiping second with his elite speed. After right fielder Mac Horvath went down swinging, Brito sliced his own single into center, scoring the speedy Shaw from second.

Brito’s home run was just one of two massive moonshots on the evening. Designated hitter Josh Moylan stepped in the batter’s box just an inning later in the sixth with center fielder Nelson Taylor on first after an error by the pitcher. The power bat known as “Big Crank” fought for ten pitches with six foul balls before he found a changeup high in the zone. His head coach said it best in the postgame interview.

“Moylan hit one that I think still hasn’t landed yet,” Braves manager Scott Landers said.

Big Crank hit that baseball 434 feet to right-center, the kill shot that the Braves needed to stretch the lead to five runs.

I just kind of went in he was throwing a good mix of everything,” Moylan said. “I think I saw everything he had, but I picked up on the curveball. He was trying to go back foot with it so I scooted up in the box and then anything up in the zone I was going to try to foul off. He left a changeup high in the zone and I got a pretty good swing on it, one of those you don’t even feel the ball.”

On the hill for the Braves on Monday was Southeastern southpaw Robb Adams, who threw four innings in the 9-0 win to close out the regular season against Cotuit. Over Adams’ previous two appearances entering Monday’s game, the lefty hadn’t allowed a run to cross home on his watch in 10 innings pitched. One run crossed on Adams in the first inning on Monday, an RBI single by designated Drew Ehrhardt, but the run was unearned as second baseman Rikuu Nishida led off the inning reaching on an error, something that was corrected by a fielder’s choice shortly thereafter but allowed third baseman Mitch Jebb to get aboard.

Adams settled in afterward for four more innings of lights-out pitching. One particular battle worth following all night was the pickoff efforts of Adams, who had caught four runners in the regular season, against Nishida, the Cape League leader in stolen bases in the regular season and the playoffs. Round One was a no-contest, as Nishida was out on the aforementioned fielder’s choice, but Adams won bout two in the second inning, picking off the speedy infielder to end the inning.

“We wanted to limit their times on the bases because (Nishida and Jebb) are threats to run at all times,” Adams reflected. “The goal was to keep them honest during the game and Rikuu got a little too far in the second, so I tried to keep him honest. Other than that, we stuck to the plan of keeping them close to give us a chance.”

“For me, the goal is to go out there and get in my comfort zone. I just try to get in my groove and keep guys off-balance and I like to miss barrels. Tonight, that was the plan and it worked out.”

Following Adams was closer Nigel Belgrave, who made his playoff debut. The Maryland righty encountered the hungry, scrappy bottom half of the Hyannis order and struggled to locate his pitches early in his appearance. He allowed back-to-back base runners with a walk and single to open the bottom of the sixth before a pair of fielder’s choices and an error by Shaw at shortstop led to a Hyannis run, its first since the opening frame. First baseman Nolan Schanuel and Nishida would hit RBI singles to narrow the Bourne lead to three.

The Braves added an insurance run in the seventh, working Horvath all the way around to score on a fielder’s choice after he singled to lead off the frame.

Righty Ryan Fischer, who began this season as a starter, came out of the pen for three lights-out innings to close the game out. Fischer, who hadn’t thrown in the playoffs yet, had gotten out of his car before Game Three against Falmouth yelling “Let’s go to war!” He allowed just one hit in his appearance, striking out three Harbor Hawks.

“I just knew I had to win this game for us tonight,” Fischer said. “I just wanted to help out my teammates. Robb had a great start and the offense was electric, so I just had to get it done for us.”

“I’m here to go to war with my brothers. These are my boys and I want to win for them.”

With the win over Hyannis, Bourne advances to the Championship Series to face the Brewster Whitecaps for the third time in five years. Bourne lost both of those series, but if there is a man to change that, it’s the 2021 Brewster pitching coach turned Bourne manager Scott Landers.

58 days ago, the Braves opened their season against the Whitecaps with a 5-3 win at Doran Park. Now they will play host once again in the final series of the season. Game One is at 6:00 p.m. at Doran.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Landers said. “I root for them and they root for me to win. We started the year against them with a win and hopefully, we end the year with a couple of wins. It’s awesome, I’m excited.”