Thunderbirds bow out of NAIA West Grouping Championship
By Jeff Sargeant
UBC Sports Media
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds saw their season come to a close Sunday afternoon on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision in the NAIA West Grouping Final against the College of Idaho ‘Yotes.
For the third time this weekend the T-Birds got a solid pitching performance from their starter as Niall Windeler went the distance, but UBC’s bats were unable to come through with timely hits.
“I thought we had more scoring chances but just couldn’t get them home,” said UBC head coach Chris Pritchett following the difficult loss.
“The way our guys played, the effort level, the intensity was off the charts. It makes it that much harder when you lose and obviously for the seniors it was their last games. No one wanted to end this fast or this way but that’s the game.”
The ‘Birds had nine hits in the game but ended up stranding a total of nine base runners.
Anthony Martine also pitched a gem for C of I as both he and Windeler had a scoreless game going into the fourth. The ‘Yotes were able to break through when Cole Mansanarez hit an RBI single to right centre scoring Dalton Ridgway from second.
The ‘Birds looked to respond in the bottom half of the fourth when Mackenzie Parlow hammered the ball to centre field for a two out single but was caught stealing second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth Anthony Cusati got behind the ball on a full count and sent it flying over the left field fence for a solo home run to tie the game at one getting the ‘Birds bench and the crowd hopping.
The ‘Yotes re-took the lead in the top of the sixth, however, on a Dominic Conigliaro fly ball got Ridgway across the plate for the second time for what turned out to be the championship winning run.
Down to their last out of the eighth inning, Parlow reached first after his infield pop up dropped getting Tyler Yorko to third. But Martine then got John Whaley to line out ending the threat and keeping the visitors’ lead intact.
Facing the end of their season, the ‘Birds got a lead off walk by Cusati in the bottom of the ninth while the ‘Yotes then brought in Miles Bigelow to close. Justin Orton proceeded to lay down a two-strike sacrifice bunt to advance pinch runner Anthony Olson to second. Kyle McComb fouled out, bringing Butler up to bat with UBC down to their final out. The freshman outfielder struck out as the ‘Yotes went a perfect 3-0 to advance to the NAIA championship opening round.
“We pitched very well,” said College of Idaho head coach Shawn Humberger. “We got a good close out of Miles there and took advantage of a couple lead off walks and got a couple runs across the board that turned out to be all we needed.”
Windeler was tagged with the loss but not due to his performance that saw the rookie allow just two runs on two hits while striking out nine in his first complete game of the season.
“One thing this group can be proud of is their leadership, the way they went about their business is going to leave their mark,” said Pritchett who once again praised his graduating seniors.
“They’re building something here that will always be moving forward thanks to them. We’ll meet and we’ll continue to move this program in the right direction and that’s also thanks to an unbelievable coaching staff that I get the luxury of coming to work with on a daily basis. But also the way these kids play and with their work ethic.”