Landers after 7-2 win: 'When we play complete games, good things happen'

BOURNE, Mass. — As home plate umpire Jim Fonseca called strike three to end the seventh inning, left-handed pitcher J.D. Thompson (Vanderbilt) calmly walked toward the dugout before throwing his left arm in the air as if to pump up the crowd.

The celebration, though somewhat nonchalant, was certainly deserved.

Thompson had just followed up a four-run outburst from his offense by retiring the Falmouth Commodores in order for the third straight inning. This spotless frame capped off a dominant three-inning relief appearance that saw him fan five without allowing a single base runner.

“I knew that was my last inning,” Thompson said. “It really felt good to be able to give my team a chance and take us a little deeper into the ballgame. Honestly, just no walks, no hits, keeping the guys off the bases and getting our guys into the dugout, and really just fueling that offense to basically let us take a lead there.”

His elation perfectly represented the Braves’ night as a whole. An early defensive stalemate turned into a blowout when Bourne (7-10-2) put up six runs across the sixth and seventh, and its dominant pitching helped secure a 7-2 win over the Falmouth Commodores (6-13).

“When we play complete games, good things happen,” field manager Scott Landers said. “We did that. Once we get on and we can run the bases really well and put some pressure on teams, it really seems to open things up. We played good defense and we pitched. If you limit the freebies and take them when you get on, more often than not, you’re going to come out on top.”

Braves starter Tucker Novotny (Minnesota) struggled with command early, walking three in his first inning of work and throwing only one first-pitch strike to the six batters he faced. Falmouth took the lead with one out when the lefty issued a bases-loaded walk to outfielder Gavin Turley (Oregon State), bringing in shortstop Jaxon Willits (Oklahoma).

However, much like last night at Cotuit, Bourne found its footing at the plate early, utilizing small ball to tie the score at 1 in the first.

Novotny settled in immediately after the first, only allowing two base runners through the rest of his four-inning start. While only 43 of his 73 pitches landed inside the strike zone, the Minnesota native didn’t surrender a run in his final three frames of work and ended his outing with three strikeouts.

“He controlled after the first [inning],” Landers said. “He locked it in and threw all of his pitches for strikes and kept them off balance. [He] did a great job.”

Bourne was held to just one hit through the game’s first five frames — thanks in large part to a strong start from Falmouth’s Parker Coil (Arkansas) — but that quickly changed in the sixth. Second baseman Camden Kozeal (undecided) and outfielder Ethan Conrad (Wake Forest) led off the inning with back-to-back singles before a fielder’s choice and walk loaded the bases with two outs.

Having virtually no room for error didn’t bother outfielders Davis Gillespie (Southern Mississippi) and Chris Stanfield (LSU), who both knocked two-RBI base hits up the middle to give the Braves a commanding 5-1 advantage.

“We got into the bullpen and we got the bases loaded,” Landers said. “We haven’t had too many bases-loaded hits and [Gillespie] got to hang the slider and drove it for a ground-rule double, and then [Stanfield] same thing.”

That score didn’t hold for long, however, as shortstop Clay Grady (Virginia Tech) drew his second leadoff walk of the night before turning on the jets when Kozeal doubled, making it from first to home in the blink of an eye. Kozeal was driven in courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Braden Holcomb (Vanderbilt).

Falmouth managed one more run in the eighth, but lefty Zach Crotchfelt (Texas Tech) shut the door in the ninth, striking out two.

Pivotal sequence

On Saturday in Cotuit, Bourne got ahead early with Kozeal belting a home run into right field in the game’s second at-bat. The Braves didn’t take the first lead on Sunday, falling behind 1-0 by the time they took the field in the first. But they quickly answered.

After shortstop Grady extended his on-base streak to seven games by drawing a leadoff walk, he advanced to third thanks to a fielding error by second baseman Jack Bell (Texas A&M). He scored when Conrad grounded out and nearly beat out the throw to first.

“[Landers] always tells us runs are a premium in this league,” Gillespie said. “That’s definitely true. When we can score, we need to capitalize on that, and we definitely did that tonight.”

Hitter of the Game — Camden Kozeal

Despite a relatively slow start to the summer at the plate, Kozeal has found a groove of late and entered Sunday’s contest with hits in back-to-back games.

He extended that streak in the sixth inning against Falmouth, as he executed a perfect bunt to start the Braves’ big rally and was later driven in by Gillespie’s double. An inning later, Kozeal picked up a double of his own, slapping a fly ball into left. He then stole second and scored on Holcomb’s sacrifice fly.

In the past four games, Kozeal has gone 4-for-13 at the plate with two doubles, a home run and four RBI.

Pitcher of the Game — Zach Crotchfelt

Crotchfelt is another Brave who has turned a corner, moving past three forgettable outings by delivering in his past two.

On Thursday against Wareham, he entered a tie game in the ninth inning. While he ran into some trouble early, allowing a single before plucking the second batter he faced, Crotchfelt made up for it, inducing the next three outs to keep the game knotted at 8.

Fast-forward three days, and Crotchfelt again came into the game in the ninth, albeit with far lower stakes. His team led Falmouth, 7-2, but he made sure to stymie any comeback effort, working around a leadoff single to end the game with no more trouble.

Pitching in only 7 1/3 innings for Auburn this spring, it’s likely Crotchfelt needed time to find his footing. However, now that he’s found it, he can be a valuable piece of Bourne’s bullpen going forward.

“He’s getting his feet wet a little and getting some confidence,” Landers said. “He’s thrown the ball very well, threw the ball very well tonight. They jumped on the first heater he threw, but other than that, he was outstanding.”

A look ahead

Bourne’s win gives them a two-game lead over Falmouth for fourth place while leaving them 2 1/2 games behind third-place Hyannis in the West Division. Next up on the Braves' schedule are the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, who are first in the East Division with a 13-6 record.

Right-hander Cameron Padgett (North Carolina) will likely garner the start for Bourne on Monday against the Sox. Through 29 1/3 frames for the Tar Heels in 2024 — mostly in relief — he fanned 20 and pitched to a 5.22 ERA. Padgett shined as the first arm out of the bullpen in the Braves’ 3-2 win over Yarmouth-Dennis on June 27, striking out four and allowing three hits across three scoreless innings. The Sox's starter is to be determined.

First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.


U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Karas and Bourne Police Chief Brandon Esip threw out the first pitch at Doran Park on Sunday… Holcomb’s family was in attendance for Bourne’s matchup against the Commodores… 1,814 fans took in the Braves’ win on Sunday… Kozeal extended his on-base streak to four games and his hitting streak to three with two knocks against the Commodores… Grady also extended his on-base streak to seven games… With a hit on Sunday, Conrad has knocks in back-to-back games… Bourne has drawn the most walks (96) and stolen the most bases (50) in the league… The Braves also boast the second-most strikeouts thrown (185) on the Cape.