Early runs, solid pitching earn ‘Birds a pair of road wins
By Jeff Sargeant
UBC Sports Media
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds (24-10, 14-7) rode early runs and solid pitching to a double header sweep of the Corban (Ore.) Warriors (13-25, 7-18) Friday afternoon at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, Oregon.
The ‘Birds put up an early three-run inning in both contests while getting a pair of quality starts from Connor Noble and Niall Windeler who both picked up a win on the mound.
The T-Birds kicked off Friday’s double header with a bang putting up three runs in the top of the first and never looked back, although the Warriors did make things interesting pulling within a run by the eighth.
UBC centre fielder Austen Butler led off for the T-Birds and promptly singled to left centre. A trio of fielding errors by the Warriors then helped the ‘Birds get out to their early lead. Two batters later Butler scored on a throwing error. Mitch Robinson scored his first of two runs in the game when Braeden Alleman grounded out to put UBC up 2-0. Vinny Martin scored UBC’s third run thanks to an error that allowed Nick Spillman to reach first instead of ending the inning.
The Warriors got one run back in the bottom half but the score remained 3-1 ‘Birds until the top of the fifth. With two down and runners on first and second, Alleman earned his second RBI of the afternoon with a single to score Martin from third.
Corban cut UBC’s lead down to two runs in the bottom of the sixth when Drew Loera scored on a ‘Birds fielding error making it across the plate all the way from first on a Benjamin Liogon single.
Noble had another strong outing going seven plus innings allowing nine hits while striking out three. The Warriors scored three runs on his watch but none of them were earned as the veteran picked up his sixth win overall.
Pat van den Brink entered in the bottom of the eighth after Zach Penrod got a lead off single. A fielding error followed by a balk and a wild pitch allowed Penrod to score pulling the Warriors within a run but van den Brink got out of the jam and picked up his third save pitching a scoreless ninth.
Corban’s Rilyn Lewchuk pitched a complete game in the loss as he and Noble came into Friday’s contest as the top two ERA starters in the conference.
“We knew it was going to be pretty tight,” said UBC head coach Chris Pritchett. “There were a couple extended at bats and then we were able to push three across for a pretty strong start. It was a close one and our guys played well down the stretch and played well when we had to and made pitches when we had to.”
Having watched Noble earn another win, rookie Niall Windeler picked up right where he left off earning his third win of the season in the second-half of Friday’s double header.
The ‘Birds once again opened scoring with a three-run inning, this time in the third. UBC tacked on another in the fifth for a 4-0 lead but the Warriors made another late push. With Christian Botnik facing a bases loaded situation in the eighth inning, he walked in a run but was then able to get the Warriors to hit into the inning-ending double play. Botnik followed up with a strong ninth inning getting the save in the 5-3 UBC win as the ‘Birds held on for their fifth victory over Corban this year, clinching the season series.
“In the eighth inning in both games we got into a bit of trouble but both times our pitchers were able to execute and get ahead of hitters,” said Pritchett.
UBC has now won eight of their last 10 conference games with a chance to earn their first series sweep of the season Saturday when they once again face the Warriors for a double header.
“Everyone’s aware we need to continue to do things the right way, pay attention to the small details and stay on them,” added Pritchett who has a lot of confidence in his team to maintain the right level of focus.
“We have a group that’s committed to doing that, I expect us to play well tomorrow.”