‘Birds shutout Owls to advance to West Grouping final
By Jeff Sargeant
UBC Sports Media
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds have advanced to the NAIA West Grouping North Division championship final thanks to an all-around solid effort in a 5-0 win over the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Park.
Tyler Gillies pitched a complete-game shutout to prolong the ‘Birds’ (32-15) season while the Owls (18-29) have been officially eliminated from post-season contention.
After suffering a shutout in their first game of the day, the T-Birds wasted little time getting their bats going. Vinny Martin got his fourth hit of the day in the bottom of the first inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Mackenzie Parlow then hammered a two-out double to score Martin.
It took until the sixth inning for the ‘Birds to score again. Justin Orton worked the count to full before getting hit by a pitch to get on base. The second basemen then stole second to get into scoring position which proved to be big since a fielding error allowed Brendan Rose to reach first, also scoring Orton. Kyle McComb then hit a two-out RBI double to stake the ‘Birds out to a 3-0 lead.
After another quick inning of work from Gillies, the T-Birds scored another pair of runs in the bottom in the seventh. A sacrifice bunt by Tyler Yorko scored Martin then Geoff Ehresman, who was in as a pinch runner for Mitch Robinson, scored on a throwing error increasing the UBC lead to five runs.
Facing their final three outs of their season, the Owls attempted a comeback in the ninth. After Gillies got Blake Wrotenbery to ground out, Michael Kilpatrick got his second base hit of the game with a single to left field. Louis Wolf followed up with a base hit to shallow centre field getting Kilpatrick to third but Gillies capped off a stellar start retiring his next two batters to finish off the complete game shutout, his second such feat this season.
Kilpatrick led OIT with a pair of hits in three plate appearances against UBC.
Avery Wood (3-3) gave up three runs – just one earned – in six innings of work for the Owls, while John Schulz and Adam Kandra combined to finish the last two.
“Tyler Gillies came out and took the ball and was outstanding,” said UBC head coach Chris Pritchett following his team’s elimination game victory.
“He wasn’t going to let them score, he took it on his shoulders and we took advantage of a couple mistakes they made and got some timely hits. It was a must-win game and we got it done.”
Orton had a tremendous day both at the plate and in the field finishing 2-for-3 with a run scored along with an outstanding diving catch in shallow right field.
“We wanted to get him in there because he’s been swinging well and we felt like we needed some offence and he responded,” added Pritchett.
Martin finished the day with five hits in seven at bats, and scored twice against the Owls.
The win means the ‘Birds will face the College of Idaho ‘Yotes in Sunday’s West Grouping final. Finishing the round robin 1-1, UBC will need a pair of wins over the ‘Yotes in order to advance to the NAIA championship opening round while C of I will need just one win to eliminate the ‘Birds.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did today to beat that team,” said Pritchett.
“It should be a good one, but hey, we’re going to need to execute and clean up a little defensively but I know we can do it and I think we will.”
In the opener ... The Thunderbirds got another strong effort from starter Connor Noble but couldn’t get any run support in a 3-0 loss to the College of Idaho Saturday afternoon as the ‘Yotes finish round-robin play 2-0 and advance to Sunday’s NAIA West Grouping North Division championship final.
Just as in their tournament opener a few hours earlier the ‘Yotes opened scoring early against UBC. With two men on, Dominic Conigliaro hit an RBI single down the left field line as Johnny Hyland scored from second. Noble got out of the inning without any further damage getting his next two batters to strike out and fly out to centre.
Noble then really got into a groove retiring 14 straight batters through the end of the fifth. But the ‘Yotes managed four straight hits while tacking on another run in the sixth thanks to an Austin Van Horne RBI single. But yet again Noble limited damage getting Sam Grise to ground out ending the inning with the ‘Birds down 2-0.
UBC remained off the board while the ‘Yotes added another run in the bottom of the eighth. Hyland hit a lead off single but advanced to third on a ‘Birds fielding error. Dalton Ridgway followed up with a base hit to bring Hyland across the plate making it a 3-0 C of I lead.
The ‘Birds looked for the ninth inning rally with Kyle McComb hitting a one out single before stealing second but the comeback attempt fell well short as UBC failed to score a run for just the second time in conference play this season.
“We’ve always known we’ve had this potential, lately we’ve been putting it together,” said ‘Yotes starting pitcher Riley O’Brien who struck out 10 UBC batters through seven and a third innings picking up the win.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and let my defence work. The mechanics felt smooth. I kind of ran into trouble in a couple innings but later on I just tried to slow things down and it worked out.”
Miles Bigelow pitched the final inning and a third for C of I earning the save.
Noble pitched a complete game for the ‘Birds finishing with seven strikeouts while allowing just one earned run on eight hits but failed to get the necessary run support.