WELLAND, Ont. — Barrie Baycats’ lack of knowledge about Jackfish starter James Bradwell turned out to be the power Welland needed to get back into their Intercounty Baseball League championship series on Tuesday night.
Having only seen them once out of the bullpen during the regular season, Bradwell (4-0 in post-season) credits the lack of appearances against Barrie for his success in Game 3.
“I kind of feel like I’m a bit of a secret weapon right now which is pretty awesome,” Bradwell said postgame outside the Jackfish clubhouse.
“I didn’t really have any thoughts going into [the game], I just knew that I needed to be aggressive and fill up the [strike] zone with fastballs and then try to get a curveball or slider off the plate, which I was able to execute on tonight.”
The Pond was rocking with nearly 800 fans in attendance to watch the right-hander carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning while striking out 10 batters on just 71 pitches through seven innings of work.
Bradwell, a Roberts Creek, B.C., native, tossed 55 strikes, 16 balls, and didn’t issue a walk, something he recognizes could have big implications on the rest of the series.
“I think we are a team that is very motivated by momentum,” Bradwell said.
“Barrie are a really good team and they’re definitely still feeling good after winning two games, and I don’t blame them at all.
“I think we are playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulder too from the start of the series, but I’m confident that we will have a good opportunity to stick it to Barrie and ultimately take a couple games [from them] and make it a little bit more of a series.”
The Jackfish offence backed Bradwell with big hits from Sam Cawker and Carlos Martinez who both hit three-run home runs, the latter in relief of the former behind the plate as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.
First baseman Steven Moretto hit his sixth home run of the playoffs – a solo shot in the second inning – and shortstop James Smibert went 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Designated-hitter Matteo Porcellato also picked up a pair of hits, while centre-fielder Gianfranco Morello, left-fielder Hogan Brown and second baseman Tyler Dupuis all drove in a run.
Baycats’ bullpen left floundering
Welland wasted no time with Cawker clobbering his first of the postseason in the bottom of the first inning off Baycats’ starter Jeifry Nunez (2-1 in playoffs). The three-run blast would count for Cawker’s three of four RBI on the night and his first of three hits.
Nunez would only last 1.2 innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits with only one strikeout.
The right-hander was taken out of the game by Barrie manager Josh Matlow who called on the trio of Evan Soules, Christian Mullen, and Branfy Infante to try and right the ship after Moretto’s solo shot and Cawker’s fourth RBI in the first two innings.
Soules worked 2.1 innings and allowed four earned runs on four hits with two punch outs while lacking control and composure on the mound.
The 21-year-old was called for a balk in the bottom of the fifth inning and began jawing with first base umpire James Liles about the call. Cooler heads would prevail but not before the Jackfish were back on the attack.
After Porcellato dropped down a perfect bunt to put runners on first and third with no outs, Brown and Dupuis hit back-to-back singles which was the end of the night for the righty, who was lifted for Mullen.
The Peeferlaw, Ont, native was the most effective Barrie pitcher on Tuesday, throwing three innings and allowing one hit and one earned run with two strikeouts.
Making Barrie use their bullpen early was something the Jackfish had talked about going into Game 3.
“Our message was jump on them early and jump on them often,” veteran left-hander Chris Boatto shared postgame while enjoying a couple of soft shell tacos.
“Anytime you can start using up arms in that team is a good thing to do. Whether the score was 13-1 or 4-1, the fact that we got deep into their bullpen was a good thing for us, and that our bats woke up today, too.”
Boatto also drew comparisons from this series and the start of the team’s regular season.
“Don’t let us get hot – and today we got hot,” he said confidently.
“We’re a streaky team. Remember, we lost the first two games of the season and then rattled off 13 in a row. The fact that we came back today and for lack of a better term, put a thumping on Barrie, shows that our offence is there and [that] we do have the capability to [get multiple] wins in a row.”
Credit from the skipper
Welland Manager Brian Essery didn’t shy away from speaking about the what the importance of a win in Game 3 meant to his team.
“I wouldn’t say it was a must win … but it was,” Essery said in front of the Jackfish clubhouse.
“We all knew it and we came out and were prepared for it, and we’re going to come with that same energy [Wednesday night]. We’re going to attack them like we did tonight, and we’ve been pitching well all series and will continue to.”
Attacking on both sides of the ball was Essery’s gameplan for the Jackfish going into Tuesday night’s game and understands how important the pitching performance from Bradwell was for his team the rest of the series.
“It is huge. So, so huge [for us] and he only threw 71 pitches tonight, so we have options now,” Essery said.
“Obviously he’s not going to go [Wednesday] night, but we’re in good shape on the mound. We just [have] to keep it consistent at the plate and we’re going to be fine. I think at the end of the day that’s going to win [the series], so we just have to continue to deliver performances like that.”
NOTES: Barrie DH Ryan Rijo went 0-4 with four strikeouts after entering the game batting .424 this postseason … Five Jackfish players were plunked by pitches in Game 3.