By Len Catling
Team 123 456 789 R H E
Corban 200 000 000 2 8 1
UBC 002 100 00X 3 6 0
W: NOBLE, Connor (3-0) L: LEWCHUK, Rilyn (0-4) S: GILLIES, Tyler (1)
VANCOUVER – With some much needed March sunshine peaking through the Vancouver clouds, the UBC Thunderbirds (16-4, 6-1) opened the home portion of their schedule on Friday afternoon with a doubleheader against the Corban (Oregon) Warrriors (8-15, 2-8). UBC would grind out 3-2 and 2-1 victories on the day, with both games being low-scoring affairs and the second game lasting 14 innings.
“This ballpark is hard to hit in,” said UBC head coach Chris Pritchett when asked about his team’s 2017 home debut at Thunderbird Park. “You hit the ball in the air and it’s almost always going to be caught, so you really need to focus on getting that line-drive trajectory. But I thought we showed good character to get the wins and our starting pitching and bullpen were both really good.”
In game one of the split bill the pitcher who inherited a new role for UBC in 2017, Connor Noble, fell into some trouble in the first inning.
Noble gave up three singles and unleashed two wild pitches in the top of the first. By the third out of the opening frame, both Tyler Reitz and Cody Schmidt had scored for the Warriors, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. But Noble settled the farm after that, giving up only four more singles and no runs the rest of the way.
“They definitely hit me around a bit in the first inning,” said Noble. “I kind of figured out what was going on after that, they were swinging early in the count.”
The ‘Birds tied things up in the bottom of the third, as leadoff hitter Austen Butler reached on a error, which was followed by a Tyler Yorko single. With runners on first and second, the red-hot UBC clean-up hitter Vinny Martin laced a double down the left-field line. Both runners came around to score.
“I’ve talked to Bowman (UBC hitting coach Shawn Bowman) a lot on how to hit,” said Martin. “Overall I think we are swinging it really well as a team. It makes things easier when everyone is doing that.”
The Thunderbirds scored the winner in the bottom of the fourth when a Kyle McComb RBI single cashed in Braeden Allemann.
Noble shut the door until the top of the ninth, when he made way for Tyler Gillies to come in and mop things up for his first save of the season.
Noble got the win after going 8.1 innings, giving up 7 hits and 2 earned runs. Rilyn Lewchuk took the loss for the Corban, despite pitching 8 strong innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits.
The second game of the double header saw a heated pitcher’s duel between UBC’s Niall Windeler and Corban’s Caleb Henry.
The closest either team came to scoring a run in the game’s first six innings was in the top of the second. Corban left fielder Benjamin Liogon drilled a double then tried to score when Kyle Kilian singled in the next at-bat. But Liogon was gunned down at the plate on a laser-beam throw by T-Bird left fielder Brendan Rose.
It took until the top of the seventh for Corban to open the scoring. Warrior pinch runner Daniel Freiburger crossed home plate after consecutive UBC passed balls.
But the ‘Birds wasted little time in evening the score. In the bottom of the eighth Mitch Robinson, who finished the game with three hits, knocked in Austen Butler on a RBI single.
Once again the pitchers took over and the game went more than six innings before another run would score, and ultimately end the 14-inning contest.
In the bottom of the 14th, Goyer got things going with a double into the left centre gap. After advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt, Goyer slid the winning run across home plate when Butler banged a high chopper off the turf at Thunderbird Park.
“It was a bit of an ugly game with an ugly finish so I’m just glad we were able to get the job done,” said Goyer.
The UBC bullpen arguably won the day for the ‘Birds, as Patrick van den Brink, Christian Botnick and Liam Stroud held the Warriors scoreless for the game’s final seven innings. Stroud got the win for his work in the fourteenth.
The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday, March 11 at Thunderbird Park in Vancouver. The first pitch in game one goes at 11am PT, while game two is scheduled to start at 1pm PT.