Bravos pitching shines, late hits give Bourne 1-0 lead in CCBL Championship Series

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship Series on Wednesday night, defeating the Brewster Whitecaps 3-0 at Doran Park.

Bravos pitching shines, late hits give Bourne 1-0 lead in CCBL Championship Series

By Mac Friday

(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)

The Bourne Braves bullpen is an odd conglomeration of pitchers. Some are closers, others long relievers. Some are starters/reliever hybrids who flip between roles depending on the in-game situation and arm availability. However, there seems to be one trend that sticks out among the array of differing and changing roles: a starter might do well out of the pen, but when you put him on the hill in his natural function at the beginning of the game, he proves his worth.

This was seen first with Southeastern lefty Robb Adams, who struggled out of the pen but dominated as a starter, his natural role. Canisius starter Matt Duffy defied those odds even more, providing rock-solid relief at the back end towards the end of the summer. However, with the Bourne rotation in a state of limbo heading into the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship Series, Duffy was handed the ball for Game One and was told to attack.

The Canadian righty shoved on Wednesday night, throwing six scoreless innings en route to the Braves’ first Championship Series win since 2017 as the Braves beat the Whitecaps 3-0, moving Bourne one win away from its first CCBL Championship in 13 years.

“He was outstanding,” Bourne manager Scott Landers said. “With how low his pitch count was we were going to put him back out there for the seventh but he said he was a little tight so we went to (righty Seth) Keener. In the fifth, he was at about 60 pitches so he was managing his count great and it wasn’t too strenuous on him.”

The Canisius Golden Griffin with a plus-plus changeup brought the good stuff on Wednesday to the biggest stage on the Cape. Duffy allowed a single in each of his first three frames but navigated out of each jam with ease. In the second he even flashed his pickoff move, nailing left fielder Cameron Fisher at first for the third out of the inning. The most memorable stretch of his outing came in the fourth, fifth and sixth in which he faced the minimum. In the fifth, second baseman Davis Diaz hit a line drive directly at the pitcher, but the righty somehow was able to make a play.

Duffy got out of the sixth with a massive 5-4-3 double play turned by third baseman Bryce Eblin, ending his night after just three hits in six innings with a single walk and a trio of strikeouts.

“Tonight was one of those nights where everything was working for me,” Duffy told Braves’ sideline reporter Ethan Frank. “I could get ahead in counts and throw stuff in the dirt or make them chase for strikeouts. Every pitch was working.”

Keener followed up Duffy’s performance with three scoreless innings of his own, but Brewster certainly applied the pressure. In Keener’s first inning in the seventh, the Cape League All-Star from Wake Forest walked Fisher with two outs. The Brewster left fielder then advanced to third on a single by first baseman David Mendham.

At this point in the game, Bourne was riding a 1-0 lead manufactured in the first inning. Shortstop Matt Shaw walked with one out and advanced to third on a single into left-center by right fielder Mac Horvath. First baseman Chris Brito hit an infield single to score Shaw.

In the seventh, Diaz stepped back up to the plate after Mendham’s single. The Vanderbilt product sliced a ball up the middle, a tough play for the Pepperdine shortstop in Peck, who made a gutsy scoop and throw over to Brito at first to beat Diaz by a step, preserving the Braves’ one-run lead.

Bourne wouldn’t waste any more time either. After the Braves’ sole score in the first, Brewster starter Troy Butler settled in for four innings of scoreless pitching, striking out eight Bravos, including the entire side in the third. The Braves finally broke through against Joe Cinnella, led by the Cape League MVP in Shaw.

With just two hits across the entire playoffs, the league batting champ’s lumber was quiet through the entire first round. Shaw came alive for two hits, one in each of the two games in the West Division Championship Series against Hyannis. His biggest hit of the playoffs came in the bottom of the seventh after his roommate, Eblin, singled with one out. Shaw pierced a pitch high in the zone to right-center that rolled all the way to the fence in the massive Doran Park outfield. Shaw cruised into third for an RBI triple, as Eblin got on his horse to score from first.

“Offense comes and goes, that’s just baseball,” Shaw said of his mini-slump. “Sometimes you will line out and sometimes it will fall. It fell tonight and hopefully, it keeps falling tomorrow so we can take home a championship.”

Shaw went on to trot home on a sacrifice fly hit to right by Horvath. The Braves had the insurance runs they needed, despite stranding loads of runners in their previous attempts across the contest. Bourne left eight runners on base including bases loaded and runners at the corners in the first two innings respectively.

“We just have to play some situations better,” Landers said. “We were striking out or hitting a ground ball when we need a fly ball or a double into the gap. We need to cut down the K’s and do what we need to do to succeed in certain situations.”

Under a pale yellow full moon, Keener re-emerged with two extra runs of insurance in the eighth and ninth. The creator of the Braves’ mantra, #GetUpBourne, got the biggest crowd of the season up and out of their seats in a nerve-racking top of the ninth, forcing the winning run in Diaz to fly out to center fielder Nelson Taylor, stranding two Whitecaps on base. With Bourne up, Keener celebrated and Taylor hit his signature backflip in center field as Bourne beat Brewster.

“I truly appreciate the Bourne community for their support of us,” Landers said. “Hopefully they keep it going, but just for tomorrow because we want to win it tomorrow. But if it goes two more days, then I hope they continue their support for that. I am truly appreciative.”

“It’s awesome, I love these fans,” Keener added. “It was especially awesome today because they showed up after the rainout yesterday and they were really loud. It was the best atmosphere we have had here all season. I felt like I was at an NCAA Regional, to be honest with you. I am really excited for Bourne and for this team.”

Bourne plays Brewster in Game Two at Stony Brook Field. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m.