When opportunity knocks, it isn’t always loud.
Cameron Kutchey found that out Saturday, and was alert enough to answer.
Kutchey took advantage of a bobbled pickoff throw to hustle his way to the go-ahead run, helping the Hagerstown Braves earn an 8-1 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep of the Gettysburg Grays at North Hagerstown in their home debut in the South Penn Baseball League.
The Braves took the opener, 20-2, in five innings.
After winning with relative ease in the first game, the Braves (5-1) found themselves locked in a struggle, playing as the visiting team in the nightcap.
“I was expecting that in the second game,” Hagerstown manager Mike Kipe said. “We got off to a slow start after that first game. Everyone started settling in.”
With the game tied at 1 in the top of the fifth inning, Kutchey drew a one-out walk from Gettysburg starter Brandon Harmon. He took a lead looking for a break.
It came in the form of a pickoff throw that got away from 70-year-old first baseman David Shea. With the ball rolling near the bag, Kutchey broke for second.
“I felt bad,” Kutchey said. “I have tons of respect for him going out and playing. I was looking for any opportunity to steal.”
He reached second, only to set up the next big break.
The Braves third baseman broke for third, and catcher Darin Cline’s throw sailed into left field to bring him home.
“(Harmon) was taking one look at second all day,” Kutchey said. “When I was playing at Smithsburg, Coach (Trey) Cobb would tell us to look for that, so I took advantage.
“I was just using instincts. We needed it. We were playing a little sketchy after winning 20-2.”
Kipe, who had been an assistant coach at Smithsburg, had a feeling it was all coming.
“As soon as he got to second, I thought he would be trying to steal third and the throw would go into the outfield,” he said. “That has happened so many times. In games like this, sometimes it takes something wacky to get the lead. Good for him for doing something to get it going.”
Suddenly, with a 2-1 lead, the Braves took control.
Austin Bulman hit a three-run double in the sixth, before Jaret Lazich hit a two-run double and JP Melby drove in a run on a sacrifice infield fly to blow the game open. The final six runs came off Gettysburg reliever Tyler Martin.
After allowing a run in the first, Hagerstown starter Bryant Shives teamed with Noah Allen and Steven Ricketts for a combined one-hitter with seven strikeouts. Ricketts got the win with two innings of relief as Braves pitchers retired the last 20 Grays batters.
“Pitching has been our bright spot,” Kipe said. “These are some of the best innings and outings that we have had with the Braves.”
Gettysburg took its 1-0 lead when Mike Topper ripped an RBI single to left after Shives issued two walks. The Braves tied the game in the fourth on Nick Jacoby’s RBI triple.
In the opener, it was all Braves from the opening pitch.
Hagerstown batted around in three of its four innings at bat, scoring nine runs in the first, six in the second and four in the fourth.
Bulman highlighted the first inning with a three-run homer in his second at-bat against Gettysburg starter Sam Shea, who pitched the complete-game loss. Ryan Downes and Josh Rush each added two-run singles.
Tim Hopson and Jacoby each had two-run singles in the second as Hagerstown pushed its lead to 15-0.
Rush hit a sacrifice fly in the third, and Hagerstown strung together seven singles to score four runs in the fourth.
It was more than enough for Braves starter Brock Smith, who was dominant in three innings of work, allowing no hits and striking out seven while walking two.
“This is the first time I threw off a mound in a month,” Smith said. “Everything came back quickly. … It’s like I never stopped. After we got the lead, I just relaxed and did my job.”
Reliever Colby Horning closed out the final two innings, but was touched for two runs after issuing a pair of walks. Hunter Schaper had an RBI single and Joe Dennison drove in a run with a groundout for Gettysburg.
In all, Hagerstown’s five pitchers allowed three runs on two hits and seven walks with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings.
Bulman had four hits and drove in six runs in the doubleheader, Lazich added three hits and three RBIs, and Connor Stevens had four hits and an RBI. Kutchey drew six walks and scored three times.
For the Braves, it is a quick start in its new league. Hagerstown joined the SPBL this season after the West Shore Twilight League disbanded after last year. The league is in its 55th year with teams lining South Central Pennsylvania.
“It’s hard to judge things yet,” Kipe said. “We are all in the same boat because we didn’t have a lot of field time. There was no time period to get in shape.
“But we are sitting where we thought we’d be. A lot of the coaches picked us to be among the top two teams in the league. I think that’s where we should be, but I don’t want the team to settle for that. You still have to play every game because anything can happen.”