Bravos weather storm against Commodores, win 4-3

The Braves escaped a bases-loaded two-out jam in the ninth to beat the Falmouth Commodores 4-3 on Tuesday.

Bravos weather storm against Commodores, win 4-3

By Mac Friday

(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)

Off days are generally good for team morale across any league. Especially on Cape Cod, players get to blow off steam and enjoy a relaxing day in the beautiful July weather, often times at the beach. Monday’s off-day was different though, as the Bourne Braves shipped up to Boston to participate in Fenway Day at Fenway Park.

After winning three of their last four, the Braves took the extra juice and morale provided by Fenway Day and used it to sneak past the Falmouth Commodores on Tuesday, grabbing a much-needed 4-3 win over their West Division opponent.

“It was good having them at Fenway and getting that experience, even if it wasn’t a true ‘off-day’,” Braves manager Scott Landers said. “We got a couple of guys rested today and got away with a win which is good.”

“Got away” is certainly a good way to phrase it, as the Bravos were just a batter away from leaving Falmouth with a tie or loss after leading 4-2 going into the ninth. After two solid outings from left-handed pitchers, Landers went to his closer, righty Nigel Belgrave with two outs to get in the ninth.

Belgrave gave a single, then struck out the next hitter he faced, needing just one out to finish off what the lefties had started. Belgrave gave up a single to Anthony Mackenzie, then hit Corey Collins, loading the bases for Alex Mooney, who hit a towering solo shot to left field in the sixth. Belgrave managed to induce a popup out of Mooney, escaping the jam and grabbing the W.

“We brought him in for the righty on righty there at the end,” Landers said of his closer. “We got through a couple of those there at the end but overall we played great defense today and the pitching was great and we hit early and got runs in.”

The Bravos struck first with a leadoff single by Wyatt Henseler in the second and got runners at the corners with one out after a walk by John Peck. Catcher Alan Espinal, who had just one hit in his Braves career coming into the game, knocked an RBI single the other way to right field to score Henseler. A second single off the bat of the red-hot Bryce Eblin, one of two he would notch on the day, scored Peck.

After a poor start to the season, Eblin has come alive recently, grabbing 10 hits in his last five games as a Brave, while always bringing solid defense to the table.

“With Bryce, it’s been really crucial he stayed in it after struggling early,” Landers said. “He kept his nose down and stuck to the grind and I think he’s figured it out over the last week and a half when he’s really brought his average up… It’s awesome to see him at work.”

Espinal, after the RBI single, came up even bigger in the fourth inning, smacking his first home run of the season to left-center field. The defensive-minded catcher was thrilled to finally see his offensive work pay off. He also made sure to pass along all of the valuable information from his at-bats down the line.

“I just stuck to my approach, which is one thing that I have to do that I haven’t been doing and it just worked today,” Espinal said. “Everyone was comfortable and happy to play today. For me, I just wanted a fastball and hammered it. I also felt pretty comfortable with the zone after working with the pitchers and umpire early on, so that helped.”

For the final time, Espinal also got the opportunity to catch his Vanderbilt battery mate Nelson Berkwich, who made his final start for the Braves on Tuesday.

After three scoreless appearances in relief, Berkwich took the mound as the starter against the lefty-heavy Falmouth lineup, a position he felt surprisingly comfortable in after previous starts in summer and fall ball.

The Vandy lefty tossed six innings of two-run baseball, two innings more than what was expected of him by the Bourne coaching staff. Falmouth only managed to score on two solo shots, the aforementioned Mooney blast and one tagged to right-center by Colby Halter.

The Bravos stretched their lead in the fifth after a leadoff single by CCBL Week 4 Player of the Week Evan Sleight, who was later brought home on an RBI single by Carson Jones, which turned into a three-bagger after a throwing error.

Lefty Will Sandy came in for Berkwich in the seventh and only allowed two hits across his entire relief appearance, the best outing for the lefty on the CCBL season thus far.

“I was more comfortable than I’ve been all season out there today,” Sandy said. “I felt my breaking ball was a little better than it has been. My teammates played great defense behind me and that always makes my job easier. It was just the combination of my comfort and their defense that made it happen.”

The Braves have now won four of their last five games, with three of those being on the road. Their hot streak is much-needed as they head to Red Wilson Field on Wednesday for a showdown with the East Division first place Y-D Red Sox, a team whom the Braves are yet to beat after two losses and a tie. First pitch is set for 5:00 p.m.