06/03/2007 1:49 PM
for immediate release: 3 June, 2007
Bourne Braves 2007 Season Preview
Braves Look for More Balance and Run-Production
BOURNE, Mass. – Last season, injuries, losses to Team USA, and a shifting and uncertain roster early in the season landed the Bourne Braves with a 9-32 record and a last-place finish in the league.
There’s something to be said for having nowhere to go but up.
This year, Mike Carrier and field manager Harvey Shapiro are going back to basics, returning just a single player from last season, and stacking the 2007 roster with speed, diversity, and a balanced offense.
“It’s always a question of who will actually show up to the Cape on time, and who you can keep and keep healthy,” Shapiro said. “Last year it was July 4th weekend and we were still waiting for guys from the College World Series. Then our shortstop made Team USA, his replacement got hurt, and we brought in another kid who tore a hamstring the first game. I didn’t get to start coaching my team until the last two weeks of the season. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the best team as far as talent that wins it all, it’s the team that’s all there.”
And if this team is all there, the last-place finish of 2006 may have no place in 2007.
Balance is a key attribute of the 2007 squad, as Carrier’s and Shapiro’s new recipe mixes speed, power and a lot of two-way talent.
Nine players hit above .300 in the regular season, and eight posted 80-plus total bases. Together, the top five hitters on the roster – catcher Petey Preston (Arizona State), shortstop Brian Friday (Rice), outfielder T.J. Steele (Arizona State), 3B/LF Brian Pruitt (Stetson), and second baseman Addison Maruszak (Oklahoma) – average .344 from the plate and 42 RBI, and combined for 112 extra-base hits during the regular season.
Preston hit .371 for the Sun Devils, and his patience at the plate gave him a team-high 48 walks for an on-base percentage of just under .500. Friday rocketed 84 hits, 26 of them doubles, while starting every game at shortstop for the Owls. Southern Florida leadoff man and 2B Aljay Davis brings a .328 average and 44 RBI into the summer, and Priutt finished the season at .337 with eight home runs and just 19 strikeouts in 210 at-bats.
This spread-out power is complemented by a wealth of speed down the roster. Steele leads the pack with 19, and four more Braves nabbed at least 13 steals during the regular season. With threats up and down the lineup and with the legs to make the most of these balanced bats, the Braves should be able to outdo its league-low .201 team batting average and 113 runs scored last year.
“There’s always a concern as far as making the adjustment from aluminum bat to wood bat, but we have some guys that can really hit,” Shapiro said. “Hopefully that speed does come through for us, since it’s tough in the Cape League to hit players from station to station, to get four hits in an inning and score.”
In the field, the Braves are especially deep at key positions. With ten infielders on the 26-player roster, the competition is fierce on the dirt; Friday, Maruszak and Kyle Smith (Cal Poly) have started every game for their respective teams at shortstop, and Davis and Kevin Hoef (Iowa) both have plenty of experience at the position. Matt Hall (Arizona State), the lone returnee to Bourne, started 42 games at third base this season, and is joined on the depth chart by Jared Baehl (Evansville) and Josh Workman (Wichita State).
First base will likely be covered by Andrew Clark, who posted a .311 average and 12 RBI through the first 30 games of the season before leaving Mississippi to transfer to Louisville.
But with the roster stacked with listed infielders, and only two true outfielders in Steele and Dave Dinatale (Miami), Shapiro and Carrier will be counting on general athleticism to translate into a flexible lineup. Pruitt is listed as an outfielder on the roster, despite playing 57 games at third base for Stetson, and Hall, originally a shortstop coming into Arizona State, played mostly third base and outfield for the Braves last year and will likely do the same this season.
“You like to have versatility because you don’t have the numbers that a college team does,” Shapiro said. “I’m not worried; it’s a lot easier to go from infield to outfield than the other way around and if you have good athletes, they’re able to do both.”
However, what was an early bright spot for the Braves – their pitching rotation – took a hit this month with the Team USA trials. Bourne lost its top starter and top closer in Mississippi aces Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite when the first round of selections was announced on May 13.
“Any time you lose two very good pitchers, the guy that was your No. 3 pitcher becomes your No. 1, all the way down to the guy who was your No. 12 becoming your No. 10; everybody has to step up,” Shapiro said.
Moving up two notches will be a pitching staff that includes the aces from Navy (right-hander Mitch Harris, ERA 2.14) and Elon (right-hander Steven Hensley, ERA 3.93). Harris is a double-threat; his .293 batting averages glosses over a powerful bat that has hammered out 10 doubles, four triples and eight home runs this season. Clemson sophomore D.J. Mitchell also bats as well, and has a .221 average to go with his 3.42 ERA, another example of the double-duty talent that stacks the Bourne roster.
Garrett Bullock (Wake Forest), Jesse Haney (UNC Wilmington), Nate Reed (Pittsburgh), and Rick Zagone (Missouri) and Wade Kapetyn (Evansville) round out the rotation.
With the loss of Satterwhite, Shapiro is still looking for a closer, but has faith in the rest of his hurlers.
“I was very excited about the pitching staff, and obviously we lost two very good guys,” Shapiro said. “But I think, at least going on paper, this staff has a chance to be a pretty good staff.”
A fitting outlook for the Bourne Braves as a whole – at least on paper, this team has a chance to leave 2006 in 2006 and turn in a 2007 season that will surprise everyone but themselves.
Liz Hoffman, CCBL Intern ([email protected])