Fourth inning woes continue to haunt Braves, fall to Red Sox 8-4
By Mac Friday
(Photo: Colby Rush/Bourne Braves)
In the middle of the fourth inning in Yarmouth-Dennis, the Bourne Braves (3-4-2) were absolutely rolling. Vanderbilt right-hander Bryce Cunningham was dealing in his first CCBL start, allowing just two base runners with no hits through three. The bats were equally as hot, as the Braves jumped out to a four-run lead with some of their strongest run production shown thus far through nine games.
However, the dreaded fourth-inning curse befell Cunningham, as he permitted a Y-D (4-3-2) comeback, one which the bats would not be able to dig out of as the Braves fell 8-4 at Red Wilson Field.
The Braves opened scoring in the second at the hands of third baseman Wyatt Henseler, who reached on a leadoff infield single. After two consecutive outs, Henseler stood on second with second baseman Bryce Eblin, who recorded a hit-by-pitch, on first. TCU center fielder Elijah Nunez then roped a single into right field to score Henseler and get the Bravos on the board.
Virginia Tech outfielder Jack Hurley was the next Bravo to score after he was the first link in a chain of three consecutive singles, before scoring on a hit-by-pitch which nailed Louisiana-Lafayette first baseman Carson Roccaforte on the right ankle.
In the fourth, Nunez reached on a walk, before Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw tattooed a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left center field to give the Bravos a four-run lead.
Still, there were plenty of other opportunities for Bourne to plate more runners in the early stages, as nine Bravos were stranded on the basepaths through the first four innings. In the third with the bases loaded and one out, Vanderbilt catcher Alan Espinal grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the frame.
“Again, we didn’t hit with runners in scoring position too well,” Braves managers Scott Landers said. “We had a chance early to break the game open. It was 4-0, it probably should’ve been 8-0 or something similar and we didn’t score those runs.”
“I feel like I sound like a broken record.”
More of the same songs were playing on repeat for the Bourne pitching staff, as Cunningham took the bump in Y-D. Through the first three innings, his stuff was electric, only allowing a pair of baserunners who reached on a walk and error respectively. The fastball sliced through the air and past the wood of the Red Sox time and time again, before the Vandy righty finished three with swerving backdoor sliders for a trio of strikeouts.
“My slider was working great,” Cunningham reflected. “I struggled a little bit with my fastball command early on but I figured it out later down the line. I felt really good during that stretch.”
However, the same fourth inning woes which haunted Seth Keener and Adam Tulloch in last week’s contests against Cotuit reappeared at Red Wilson field, as Y-D batted aroud in the inning, rattling off six straight baserunners with one out, bouncing Cunningham. By the time Wichita State’s Cameron Bye came in to put the fire out, the damage was already done, as the remaining runners aboard came across, giving Y-D a 5-4 lead.
“Everything just kind of snowballed on me after the ground ball to lead everything off,” Cunningham said. “I feel like I could’ve done some things better, but that fourth inning just really hurt us.”
“I talked to our guys about (the fourth inning struggles),” Landers said postgame. “We have to get through that and figure a way to make it through the lineup a second time without too much damage. Once we can figure that out our pitching will be okay, but that wasn’t the case tonight.”
Y-D etched another two runs down in the sixth against Vanderbilt lefty Nelson Berkwich, as well as a singular run in the bottom of the eighth before the game was called due to lack of field lighting in Y-D.
On offense, the Braves stranded 12 runners on the basepaths, seven of those being in scoring position, bringing the total across three games against Y-D to a staggering 29 runners stranded.
With the over 30 games remaining on the CCBL schedule and only seven off-days remaining, there is almost no time for the Braves to reconvene at a practice or on their own time at Doran Park. The only way to find success is to do it on the dirt.
“WE have to figure it out on the run and the guys have to listen t the things we are trying to teach them,” Landers said. “Whether it’s situational hitting, coming out of the bullpen and doing your job or just making plays on the basepaths – we all have to be on the same page with those, but we have to do it through playing games.”
Next up for the Braves is a Wednesday matchup with the East Division Chatham Anglers (3-4-1). First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.