Pitching, small ball shine in 5-2 win against Harwich

BOURNE, Mass. — So far this summer, a major theme has contributed to the Bourne Braves' offensive success: putting up big innings.

A hard look isn’t required to see this trend. Look no further than a six-run fourth inning in the season opener, outfielder Landyn Vidourek’s (Cincinnati) second-inning grand slam on June 21 at Falmouth. Or the four-run eighth frame Thursday that secured an 8-8 tie with the Wareham Gatemen. The Braves have also often found themselves in slugfests where they must erase an early deficit or keep pace with the opposition’s bats.

Friday’s contest against the Harwich Mariners was different.

Bourne’s staff largely shut down the Mariners’ offense, only allowing one run through the first eight frames. There were no explosive innings posted by the Braves (6-9-2) at the plate; instead, it was sustained damage throughout the night and dominant pitching that fueled a 5-2 win over Harwich (9-8).

“I thought we were on the barrel early and made some loud outs,” field manager Scott Landers said. “We had really good at-bats throughout the night. It doesn’t really show up with six hits, but we battled, played a little bit of small ball. We took a lot of free bases on them with stolen bases and [did] what we had to do to manufacture runs.”

Right-handed starter Ben Bybee (Arkansas) again put up a strong start, only allowing a run in 4 1/3 frames of work. The lone negative of Bybee’s outing came with two outs in the second inning. With two outs on the board, he walked catcher Macon Winslow (Duke) before surrendering an RBI double to outfielder Vince Fattore (East Tennessee State).

But Bourne’s offense also didn’t take long to find its footing, either, striking in the third. After first baseman Matthew Graveline (Ohio State) hit into a fielder’s choice and outfielder Chris Stanfield (LSU) drew a walk, shortstop Clay Grady (Virginia Tech) drove in a run with his second single of the night. A productive groundout by designated hitter Camden Kozeal (Vanderbilt) gave the Bravos a 2-1 lead.

Now in the driver’s seat, Bourne didn’t let up. Third baseman Braden Holcomb (Vanderbilt) doubled in the fourth before crossing the dish thanks to a wild pitch, and Kozeal picked up his second RBI of the night with a double into center field an inning later. Bourne scored its final run of the night in the sixth, as outfielder Davis Gillespie (Southern Mississippi) lined a single into left field to drive in second baseman Blake Barthol (Coastal Carolina).

“It’s really nice going 2-1-1-1 [from the third to sixth inning],” Landers said. “After last night, what I said [about] keeping the momentum on our side.”

The Braves’ bullpen shut down the Mariners — a common sight in recent games. Right-hander Chase Meyer (West Virginia) tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, and while righty John Abraham (Florida State) conceded a solo shot in the ninth, he ultimately closed the door, inducing the final two outs to seal the win.

“I think [the relievers] have familiarized themselves with us and we’ve gotten familiar with them,” Landers said. “Just kind of getting a feel with everything, getting acclimated. That was [Abraham’s] first time out there for us. But just seeing what they have, what they have success with, and what they don’t. But I do think they’re more comfortable now.”

Pivotal sequence

Gillespie had another solid day at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a walk and RBI double. But his best moment of the game easily came in the field during the fourth inning.

With one out, designated hitter Jake Ogden (Miami) worked a 1-1 count before launching a fly ball into left field. While Gillespie misread it at first, he made up for it, making an absurd diving catch for the second out. His big-time snag proved vital, as Bybee proceeded to fan Tommy Barth (East Tennessee State) to conclude a 1-2-3 frame.

Hitter of the Game — Clay Grady

On Friday, Grady hit in the Braves’ leadoff spot for the first time this summer and didn’t disappoint, going 2-for-2 with two walks, an RBI and a stolen base.

Grady’s first knock of the night came in the first inning when he lined a single into right field. However, Kozeal then hit into a 6-4-3 double play to take him off the basepaths. With runners on second and third two innings later, Grady delivered again, singling into center to drive in Stanfield and tie the game at 1.

The past couple of games have yielded promising results for Grady, who reached base twice last night against Wareham in five plate appearances.

“I kind of try to do the same thing [in the batter’s box],” Grady said. “I’ve been working on my swing a little bit, and my approach, trying to change things up from previous games, and it’s been working.”

Pitcher of the Game — Ben Bybee

Similarly to his last start at Falmouth, Bybee wasn’t perfect in his 4 1/3-inning outing but quickly bounced back from adversity to produce an overall dominant performance.

He started the game nicely, working around a two-out double to put up a zero in the first. It looked like Bybee was well on his way to doing the same in the second frame, but some two-out magic by the Mariners quickly changed that, putting them up 1-0.

However, when he returned to the mound, he appeared more dominant than before. Bybee worked two straight 1-2-3 innings and finished his day allowing only three base runners while striking out six in 4 1/3 frames.

“He gave up the run on a walk, a close 3-2 pitch that could’ve gotten him out of the inning,” Landers said. “Then he let up the double to give up the run, but he held us in there. He got a little tired there in the fifth, it’s a hot, humid night.”

A look ahead

Bourne remains in fourth place in the Cape Cod West Division. However, a Falmouth Commodores loss increases the gap to last place at two games.

Next up for Bourne is a visit to Lowell Park and the Cotuit Kettleers (10-7), who occupy the No. 2 spot in the West. However, they have dropped three of their last four games, including a 4-2 defeat to the Chatham Anglers on Friday.

Left-hander Zane Adams (Alabama) is in line to start for the Braves in Cotuit on Saturday. Through three appearances this summer, Adams has pitched to a 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and nine strikeouts in 10 innings. He last pitched on June 28 against Cotuit, allowing three earned runs and striking out four in four frames.

He will likely pitch against righty Aidan Hunter (College of Charleston), who has yet to appear in a game on the Cape. In 76 2/3 innings this season, he posted a 3.76 ERA with 56 strikeouts.

First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.