It was a season to be proud of for the Bourne Braves. For the second time in the clubís history, they reached the championship series, but for the second time it was the Orleans Cardinals that claimed the crown, taking the series in three games with a 13-1 victory Sunday night in the championship final.
Outfielder Ty Wright
of Oklahoma State,
is clearly distraught after making an out late in the deciding ballgame.
Don Parkinson / Enterprise
"Give credit to Orleans," Bourne Head Coach Harvey Shapiro said. "They hadnít hit our pitching until (Sunday night.)"
Still, for Bourne (26-17-1) there is an entire season of accomplishment to celebrate. The Bourne franchise won the Commissioners Cup: an acknowledgement of the seasonís success. They won the Western Division with the most wins (26) and points (53) in a season in club history.
Individual players were recognized for what they achieved with Brad Lincoln (Houston) receiving the Manny Rebello 10th Player Award and from the team, Josh Stinson (San Jacinto) selected as the teamís best defensive player, and Justin Henry (Ole Miss) acknowledged with the Bravesí 10th Player Award, while the entire pitching staff received the team MVP.
Head Coach Harvey Shapiro climbed the list of Cape League coaches moving into the eighth spot with 180 career victories. After three seasons with Bourne, Shapiro is 68-60-3.
The opening game of the best of three championship series was a bitter beginning for the Braves. It was the type of pitching battle you would expect to see in the Cape League championship. Bourneís Greg Reynolds (Stanford) and Andy Graham (UC Santa Barbara) of Orleans went head-to-head for more than seven scoreless innings, with the Cardinals claiming a 1-0 win in the top of the ninth.
Only twice prior to the ninth did the Cardinals get runners into scoring position and each time they were stranded. The Braves threatened three times and on each occasion failed to push a run across.
Reynolds came out of the game with one out and a man on first in the ninth. Closer Romas Hicks (Georgia State) surrendered a walk, then allowed the runners to advance on a wild pitch. Bourne then intentionally walked Colin Curtis (Arizona State) to load the bases. Brett Pill (Cal State Fullerton) followed with a pop up to the right side that was caught in foul territory, allowing the speedy Emmanuel Burriss (Kent State) to race home from third with the game winner.
The two games that followed were less typical of Cape League play, as the lateness of the season and fatigue, exacerbated by the heat and oppressive humidity, began to show. Many players on both teams were up against the clock as far as returning to school.
Bourne dominated the second game, as the Cardinals pitching seemed to slip. On the hill for the Braves J.R. Crowel (Tulane) had the gas to go six and one-third innings holding Orleans hitters to one run on just three hits. Nick Manganaro (South Florida) and Andrew Carignan (UNC) combined to two and two-thirds inning of solid relief.
Orleans starter David Albritton (Florida Southern) worked hard to hold on, giving up two runs on four hits to Bourne in five and two-thirds innings before Head Coach Kelly Nicholson went to the pen for David Coulon (Arizona) who proved ineffective, allowing the Braves eight runs on eight hits.
But while the Cardinals pitching sagged in game two, credit must be given to the Bourne bats. Brett Bartles (Duke) was 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Robbie Widlansky (Florida Atlantic) went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. Josh Stinson (San Jacinto) who will attend Texas A & M this fall, was 2-for-3 with two runs, and Beau Mills (Fresno State) finished the afternoon 2-for-4 with two RBI. Widlansky, Bartles and Mike Hernandez (Oklahoma State) all had extra base hits.
Hernandez, who had three hits and scored two runs in the second game, has flown beneath the radar all summer long. He was a steady source of RBI for the Braves, coming through in the clutch. He played in all 44 regular season games, leading the team in runs (25), hits (40), total bases (60), and doubles (10), while hitting at a .245 average and slugging .368. In the postseason, Hernandez hit .524 and slugged .762.
The third and final game of the championship series back in Orleans turned on pitching once again. Bourne planned to go with Brad Lincoln (Houston), the winner of the first game in the playoffs against Cotuit who would be throwing on five days rest. Lincoln had an outstanding season, hitting .243 and compiling a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.32. But on the eve of the final game, Lincoln was called back to the University of Houston by his coach, leaving the Braves without their planned starter.
Next in line was Forrest Cory III (William & Mary) who would be forced to take the mound on short notice with a day less rest. Cory too had a sizzling summer season, posting a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 1.99. Orleans meanwhile had a fully rested Brad Meyers (Loyola Marymount) ready to take the hill.
"Forrest pitched on Wednesday," Shapiro pointed out. "We were hoping to get three or four innings out of him. Velocity-wise, he pitched where he normally is but he didnít hit his spots and Manganaro was similar, he didnít hit his spots."
Bourne sent six pitchers to the hill in an attempt to stem the bleeding. Michael Crotta (Florida Atlantic) proved the most effective, lasting two and one-third innings allowing just three hits and striking out four.
The Cardinals posted five runs in the bottom of the first inning led by a three-run home run off the bat of Chris Pettit (Loyola Marymount) and four more in the third.
"Itís never easy to get down 5-0," Shaprio said, "but when they scored four more in the third, that was more deflating. We had some good at bats up to that point, but I think we got discouraged after that."
Bourne scored their lone run in the fourth when Bartles drove in Widlanski with a base hit into right field.
Stinson finished the night 3-for-3 and Tim Mascia (Florida Atlantic) was 2-for-4.
"Our starting pitching wasnít good and that has been a constant for us all summer, Shapiro admitted. "Itís that simple. But weíve had a very good season and Iím pleased."
Former Cape League historian Bruce Hack notes that odd numbered seasons have proven lucky for the Braves. This was the fifth straight winning season for Bourne coming in an odd numbered year.
Pitching, which ultimately proved to be the teamís Achilles heel, had consistently been strong for Bourne. This summer the staff had the second highest ERA in the league at 2.29. For Bourne it was the second best ERA in club history second only to 2003 when they posted a mark of 2.10. This summer, Bruce Hack pointed out, the pitching staff tied a league record for the fewest walks allowed matching the 1993 Hyannis Mets with just 101. He also added that the Braves set a team record this year for most home runs with 19, one more that the previous high mark set in 1999 and for most road wins with 15. The six passed balls by the catching staff ties a team mark for the fewest set in 1991 and the 190 runs scored is the fifth most in club history.
Next June, the Braves plan to open the season at their new lighted facility at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School and for the first time in the modern era, Bourne will have the option of hosting night games.