By Mac Friday
(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)
After a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the Cotuit Kettleers on Thursday, Bourne Braves manager Scott Landers was fed up. The Braves logged just three hits on the night and made several inexcusable mistakes on defense.
His message? Clean it up.
On Friday the Braves did just that, finding the antidote for Thursday night’s sickly performance via a flurry of effective offense, strong pitching and near-flawless defense, pushing them past the Eastern Division first-place Harwich Mariners, by a score of 4-1.
“In order to win we need to play all three aspects of the game well,” first baseman Chris Brito said. “Tonight, that’s what we did. We put double digits hits up, pitching was phenomenal, and our defense was pretty good.”
In the first two innings alone, a single from Brito, double from right fielder Jack Duffy and single from center fielder Dakota Harris equaled the amount of hits logged by the Braves alone on Thursday, but no runs came out of it.
The Braves finally broke through on offense in the third, as second baseman Bryce Eblin led off the frame by beating out a ground ball to short. His partner in the middle infield John Peck followed up with a single of his own. Mariners’ starter Wyatt Scotti walked Bourne left fielder Evan Sleight making his first CCBL start, loading the bases. A hot shot from Brito was handled at short and tossed to second for the fielder’s choice, scoring Eblin from third. With runners at the corners, the Braves’ best hitter on the young season, Duffy, stepped in.
With just one out, the Mariners middle infielders played at double-play depth, while the corner infielders crept in to limit the damage at home, leaving a large hole between first and second base. The left-handed Duffy saw this and looked to take advantage.
“I had two strikes on me again, but I shortened up and saw the three-four hole opened up,” he said. “I’ve been taught that if there is a guy on third with less than two outs, you have to get him in no matter what you do. I squeezed it through that hole like I wanted to, and it worked out.”
Peck scored again in the fifth after hitting a leadoff single, advancing to second on a putout and finally came across on a throw across the infield
The Rutgers pair of Sleight and Brito hit back-to-back doubles in the seventh, pushing the final Braves run of the night across the plate.
Campbell righty Cade Boxrucker was nails in his 2022 season debut for the Braves, only allowing three hits and one earned run through four innings of work.
“I felt really good,” Boxrucker said. “My two-seam was working well early on and my slider was keeping (Harwich) off balance.”
Despite a strong first three innings, it looked as if the fourth-inning curse would befall the braves for the third game in a row. On Tuesday, starter Seth Keener hadn’t allowed a hit through the first three but gave up three earned runs in the fourth. Thursday starter Adam Tulloch had six strikeouts through the first three innings but allowed six earned in his fourth inning of work. After Boxrucker loaded the bases with two singles and a hit-by-pitch, it looked like Boxrucker was next on the hit list.
“The fourth inning hasn’t been too good to us over the past few games,” Braves manager Scott Landers said. “When he had the bases loaded and no outs, it wasn’t looking too good again.”
However, a lineout to third baseman Wyatt Henseler, a sacrifice fly to right and a strikeout to exit the inning limited the Mariners to just one run.
“After they stacked a couple hits, I thought I had lost it,” Boxrucker added. “But I found a way to settle in and found a way to throw strikes.”
“He did a great job of minimizing bases loaded no outs getting out of it with just one,” Landers said of his starter.
The Bourne bullpen built on Boxrucker’s success, preventing Harwich from logging another hit for the rest of the game. Louisville righty Kade Grundy threw two scoreless innings with a pair of walks and a trio of strikeouts to earn the win. Campbell right-hander Ty Cummings closed the game out with three hitless frames, a singular walk and a pair of Ks to grab the save.
“The bullpen was huge,” Boxrucker said. “It was electric work by Grundy and Ty. They made this game a good one and I appreciated their work on the back end.”
For the first time in 2022, the Braves racked up double-digit hits in a game, a breath of fresh air for a squad that had just four runs on nine hits in their last two games. Landers chalked the turnaround up to resiliency and comfortability in the batter’s box.
“A big part of baseball games in general is coming back after the other team scores,” Landers said. “Harwich scored their one run and we came right back and scored in the top half of the inning and took the momentum back and carried it for the rest of the game.”
“It’s a process with these guys and we are getting more comfortable. We found a lot more barrels today than we have over the past couple of days. I’m happy. We are making strides in the right direction, and we have to keep it going.”
The Braves are back in action on Saturday at Eldredge Park against the Orleans Firebirds. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.