By Mac Friday
(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)
After 305 days away from Cape Cod Baseball League action, the Bourne Braves finally returned to the diamond at Doran Park on Sunday evening for Opening Day action in a 2021 CCBL Championship Series rematch.
Despite a back-and-forth contest testing Bourne early, the Braves were able to weather the storm and grab the win over the team which they fell runner-up to in 2021, defeating the Whitecaps 5-3.
Sunday’s win was the first for new Braves manager Scott Landers and it came with a tinge of a vengeful twist, not only for Bourne fans but for Landers himself. Landers was the pitching coach of the Whitecaps last season, and although he spoke highly of the Brewster staff, he was more pleased with the accomplishments of his new team.
“I don’t look too much into the revenge dynamic, but I will take the first one,” Landers chuckled. “They are a good club and do great things and I thank them for giving me the opportunity. Looking back on it, it feels good to beat them for the first time.”
“Our players played great. We got some timely hits, played good defense for the most part and our pitchers that came out of the pen came in and did a great job.”
Starting for Bourne was Rutgers righty Sam Bello, who cruised through the first two innings with a double and a walk being the only miscues. Bello sat down the side in the third with help from solid defense behind him.
The Bravos got the bats going in the second inning after a leadoff ground-rule double over the short fence in right field from first baseman Christopher Brito. Polk State standout Jack Duffy, headed to Houston next spring, followed up with a trip to first after an error from Brewster first baseman Logan Bravo. Bourne finally broke through against Brewster starter Joseph Mancini with an RBI single from third baseman Wyatt Henseler. Mancini followed up with back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to escape the jam and strand two.
Despite a strong showing in the early stages for Bello, Brewster finally broke through against the Rutgers right-hander in the fourth as Cameron Leary reached on a walk, and Bravo and Brennan Milone reached on back-to-back singles to load the bases. A sacrifice fly to center caught by Dakota Harris, who was playing in the outfield for the first time in his career, scored the first run of the day for Brewster, bouncing Bello. Ryan Fischer filled in on the mound, issuing a wild pitch to the first batter he faced, scoring another run. A groundout to short scored the third and final run of the frame, knotting the game at three runs apiece.
“I always let the ball travel and go the other way,” Brito said of his double. “That helped me a lot. Early before the game when I was taking batting practice I was working on hitting it to right field and it all seemed to pay off tonight.”
Bello’s finished in his first Cape League appearance with three and a third innings, two strikeouts, two walks, three hits and three runs, all earned. Ryan Fischer filled in for Bello in the fourth and would go on to earn the win after two and two thirds innings in which he gave up two hits, three walks and issued one strikeout with zero runs coming across.
After three innings of pitching deadlock between Bourne and Brewster, the Braves finally broke the tie after throwing on the pressure in the sixth. Once again Brito was the catalyst, starting the rally with a single through the right side. After Brito advanced to second on a wild pitch, Duffy slotted a line drive over the second basemen’s head to move Brito to third. Duffy was then caught getting greedy off the first base bag before Henseler grounded out to short. Cumming’s at-bat made the difference, as a slow ground ball was mishandled on the delivery to first, allowing Brito to score and Cumming to move to second. Shortstop Lane Forsythe struck out to end the frame.
Bourne added on some insurance in the eighth, as Duffy walked and stole second. Henseler drove Duffy in on an RBI single to give the Brave a two-run lead, which they would not relinquish.
Cambell right-hander Ty Cummings came out of the pen in the late stages and despite allowing back-to-back singles to lead off the eighth, Cummings shut down the next three hitters in order, before sitting down the side in the ninth to grab the save.
“Getting ahead with the slider and sinker early was working really well for me tonight,” Cummings said. “I was able to get a lot of ground balls and get (Brewster) to swing over it. I was working in and out depending on the handedness of the hitter and my slider was working really well tonight.”
Overall, the players were thrilled to get back on the diamond and finally get their hands dirty in the 2022 CCBL season, especially first-time players like Cummings, Henseler and Brito.
“It’s a dream come true honestly,” Cummings said. “I’ve always dreamed of coming out here to the Cape to pitch and getting a win in game one feels amazing.”
“There are a lot of great ballplayers up here and it’s a great atmosphere,” Henseler said. “I am thrilled to be here, and I love it up here thus far.”
“It’s my first time up here,” Brito said. “It’s really fun and I love the atmosphere. The fans are great and I’m really excited to get the first win for Coach Landers and keep going.”