Noble efforts by UBC arms Webb, Noble, Taylor

By C.J. Pentland
Canadian Baseball Network

If the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds wanted a chance to host playoff ball at Thunderbird Park in two week’s time, they needed victories against a foe that swept them a month ago. The College of Idaho Coyotes took three wins from the ‘Birds in March in Lewiston, Id., giving them the edge for hosting the NAIA West Grouping championships. 

With three wins of their own this past weekend, UBC now holds the inside track for hosting.

On Saturday, UBC took both games from Idaho by scores of 2-0 and 3-1, and on Sunday the Thunderbirds bounced back from a 5-3 loss in Game 3 of the weekend series to shutout the Coyotes 6-0 in the finale to secure the series win.

Game 1 featured what might have been the best outing in what has been another terrific campaign for Alex Webb (Surrey, BC). The righty helped raise his draft stock with a stellar complete game shutout, striking out 13 while walking none, allowing four hits, and hitting one batter. Coach Chris Pritchett praises how Webb seems to get stronger as the game goes on, as evidenced by his last pitch in last week’s series hitting 94 mph. 

The righty now owns a 9-1 record and 1.36 ERA on the season, to go along with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.54-1 (111 Ks, 13 BBs). 

In Game 2, Connor Noble (Vancouver, BC) took the win after pitching 7 1/3 innings innings of one-run ball. Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.) closed it out to continue his strong campaign in the role of hard-throwing closer, picking up his fifth save and lowering his ERA to 1.37.

After the Game 3 loss, Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, BC) took the mound after missing last week’s start. The righty, who’s on the draft board of nearly every team, was in question for this week’s outing as well due to soreness in his “mid-back,”, according to Pritchett, but was cleared to throw on Sunday and didn’t miss a beat. Taylor threw six innings, allowing no runs over three hits and no walks while striking out five. 

“I felt good. The physio staff and trainers here are top notch,” said Taylor to UBC Athletics after the game. “They got me back in order and back on the mound today, so I can’t say enough about them. Everything felt good all the way through the outing.”

As for the offence, Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) continued to lead the attack with another consistent weekend at the plate. The first baseman reached base nine times over the four games and didn’t strike out at all, raising his slash line up to .379/.486/.554 and his phenomenal strikeout-to-walk ratio to 0.342 (38 walks, 13 strikeouts). He also had two doubles in the finale, an example of what Pritchett calls an increase in his power at the plate.

In total, four T-Bird regulars possess on-base percentages over .400: John Whaley (Oakville, Ont.), Lucas Soper (Vancouver, BC), Lichel Hirakawa-Kao (Vancouver, BC) and Yari.

UBC wraps up its regular season next weekend in Klamath Falls, Org. against Oregon Tech. With a series win, they’ll return to campus on May 6 to host playoff ball and take the next step towards a berth at the NAIA World Series.