Three-Run Eighth Sends Bourne to 4-1 Defeat of Cotuit in Round 1 Playoff Preview

Three-Run Eighth Sends Bourne to 4-1 Defeat of Cotuit in Round 1 Playoff Preview

By Mojo Hill

Scoring was hard to come by for the majority of Tuesday’s game.

In a Round 1 playoff preview between the Bourne Braves and Cotuit Kettleers at Lowell Park, neither team put up a run until the seventh inning. But after Cotuit struck first, the Braves scored three runs on two errors in the eighth inning and squeezed out a 4-1 win. The victory assured them a winning record in the regular season, as they’ll head into the final day at 22-20-1.

“We stayed right in there,” Bourne manager Scott Landers said. “Our pitchers did a great job on the mound tonight. We gave up a run on kind of a cheap run, but then we came back and scored three and put it away. Tonight we pitched it really well, and we’ve gotta keep it going.”

Through the first three and a half innings, the only hit for either side was a Bryce Eblin single. Eblin extended his hitting streak to 14, a stretch in which he’s hit almost nothing but singles yet has still been one of Bourne’s best hitters.

Gabe Driscoll struck out two in a perfect first inning, then worked around a leadoff walk in the second before firing a perfect third. The Braves got a runner to third with one out in the top of the fourth, but Derek Bender grounded out and Eblin couldn’t quite repeat his clutch prowess, flying one to right for the third out.

Driscoll swooped in and out of his biggest jam in the bottom of the fourth. The Kettleers hit a leadoff single, and turned that into three straight hits to load the bases with no outs. The third was a soft dribbler just inside the first base foul line, with the runner hesitating before realizing that it wasn’t going to roll foul. At that point, there was nothing Driscoll could do about it. But he bore down and retired the next three, including one on a hard liner to center that was a tad too shallow for the runner on third to tag up.

“Everything was working pretty well. I knew coming out of my bullpen that all my pitches were working good,” Driscoll said. “It was just a matter of keeping the same mentality and getting out there and executing them in the game.”

Driscoll exited after a two-out walk in the fifth. He struck out six and walked two in his outing, departing for Henry Weycker in a left-handed matchup with Cotuit’s No. 2 hitter, Sean Keys.

“He threw strikes, and utilized both sides of the plate and all pitches,” Landers said of Driscoll. “He did an outstanding job. We wanted to keep the pitch count down, and we did that for the most part.”

Weycker retired his man with a strikeout. He worked around a throwing error by Jonathan Vastine and a hit by pitch to throw a scoreless sixth, keeping the game knotted at zeroes.

Bender singled in the seventh, giving Bourne its second hit of the night. But Bender was caught trying to steal second, his first time being caught after 18 consecutive successful steal attempts.

Garrett French entered for the bottom of the seventh, making just his second appearance for Bourne. Cotuit manufactured the game’s first run on a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly. It was 1-0 Kettleers.

But Bourne responded right back against sidearmer Cam Schuelke. After a leadoff error, Josh Kuroda-Grauer hit a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second. Hugh Pinkney then tied things up with a strong single to the left-center field gap.

“I had my approach with Schuelke. I knew he was a sidearm guy. I knew what he was gonna try and do to me,” Pinkney said. “He’s a good pitcher, but I stuck to my approach. And with two strikes, just battling, I was trying to shoot the fastball the other way. I ended up doing so, and I’m glad it worked out.”

Pinkney’s bat has come around as the summer’s gone on, and he’ll be especially important at the catching position heading into the playoffs.

“It’s an honor to be up here in the first place,” Pinkney said. “Just being able to be around all these coaches — Salty, Landers, everyone. You learn from other guys. Just working with the team, it’s really cool to be a part of, and I’m excited to get this playoff run going because I think we’ve got a special group.”

The Braves still weren’t done grinding in the eighth. Sam Petersen singled, and the runners moved into scoring position on a Pete Ciuffreda groundout. Gage Harrelson hit a soft tapper up the first base line, but the throw hit him while running to first, and two runs scored. Cotuit manager Mike Roberts argued the call, yelling “Check the video! You’re wrong!”, but the umpires weren’t going to change their minds.

“It was definitely a fun moment. I’m super glad that it happened. Just good morale,” Pinkney said. “Kept that going with the next guys — Petey getting a knock, and then Pete moving a couple over, and then you got Gage with what maybe should have been a single. But just kept the ball rolling, which is good.”

Ryan Free struck out three in the eighth inning to strand a runner on second, with the fans getting rowdy on both sides. Despite this being merely a playoff preview, it had the atmosphere and energy of a tight playoff game.

The Braves received an insurance run in the ninth thanks to a Bender double and Eblin’s second hit of the game. Ten of the 14 games in Eblin’s hitting streak have been multi-hit performances.

And Free shut the door, inducing three ground balls to Vastine to end the game. The Braves went home winners of their last two — their first time winning multiple games in a row since July 8 and 9.

They’ll wrap up the regular season at Doran Park with a 6 p.m. matchup against Hyannis. After a day off on Thursday, they’ll return to Lowell Park to begin a best-of-three series against these same Kettleers.

“I mean, we’re 3-0 here!” Pinkney said. “Good vibes here. I’m just excited to get going on this run.”