After claiming first place in the Western Division over the weekend, the Bourne Braves slipped out of the top spot with three straight losses. But their 7-6 win over Hyannis Wednesday gained them back a share of first place with Wareham.
A big three-run third inning by the Mets tied the game at 3-3 and after five innings, it remained tied at 5-5 as errors in the field hurt both clubs. Andrew Carignan (UNC) entered the game in relief of starter Gib Hobson (NC State) in the sixth and pitched two frames surrendering one run. Romas Hicks (Georgia State) worked the final two innings, allowing a run, but picking up his fifth save for Bourne.
Mike Hernandez (Oklahoma State) finished the afternoon 3-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored and two RBI, and Beau Mills (Fresno State) was 1-for-2 with two RBI. The winning run for Bourne came in the eighth inning when Brad Lincoln (Houston) scored on a double off the bat of Mills.
Carignan (1-1) picked up the win.
The day-to-day grind of the Cape League season is a test of stamina and the heat of the summer has been known to blur the focus of young players. One of the things the major league scouts who gather for each game behind the backstop are looking for is whether a player has what it takes to compete under the conditions the Cape League presents. Unlike the college season, during the summer there are games almost every day and fatigue, both physical and mental, becomes a factor.
One member of the Braves who had a solid first half was Duke first baseman Brett Bartles. "I think this is a very challenging league in a lot of different ways," Bartles said. "At first I struggled with the wood bat but kind of found the groove. Now itís just battling the pitching, which is pretty tough. You have to have a plan when you step to the plate. With wood, you have to look for a certain pitch and when you get it, you have to hit it."
Settling in at the plate, Bartles is looking forward to the second half of the season. "My goal is to have as many quality at bats as I can. Iím going to go up there and battle hard in every at bat. Iím going to get my swings."
After their hard-to-swallow ninth inning 4-3 loss on Monday to the Kettleers, the Braves hosted Cotuit Tuesday, only to be hammered 7-0 and as a result, fall out of first place in the West. The Kettleers, desspite being without skipper Mike Roberts, who was in Detroit to watch his son, Brian Roberts, of the Baltimore Orioles play in the All-Star game, took control of the game in the second inning and kept the pressure on the Bourne pitching.
Nick Manganaro (South Florida) got the start for the Braves and lasted five innings. Manganaro was the victim of errors by his teammates and nine hits by the Kettleers in taking the loss. Michael Crotta (Florida Atlantic) pitched the sixth inning striking out two and holding Cotuit hitless, but the Bourne bats were swinging at air as Kettleers pitching struckout 11 Braves hitters. The best Bourne could do was two hits, both off the bat of Ty Wright (Oklahoma State). Brandon Miller (Fresno State) came on in the seventh for Bourne and gave up three runs, only two of which were earned, and Mike McBryde, a two-way player out of Florida Atlantic, got another chance to pitch, working the eighth inning in relief and holding Cotuit to one hit. Tyler Rhoden (Vanderbilt) closed out the ninth for Bourne.
Monday at Cotuit, the Braves had the game won going into the ninth, leading 3-1, only to suffer a major collapse surrendering three runs to the Kettleers in a 4-3 defeat.
A three-run home run in the third inning to left-center field by McBryde gave Bourne the lead. "I had chased some off-speed stuff in a previous at bat, I was out on my front foot," McBryde admitted. "I was talking with one of the coaches and he said you have to stay back and trust your hands. When the kid threw me a curve ball that kind of hung up there, I got ahold of it."
McBrydeís blast came off Cotuit starter Josh Johnson (Mississippi State). "It has been great here," McBryde said of the first half of the Cape League season. "Weíre seeing some great pitching. Our team has been doing a great job and I think Iíve been doing better each day."
Lincoln got the start for Bourne and went seven innings, striking out five and allowing just one run, before turning it over to Carignan in the eight who held Cotuit scoreless, striking out two. Cotuit got to Braves closer Romas Hicks with four hits in the ninth. A throwing error extended the inning for the Kettleers who scored three times.
Sunday Brewsterís Heath Rollins (Winthrop) held the Braves to a single hit in seven innings of work to lead the Whitecaps to a 2-1 win.
"We psychologically knocked ourselves out of the game" Shapiro explained. "We were too concerned with what the umpires were calling against us. We werenít ready to hit in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings when we had guys on base."
Greg Reynolds (Stanford) was tagged with the loss after pitching seven good innings, allowing just two runs, but not getting any offensive support. Robbie Widlansky (Florida Atlantic) was 1-for-2 with two walks and McBryde went 1-for-3 with an RBI, scoring Josh Stinson (San Jacinto) with the lone Bourne run in the third inning.
The Braves scored in each of the first six innings Saturday except for the fourth as they picked up a 6-4 victory over Yarmouth-Dennis and first place in the Western Division.
Forrest Cory III (William & Mary) earned his third win of the season in five innings of work in which he allowed three runs, only two of them earned, on five hits.
J.R. Crowel (Tulane) got his first look at the Cape League with one and two-thirds innings on the hill in relief. Crowel allowed one hit while striking out two. "I was looking for a place to play about a month before our season ended." Crowel said. "I hadnít been able to come here the last two years and I went un-drafted. Hopefully a major league team will like me enough to sign me out of here. I was supposed to play in Cotuit both my freshman and sophomore years, but I threw a lot of innings during the season and my coach felt it was in my best interest not to come. I want to give Bourne a chance to win every time I take the mound. Iím going to challenge the hitters and throw inside more than I did at college."
Hicks finished it off earning his fourth save.
Bourne scored twice in the top of the first inning off a hard-hit ball by Brett Bartles (Duke). Lincoln drove in Mike McBryde (Florida Atlantic) in the second and Bartles singles in the third scoring Beau Mills (Fresno State).
Bunky Kateon (Mississippi State) homered to lead off the fifth and in the sixth McBryde stole home with the six Bourne run. "They had been pitching me inside the whole game," Kateon said, "so thatís what I went up there looking for."
On the first pitch from Y-D pitcher Blake Wood (Georgia Tech) Kateon got what he was looking for and drove it over the left-centerfield fence. "I think weíre doing great as a team this summer," Kateon added. "Iíd like to be doing better individually. Iím having more fun that I ever imagined. This is the best of the best. These guys come here from all over the United States and theyíre all good."
McBryde finished the day 2-for-3 with two walks, and two runs scored and Bartles was 2-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.
Halfway through the season, Shapiro is satisfied with his team and their early accomplishments. "Iím very satisfied," he said, "but as I tell the players, I look at the Cape as being four 11-game seasons. You play one season of 11 and then you play another. In both of our first two 11-game seasons, we were over .500 and that was one of our goals. If you can do that, then at the end of the season, you have a shot at the playoffs."
Going into the second half there are concerns and issues that the Braves will address. "Weíve had good starting pitching," Shapiro said, "but our bullpen has been inconsistent. That has to get better and we have to start getting some timely hits. When you get timely hits, you have a chance to win. I think (our hitting) has been a little bit of a mirage there for a while. I donít think we are that good of a hitting team."
Entering the second half of the Cape League season, the fact that Bourne is a young team could lend itself to issues of fatigue.
Bourne hosts Harwich today at 4:45 PM.