Kaeden Kent looked offended.
In his third at-bat at Doran Park, Kent took a high pitch and whiffed on a check swing. Spinning his head to face Zach MacDonald on deck, Kent forcefully spat into the musky air.
Kent circled back to the plate, displeased with his first attempt. This season, Kent’s at-the-plate approach is arguably more sound than anybody else on Chatham’s roster. His team-leading .317 batting average affirms that. When Kent steps into the box, he is generally harsh on himself in all the right ways.
“He’s a unique kid,” Chatham manager Marty Lees said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached in 20 years. He takes things personal. It means something to him. Could he take a deep breath here and there, yes. But he gets up there to have success.”
Another high fastball didn’t fool the lefty batter as Kent sprayed his second hit of the night. Kent strolled into second base grinning ear to ear, exhibiting a rare calm, cool and collected side. His mood only brightened when MacDonald, in his Angler debut, spanked a two-RBI home run to center field to cut Bourne’s lead to 6–5 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Despite Chatham’s chippy comeback effort, the A’s offense couldn't muster a run in the final two frames against the Braves. Chatham (6–15–1 East) totaled four more hits (11) than Bourne (7), but the Anglers stranded the game-tying run on second base in the top of the ninth inning. The Braves (15–11–1 West) eked out the 7–5 win as Chatham remained winless against Bourne in the two sides’ last eight meetings.
“I feel like the first five innings we were not present at all,” Lees said. “It started on the mound, leaked into the plate. It always starts on the mound. For guys to come back and really have some intentful, committed swings, some aggression, you know, we reaped the rewards of that.”
Xavier Casserilla roped the fifth pitch he faced in the top of the first inning. After scurrying to second base, Casserilla performed his signature dance move, shimmying and pointing his fingers back to the dugout. His antics didn’t successfully energize the Anglers’ lineup, however.
Following an Aidan Meola strikeout, Bourne catcher Caden Bodine gunned Casserilla down attempting to steal third base. Soon after, Nolan Schubart was put out at second base.
Chatham starter Liam Paddack notched his first strikeout of the contest on the first batter he faced. The Braves took the first lead of the game, however, when Bodine sprang a single through the middle of the infield, which prompted a short mound visit. As if to make a gesture of his conviction, Chatham interim manager Marty Lees took the ball from Paddack and stiffly placed it back in his hands. But the mound trip only seemed to worsen Paddack’s durability.
With runners on the corners, Kendall Diggs slid into the batter’s box and walked. Two wild pitches later, Bourne went up 3–0.
“First five or six runs were by hit by pitch or walks,” Lees said of Bourne’s early scoring. “And then the lack of continued AB’s showed up early. It can really get you when you’re just practicing for a week.”
After the A’s failed to tally a base in the top of the second inning, Bourne tacked onto its lead in the bottom of the frame. Derek Bender, who entered the affair leading the Cape Cod Baseball League with a .391 batting average, laced an opposite-side shot to Casserilla in right field. The ball dribbled to Casserilla’s left as Bourne increased its lead to 5–0.
A third 1-2-3 inning for Bryce Cunningham, the Braves starting pitcher, left an emotionless gaze across Lyle Miller-Green’s face as he walked back from the plate in the top of the fourth inning. Soon after, Vanderbilt’s Jonathan Vastine belted an RBI sacrifice fly to right-center to maintain Bourne’s scoring barrage.
“He just toyed with us,” Lees said of Cunningham. “He got strikes early and then stuffed it on the outer half. Continued to do that until we finally had enough. We need to recognize those things earlier. I thought he had a pitch pattern that was very normal.”
Cunningham continued to mow down Chatham’s lineup with his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the contest in the top of the fifth frame, retiring two batters in the process. But Chatham scored its first run of the game in the top of the sixth. Deric Fabian pummeled a solo home run to left field to cut the deficit to 6–1.
“Some guys really broke out tonight,” Lees said. “Fabian has been working so hard and his hard work is paying off. He’s very coachable. He wants to listen to what people have to say. And he’s an athlete who can make small adjustments because he is athletic.”
Miller-Green dug a single to shallow left field to keep the rally alive with a second run and Bourne center fielder, Gage Harrelson, botched a routine fly ball to snap the Braves’ lead in half. Just like that, Chatham’s gritty efforts bounced it back into contention.
After Chatham’s two-run top of the seventh inning, in which Kent and MacDonald fought hard to close the gap, Tampa’s Jack Brodsky walked in to relieve Trey Gibson. Brodsky hadn’t allowed a single run in 3.1 innings for the Anglers going into the game and the righty went unscathed in the bottom of the inning.
“My approach today was just thinking of seeing the ball in my head, staying relaxed up there,” MacDonald said. “I got down 0–2 so nothing big, not stressing anything, just staying positive. Then he hung a breaking ball and I was able to see that well and capitalized.”
A wild pitch scored Diggs to make it 7–5 for Bourne in the bottom of the eighth frame. Brodsky finished the inning with a strikeout but it wasn’t enough to help Chatham’s offense, which stranded the game-tying runner on second base.
“I think this is a pretty selfless team,” MacDonald said. “I think we all want to grow together, win or loss. Building off each other’s success was really big for us today.”