One day after throwing five shutout innings in a run-rule victory in the National Baseball Congress World Series, John Branum requested a sit-down meeting with Kansas Cannons manager Derik Dukes on Sunday.
He wanted to throw again in another elimination game on Monday. He wasn’t joking. And Dukes didn’t treat it as such.
“I throw more from a three-quarter release, so it lets me come back sooner, and plus I’m an older guy,” said Branum, a Newman graduate. “Me and him sit down like men and I talk and he listens.”
Branum was granted permission by Dukes to take on the Park City Rangers and turned in another gem, throwing 77 pitches and six innings on one day of rest to lead the Cannons to an 11-3, 7-inning victory on Monday night.
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With the win, Branum became the first pitcher in the tournament to register a second victory. The Cannons will play Puerto Rico in an elimination game Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“John Branum is a unique individual and I would not have done that with anybody else on the squad,” Dukes said. “John’s a graduate and he knows his arm better than anyone else. That was a unique thing he was able to do.”
Add it all up and Branum pitched 11 innings, allowing 10 hits, two earned runs, and threw 133 pitches in a span of about 56 hours.
Even though it was the Cannons’ offense, which has exploded for 21 runs in 12 innings since an opening 7-3 loss to Boulder (Colo.), that carried them through another round in elimination play, all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was the grit of Branum.
“This guy right here,” said second basemen Taylor Herrington, motioning to his pitcher, “he’s just a man. This is a great pitcher right here.”
Branum said he felt like Saturday’s outing was similar to an extended bullpen session. It took very little out of him and it took little convincing to make Dukes believe he was ready to go again with the season on the line.
But it was the offense that removed any pressure from him, as the Cannons built an 8-2 lead for Branum when he went out for the fifth inning. Herrington finished with three hits and three runs drive in, while Conner Knight and Roger Diaz each doubled to drive in two runs.
Branum registered three 1-2-3 innings, including his final inning in the sixth, to take care of the rest.
“I want to be on the hill every single time,” Branum said. “I’m trying to get picked up still and play ball for some money.”
It was a frustrating conclusion to the season for the Rangers, the Walter Johnson North Division champions. It was the fifth loss in six games to the Cannons this summer.
Manager Jason Wysong was confident in tapping Trent Lunsford, a 6-foot-4 hard-throwing lefty, against the Cannons’ primarily left-handed lineup. But the expected advantage never materialized, as Lunsford was tagged for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“If you would have told me we had that pitcher against that lineup and seeing (Branum) for a third time, I would have said we were due,” Wysong said. “But I guess they just had our number.”
And as the Cannons triumphantly exited the field late Monday night, Branum pulled Dukes aside again.
“He wanted to know if he could throw again tomorrow,” Dukes said, smiling.