18 August, 2005

Sad ending to a banner Braves' season

Like falling off the edge of a cliff. 

That's how Bourne Braves general manager Mike Carrier describes the impact of the end of the Cape Cod Baseball League season. 

Bourne pitcher Forrest Cory looks away as Orleans' Chris Pettit rounds third for home after hitting a home run in Sunday's 13-1 Cardinals Cape Cod Baseball League championship game victory. (Staff photo by Merrily Lunsford)

 "You're with these guys for 2 1/2 months and then it's all over in one night," says Carrier. "Everything ends so abruptly that you really can't catch your breath. You barely have a chance to say good-bye and thanks." 

Carrier and his host of volunteers bid the Bourne Brave players and coaching staff farewell this week on the heels of the 2-1 championship series that went to the Orleans Cardinals. 

The Braves have found a legitimate rival in Orleans, the team that has come between the Braves and the CCBL title in two of the last three seasons. 

After blasting the Cardinals 10-1 in game two of the league championship Saturday - the last Braves' game to be played at Coady Field - Orleans took advantage of having the home field the following evening. 

The birds' five-run first inning Sunday set the tone for a game that at times looked more like batting practice than the final game between the league's two best teams. Bourne pitchers surrendered 18 hits to the Cardinals, who won their 11th championship in franchise history before 6,500 fans. 

The 13-1 final was a source of frustration for the Braves and their fans, but even the less-than-pretty finish couldn't erase a season filled with excitement. Bourne took the West Division in decisive fashion with a 26-17 record, despite strong challenges from Wareham and Cotuit. 

Bourne's Ty Wright (.255) and Robbie Widlansky (.250) gave Braves' fans reason to cheer all season. Bourne increased its team average from last year, but the Braves hovered around the bottom of the league in batting by the end of the season, a fact that haunted them in the final game. 

Mike Hernandez was a bright spot during the five-game playoff series, hitting .524 with a homer and two stolen bases. 

Pitching continued to be the Braves' strength until the last game, with the team ranking second only to Orleans in team pitching. The club posted an overall ERA of 2.27, with Brad Lincoln and Greg Reynolds both finishing in the top 10. 

"We made every attempt to close Coady out with a bang," says Carrier, who listed an appearance in the league finals as one of many memories from the summer of 2005. 

"This team was made up of genuinely good kids. They really appreciated the fact that they could try to bring Bourne its first Cape League championship and they came pretty close." 

Carrier calls the team close-knit and resilient, two characteristics that were displayed during the team's unsuccessful title bid. 

"The players policed themselves after the first [playoff] game," he says. "It could have been devastating, but they came together, talked to each other, and decided they wanted to win the next one. It was their decision to come back the way they did and even things up. That's the kind of players they were." 

Head coach Harvey Shapiro is proud of the way that his club, which was made up of many freshmen and sophomores, stayed strong over the 49-game season. "This team was very young and that worked to their advantage sometimes. They were loose." 

Carrier says that the team looked as comfortable on the road as they did at home was a testament to their love of the game. 

"We had an excellent road team this year, regardless of what happened in the last game. They didn't care where they played. They just wanted to be on the field, even if it was in other people's houses."

By Silene Gordon