By Mac Friday
(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)
For the second time in as many years, the Bourne Braves enter the CCBL playoffs as the top seed in the West and recipients of the President’s Trophy, the first team to do so since the trophy was established in 2012. Coming up on Thursday is a first-round matchup with the Falmouth Commodores, a team with which the Braves split the season series.
Game One at Doran Park, Thursday 6:00 p.m
Probable Starting Matchup: Seth Keener vs. Nolan Morr
Taking the hill for the Braves is their most consistent man and All-Star righty from Wake Forest, Seth Keener. Originally a temp player who showed out through the early stages of the 2022 season, Keener found a home in Bourne with rock-solid outings as a starter and reliever for the Braves, throwing 24 innings with just 18 hits, eight walks and five earned runs. Keener struck out 21 opposing batters with just eight walks during his seven games.
Keener has just two starts on the season, doing most of his work in long relief, but showed his abilites opening on the bump most recently against the Chatham Anglers on July 14, tossing four innings of scoreless baseball with just four hits allowed. He earned the victory against the Harwich Mariners in his most recent outing, five innings of scoreless relief with just four hits permitted and six strikeouts. He has not faced the Commodores this season.
On the other side is Nolan Morr for Falmouth, an opener for a Commodores bullpen day. Morr has a 2-0 record for the ‘Dores with 8.2 innings pitched on the season. The lefty struck out eight batters with a trio of walks and six hits. He allowed two runs on two hits in his longest outing of the season, three innings against Hyannis. He has not faced the Braves this season.
With the Braves stacking 14 hits against the Cotuit Kettleers on a bullpen day and with an 8-1-1 record over their last 10 games, the Braves should come out firing on all cylinders early at Doran Park.
Bourne will look for Matt Shaw to lead the way, as the middle infielder is hitting .474 with a 1.208 OPS against Falmouth this season.
Prediction: 5-2 Braves
Game Two at Guv Fuller Field, Friday 6:00 p.m.
Probable Starting Matchup: Hunter Furtado vs. Juaron Watts-Brown
Hunter Furtado has had his up and down days as a starter for the Bourne Braves, and that carries over to his one start against the Commodores earlier this season at Doran Park. Furtado dominated for his first four innings against Falmouth, including a two-inning stretch in which he struck out six straight. However, a controversial play that Braves manager Scott Landers protested and took up a good five minutes to clear up took the Alabama lefty out of rhythm, causing him to slide for a four-run fifth inning by Falmouth, a game which ended up being a 10-3 loss.
On the other hand, the newest Oklahoma State Cowboy in Watts-Brown is one of the last pitchers the Braves would like to face in the playoffs. Watts-Brown has 15 strikeouts against the Braves in two appearances across 10 innings. With electric life to his fastball and a mix of off-speed options, the Braves have found a way to get to Watts-Brown, but it certainly takes a little bit of time and effort to get through it and neither of the games he’s thrown has ended in a Braves win. Watts-Brown allowed eight Braves hits and four earned runs through his two appearances.
Led by the best hitter for Falmouth against Bourne, Anthony Mackenzie, who is hitting .500, as well as solid outings by Jacob Walsh and Andrew Pinckney, the Commodores will strike back against the Braves in a close contest at the Guv.
Prediction: 4-3 Commodores
Game Three at Doran Park, Saturday 6:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Probable Starting Matchup: TBD vs. TBD
It’s difficult to predict who will throw a third game between the two sides depending on scenarios and the readiness of Bourne pitchers like Cade Boxrucker and Robb Adams. Last Sunday, it was Will Johnston who threw for Falmouth at Doran Park, giving up three hits, two runs, two walks and three strikeouts.
This is a game where a starter-turned-bullpen arm like Bryce Cunningham could come out of the pen for a good portion of innings if the Bourne starter struggles or it turns into a bullpen game. This will come down to the bats of key players like Falmouth’s Alex Mooney and Bourne’s Evan Sleight to make a difference.
With the advantage the Braves have on the bump over Falmouth from top to bottom, the Braves likely find a way to squeak this one out at home for a series win. The Commodores typically own the Braves across the history of the CCBL, but the Braves appear to be too strong in 2022 for history to play a role.
Prediction: 3-2 Braves