Braves take down Harbor Hawks at Doran, set up West winner-take-all in Cotuit
By Mac Friday
(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)
In its first of two highly anticipated West Division games, also serving as the regular season finale at Doran Park, the Bourne Braves did not disappoint, taking down rival Hyannis in a hotly contested 4-3 ballgame on Tuesday night.
Braves starter Cade Boxrucker took the mound on Tuesday, and for the first start since a game in Wareham at Spillane Field just over a month ago, the Campbell Camel looked like he was pushing too hard. It didn’t help that Boxrucker allowed a leadoff infield single to the fastest man on the Cape, Hyannis second baseman and steal leader Rikuu Nishida. The juco man bound for Division I baseball quickly swiped second base and advanced to third on a single by designated hitter Mitch Jebb.
Jebb and Nishida attempted a double steal, but only found 50 percent success, as Jebb was out at second and Nishida safe at home.
Boxrucker went on to walk three hitters, but didn’t allow another hit and escaped every jam he came across in his two innings of work before he was yanked for righty Kade Grundy.
“He just didn’t have it today,” Braves manager said of Boxrucker. “He didn’t throw many strikes, he was behind, he just wasn’t his best today but I trust he will find a way out of it for playoffs.”
The Braves fought back and took the lead in the second. Left fielder Evan Sleight opened things up with a one-out single before third baseman Ryan Enos, master of the bunt, laid down another beauty and successfully beat it out to first. Shortstop John Peck walked. With two outs, right fielder Nadir Lewis finally made it aboard for his first time on the basepaths with an RBI walk.
Continually making a case to be Bourne’s leadoff man as long as they play baseball, designated hitter Bryce Eblin grabbed the most impactful single of his 3-for-4 night at the dish, a two-out, two-run snipe up the middle to give the Braves a 3-1 lead.
“I love batting leadoff,” Eblin said. “It’s something I used to do when I was younger and it’s something I really enjoy. I like seeing the pitches first, getting that information and passing it down to the guys behind me.”
“Tonight, I just made some adjustments to get onto some fastballs better and it really paid off.”
The final Braves run of the evening came in the next inning as center fielder Mac Horvath stepped in to lead off the frame. Horvath took a hanging curveball issued by Hyannis starter Tommy O’Rourke and absolutely crushed it. The ball flew 434 feet to left-center field for his fifth home run of the season.
“My first at-bat, I got fooled bad, so I didn’t want to look like an idiot,” Horvath said. “The second time around he made a pretty good pitch because he got me out in front, but I kept my hands back long enough to get the barrel on it.”
The Braves relied heavily on a trio of right-handed pitchers in relief on Tuesday, getting production from Grundy, Ryan Fischer and Matt Duffy.
Grundy tossed two innings of one-run ball, allowing his only score to cross on a sacrifice fly to right field. Fischer did much of the same, two innings of one-run baseball, but walked a lot more hitters than he certainly would’ve liked at four. He made up for his free passes with five strikeouts, including a dispatch of the side in the sixth.
Duffy entered in the eighth and stayed for a six-out save, striking out three with no baserunners permitted.
With the Braves victory, it all comes down to one final showdown in the West for the first place crown and the President’s Trophy between the Braves and the Cotuit Kettleers on Wednesday at Lowell Park, a game that easily could’ve been played on Monday but was called off by Ketts’ manager Mike Roberts.
Landers expressed that he is going to rest some of his key players with the loss of the off-day due to the rainout and will give some of the newer arms on his roster an opportunity to prove themselves at Lowell. For the Braves players though, they want to win.
“I think we all really want to win that game,” Horvath said. “I know the coaching staff does and it means a lot to the Bourne Braves organization because we want to play at home for as long as we can throughout the postseason.”
First pitch at Lowell is set for 4:30 p.m.