Harris’ heroics propel Bravos past Anglers 5-4
By Mac Friday
(Photo: Colby Rush/Bourne Braves)
Down 0-2 with two outs and the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the eighth inning, the Bourne Braves needed a miracle at-bat from shortstop Dakota Harris. The Polk State switch-hitting infielder turned Tennessee Volunteer had come up short in his most recent at-bat in the sixth, grounding into a double play which killed all Braves momentum in efforts to tie the contest as they trailed 4-3 to the Chatham Anglers.
Harris began to claw back into the count, spitting on three consecutive balls issued by Anglers reliever Carlos Rey. With the count full, Harris got what he wanted, lacing a fastball into left-center field, pushing both Braves runners across to give Bourne a 5-4 lead which it would not relinquish at Doran Park on Wednesday night.
“Every pitch can change the game,” Harris said postgame. “It was the same as every at-bat for me. I was trying to put the barrel on it, get something up in the zone and do damage.”
Braves outfielder Jack Duffy, who played with Harris this past season at Polk State, beamed from the on-deck circle as he watched his friend and teammate come up in the clutch.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Duffy said of Harris. “That’s my best friend from my time at Polk State. We have gone through a lot of stuff together over the past year and it made me very happy and proud to see him come through in that situation.”
“It was a huge character win for us,” Braves manager Scott Landers said. “We showed great character giving up the lead and finding a way to come back and get the W before a day off. That timely hit by Dakota was huge for us.”
After going 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position in a three-game set against the Y-D Red Sox, Bourne seemed determined to escape its funk on Wednesday, finally breaking through against Chatham starter Nicholas Regalado in the fifth inning. Designated hitter Wyatt Henseler, along with Harris, led off the frame with back-to-back walks. Catcher Ryan Leitch deposited a blooper into left which dropped for a single, before an infield single by right fielder Carson Roccaforte was mishandled by the right side of Chatham’s infield, plating Henseler for the first Bravo run of the day. With the bases juiced, Regalado issued a walk to second baseman Matt Shaw, putting the Braves up 2-0.
More Bravos crossed in the sixth, as a leadoff single from left fielder Evan Sleight kept the bats rolling. Henseler followed up with a single and Sleight beat a close play at third to lodge runners at the corners with no outs. Harris’ double play allowed Sleight to score before the A’s escaped with no further damage.
Braves lefty starter Adam Tulloch had his most productive outing of the season thus far, breaking a daunting fourth-inning curse that haunted the Bourne starting rotation. Entering Wednesday’s contest, Bourne starting pitching had allowed 19 earned runs in the fourth inning alone, with Tulloch being no exception. Last Thursday against Cotuit, Tulloch had thrown 27 of his 36 pitches for strikes and sat down six Kettleers through three innings. In the fourth though, he melted down for six earned runs.
However, Tulloch brought the good stuff to Doran Park on Wednesday, allowing just one run on two hits with a trio of walks and four strikeouts in four innings of work.
“I felt like I came out and was overthrowing a little bit and had a few walks, but was able to compete overall,” Tulloch reflected. “I started working ahead and felt pretty good. It was nice to break that fourth inning curse, but Chatham is a good team and they came back and fought.”
Fight indeed did the Anglers, as they pounced on Braves reliever Reese Sharp after two innings of facing the minimum. In the seventh, Sharp issued two leadoff walks and allowed runners to advance on a wild pitch, so the Braves brought in righty Ty Cummings to put out the fire.
Instead of water, Cummings brought kindle to the flames, allowing a leadoff RBI single to tie the ballgame up at two runs apiece. Cummings got his second out on an attempted double play ball which Chatham second baseman Roc Riggio beat out to first. Cummings then walked the next three batters he faced, allowing one to score before exiting the frame via strikeout. Two runs allowed belonged to Sharp, with one issued to Cummings. Chatham extended its lead to 4-2.
“He just couldn’t locate the fastball tonight,” Landers said of Cummings. “He is our go-to guy out of the pen and his stuff was there, he just struggled with location. He will be back and do what he needs to do. He got the job done with the bases loaded despite walking one in.”
Over the last four games, the Braves have issued 24 free passes to opposing hitters, including seven against Y-D in a 2-2 tie which the Red Sox had just a singular hit. It’s been a major hindrance for Landers’ squad, particularly when the timely hitting has been sporadic.
“The bullpen just needs to come out and get ahead of hitters, it’s not a mentality issue,” Landers explained. “They have to put away guys and they haven’t found a way to do so. (Chatham) got four runs on three hits, so we have to find a way to minimize the free passes. That’s our priority right now, to get rid of those.”
In the eighth, Braves third baseman John Peck smashed a 2-1 fastball to right center field that narrowly stayed within the confines of Doran Park, advancing to second with just one out on the board. Peck then snuck to third on a wild pitch issued to Sleight, who grounded out to the pitcher. The A’s elected to intentionally walk Henseler, who was pinch run for by infielder Lane Forsythe. The Mississippi State Bulldog then stole second to put both runners in scoring position for Harris, who came up in the clutch.
In the night, an electric appearance from righty Tyler Vogel sat down the Anglers in order, giving him the save and Bourne a much-needed appearance back in the win column.
“Tonight was very good for morale,” Landers said. “The guys finally woke up. For a little while, I thought I was in a morgue, but it was good in the end. It’s good for the guys to grab a comeback win like this. We have had our leads and we’ve tarnished them, but today we fought back.”
Following Thursday’s off day, the Braves are back in action at Doran Park against the Orleans Firebirds. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6 p.m.