Bourne Braves

First baseman Spencer Brickhouse enjoyed a great second season with the Braves in 2018.

The Bourne Braves was one of two teams to not earn a spot in the 2018 Cape Cod Baseball League postseason.

With a record of 18-25-1 (37 points), the Braves finished the year on a 3-7 stretch, helping cap one of their worst seasons in the last 10 years. Only Bourne’s finish in 2012 was worse when the Braves went 17-27.

It was the first time since 2006 that Bourne missed out on the playoffs.

Despite the low win total and missing out on the playoffs, the regular season featured some great individual moments throughout the 44-game gauntlet. Take the Braves’ final game of the year for example. Facing West Division champion Wareham at Doran Park on Thursday, August 2, leadoff hitter Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville) crushed a go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to give the home crowd a final send-off victory, 8-7.

Then there was Jake Garella’s (St. Louis) walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th on July 26 against Hyannis to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Garella, who was in his first week on the Cape, slapped a single to drive in the second Bourne run to help his team prevail, 2-1.

Or when Bryan Hoeing (Louisville) pitched five innings of one-run ball and struck out six before handing it over to the bullpen, which featured three pitchers (Nick Morreale, Mike McAvene and Jacob Wallace) combining to strike out nine in the final four innings on June 20. Spencer Brickhouse (East Carolina) clubbed his second homer of the season and Chase Murray (Georgia Tech) and Spencer Horwitz (Radford) combined for five hits as Bourne bested Harwich, 4-3.

Bourne won four straight games twice and strung together another three-game streak in the 44-game season. But they also had losing streaks of five and six straight games, respectively.

At the 2018 All-Star Game at Whitehouse Field in Harwich the Braves sent five players, most of whom played a big role in the West Division’s 4-3 win against the East Division on August 7. Brickhouse took home MVP honors by going 2-for-2; he had two RBI and scored two runs with a double and home run. Wallace earned the save after working two-thirds of the ninth inning and blew away opposing hitters with back-to-back strikeouts. Starting pitchers Justin Lasko (UMass) and Jared DiCesare (George Mason) combined to pitch two innings where they did not allow an earned run.

As far as individual performances go, Lasko filled out the stat sheet with three wins on the season, tied for third-most on the Cape, and was one of four players to qualify for the ERA title, where he finished fourth with a 3.76 ERA. In 40.2 innings, the Minuteman senior struck out 28 and walked only eight. He allowed two or fewer runs in six of his eight starts for the Braves.

DiCesare was equally as strong on the bump for Bourne. He also qualified for the ERA title, finishing second with a 2.95 ERA and had three wins on the season. He allowed one run or less in five of seven starts and walked only two batters all year long.

In 13.2 innings Wallace did not allow a run and struck out 25 while walking only five. He saved six games for the Braves and seven of his 10 hits allowed were singles.

The Cape League awarded Lasko and Wallace as co-winners of the John Claffey Outstanding New England Players Award. Lasko is from Stratford, Connecticut, while Wallace is a Methuen native.

At the plate, Ashton Bardzell (Hartford) finished in the top six in the Cape in batting average, boasting a Bourne-best .316 average to go with three home runs, 14 RBI and 25 runs scored. Fitzgerald had a .298 average but led the team in games played (43), at-bats (171), runs (28), hits (51), doubles (14) and stolen bases (nine).

Third baseman Jared Triolo (Houston) played in 42 games and was second on the team in hits (43) and had a team-high 27 runs batted in and 21 runs scored. He finished with a .276 average and tied for the team lead in home runs with four.

Field manager Harvey Shapiro added to his all-time team lead in wins (370) and brings his Cape League win total to 484. In his 16th season, Shapiro’s staff featured a mix of youth and experience. Wayne Hancock returned for his second season under Shapiro. He was elected to the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009 and currently serves on the MBCA executive board.

Keith Bilodeau, a Bourne native, joined the Braves this season as their pitching coach. After pitching three seasons on the Cape and playing several years in the San Francisco Giants minor league system, Biladeau brought a unique mental approach to the game to help his hometown pitching staff.

Joe Lincoln entered his third year as the team’s hitting instructor after having done so for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and Dalton Goodrich, an assistant coach with Auburn High School, joined the team for his first season with the Braves’ coaching staff.

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