By: Nick Galle
After dropping Game 1 against Cotuit, the Braves won back-to-back games to punch their ticket to the championship series against the Brewster Whitecaps. Following Friday night’s 15-6 loss at home, things looked bleak for the Bravos, but outstanding starts from Austin Parsley and Matt Jachec kept Bourne in contention. The bats took care of the rest, sending the Braves to the championship for the first time since 2017.
With the two top-seeded teams coming face-to-face, there’s no question that this series will be a dog fight until the very end. Here are five keys to success if the Bravos want to be on the right side of that heavyweight battle:
1) Work the count
Perhaps the most important key to success for Bourne is to make Brewster’s pitching staff work. Since the Whitecaps swept Harwich, the pitching staff got an extra day of rest that the Braves were unable to attain since their series went three games. The Caps now have the luxury of having a platoon of arms rearing and ready to go, so the Bravos are going to have to try to force starters out of the game early, and then chip away at the bullpen.
The Bourne offense is at its best when it works the count, and that was on full display in Game 3 of the West Division playoff series. Mike Roberts had to use three pitchers through just 2 1/3 innings, and the Bravos drew four walks in the bottom of the third, leading to a five-run inning, which would ultimately be all it took to top the Ketts.
2) Bring back the Lampe-Knapczyk 1-2 punch for at least one game
When the Braves went on their undefeated streak to open up the season, Joe Lampe and Christian Knapczyk graced the top of the order, and boy oh boy were they good.
Following the team’s win over Cotuit on June 27, Knapczyk said that him and Lampe often talked about how they were the best 1-2 punch on the Cape. The duo combined to go 4-for-10 that game after combining to go 4-for-8 just a couple games prior, and those were just a couple of the great performances the pair put together.
As of late, either Lampe or Knapczyk has been in the leadoff spot, while the other sits in the five-hole. It’s a lineup that has worked, but since Knapczyk had the highest regular-season average among players who had played at least five games (.321) and Lampe had the highest regular-season OBP (.416), bringing the duo back up top for the championship for at least one game might bode well for field manager Harvey Shapiro’s squad.
3) Let Trystan Levesque eat some innings
Although Trystan Levesque was activated just five days ago, he very well could be one of the unsung heroes of this series if Bourne comes out on top.
Levesque has yet to make his Braves debut, but you would have to think it happens this week. The left-hander was solid with the Mystic Schooners of the NECBL earlier this summer, posting a 3.29 ERA through 27 1/3 innings of work. He struck out 34, walked nine and surrendered 24 hits through his 10 appearances, five of which were starts.
Brewster has never seen Levesque, so look for the URI Ram to be one of the tricks up Shapiro’s sleeve in the coming days. He can be used for long-term relief and even for a start if need be, potentially making him a pivotal piece for this Bourne pitching staff.
4) Apply pressure on the base paths
During the regular season, the Caps stole the most bases in the league (58), while the Bravos stole the fewest (23). If the Braves want to take two of three against Brewster, there can’t be nearly as big of a discrepancy in the base running battle.
If Shapiro can get guys toward the bottom of the lineup like Colby Thomas and Hunter Jumping moving, it puts runners in scoring position for your top run producers (Max Anderson, Dalton Rushing, Tanner Schobel). Peter Burns was also stepping up in the last series, blasting a solo shot in Game 2 and recording an RBI single in Game 3.
So, put the pressure on. Even if you run into a couple outs here and there, at least you’re keeping the Whitecaps off-balance. Being aggressive on the base paths might not win you this series, but it could certainly sway momentum in your favor.
5) Pound the zone
Pitching coach Eddie Marko and Shapiro have been adamant that their pitchers live in the strike zone all season, and the Braves have answered that call.
The Bourne pitching staff was the only staff in the league to walk under 100 batters (98) during the regular season and the Caps had the lowest average in the league, sitting at .219. Brewster hitters drew the most walks (171), allowing it to have a team OBP of .342, the third-highest in the league during the regular season.
It’s safe to say that the Caps aren’t getting on base because of their consistent ability to hit the ball — they’re getting on because they’ve been patient at the plate. Pound the zone, get ahead of hitters and force the Whitecaps to put the bat on the ball because chances are, they will struggle with doing so.
Cover photo via: Joe Sullivan