Bowens and Dewaine sharing a baseball journey that started in Montville

Norwich — Family ties brought them together. Baseball has strengthened their bond.

TT Bowens and Buddy Dewaine have spent their entire young lives together.

Second cousins, they grew up about a mile and a half apart. They starred at Montville High School and now are Central Connecticut State University baseball teammates.

"He's more my brother than my cousin," Dewaine said. "I've known him my whole life."

They share a fierce competitive spirit, too.

Neither were pleased that Central Connecticut dropped a 3-1 decision to top-seeded Bryant University in Northeast Conference tournament winners' bracket action Friday at Dodd Stadium. The second-seeded Blue Devils (27-21) face No. 3 Wagner in an elimination game at noon Saturday.

It was a frustrating loss.

"They didn't beat us," Bowens said. "We beat ourselves today. ... It's a tough one that we have to take on our chin, but we'll be back tomorrow."

Bowens and Dewaine are playing significant starting roles for the Blue Devils.

A sophomore first baseman, Bowens contributed two of his team's five hits and drove in the only run with a hustle double in the first inning Friday. He beat out an infield single and drew a walk.

In Thursday's tournament-opening 5-0 shutout of Wagner, Dewaine, a junior third baseman, went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a single, a walk and four RBI.

Dewaine was in no mood to talk about that noteworthy performance after going 0-for-4 Friday. The Blue Devils stranded 10 baserunners and made two errors.

"(Thursday) I saw the ball very well," Dewaine said. "I don't think I didn't see it well today. The pitchers made very good pitches in good counts and they capitalized."

The fact that Bowens is in the lineup is a surprise. He underwent surgery for a torn ACL in November and expected to miss the entire season. An injury also kept him out of all but six games last season.

Bowens figured he'd be ready to play in the summer for the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

But he beat the odds and returned to action for CCSU on April 10 after sitting out the first 22 games. He's been productive despite coming off a long layoff, carrying a .380 batting average with 11 doubles, three home runs and 18 RBI in 25 games going into Friday's action.

During his injury break, Bowens worked hard both on his recovery and studying the game. He returned mentally and physically stronger.

"I had a really good physical therapist," Bowens said. "I knew I wanted to get back. They pushed me and I got back a lot earlier than expected and I was able to help the team out. That was the biggest thing. I missed all last season and it was a hard hit for the team. It was disappointing to think that I wouldn't be able to help them out again.

"I put a lot of time and effort into it."

Bowens is still not quite 100 percent, but he's close.

His teammates are benefiting from Bowens' presence. The team batting average has risen with Bowens hitting in the third spot and they're scoring more runs.

"It was definitely a big morale-booster when TT came back," Dewaine said. "We were already rolling a little bit without him and then he came back and we were full head of steam."

Dewaine is CCSU's Iron Man, appearing in every game the last two seasons. He entered Friday's action batting .273 with eight doubles, one home run and 25 RBI, one shy of tying his career high.

"I'm just trying to grind for my team," Dewaine said. "Whenever they need me out there, I'll be out there."

Bowens and Dewaine plan to do their part to help extend CCSU's season this weekend.

They're comfortable playing at Dodd Stadium, which has been a second baseball home to them during their playing careers. Dewaine estimates he's  played roughly 55 games there.

When the Blue Devils won their last NEC tournament title in 2017, Dewaine earned Most Valuable Player honors and Dewaine also made an important contribution.

Their baseball journey continues Saturday.

"It's been awesome," Dewaine said. "I've watched him grow as a person and he's watched me grow as a person. We've watched each other grow as baseball players. We're together every step of the way for support. It's a really special experience."

g.keefe@theday.com

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