‘Birds sweep doubleheader with 16-inning thriller
By Jeff Sargeant
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds (19-8, 9-5 NAIA West) earned a double-header sweep of the visiting College of Idaho Coyotes (14-18, 7-8) including a 6-5 16-inning thriller Saturday at Thunderbird Park.
After a tightly fought 4-2 win to kick-start the day at a sunny Point Grey campus, the T-Birds rallied from behind twice in extra innings with Griffy Goyer driving home the winning run in the bottom of the 16th capping off the second-longest game in UBC history. The school record dates back to April 2, 2011, when the T-Birds lost an 18-inning affair to Corban by a score of 4-3 in the first game of a twinbill.
“It was a couple of fluky plays and they were able to get ahead but our guys never quit,” said UBC head coach Chris Pritchett after a marathon 25-inning day.
“Guys were tired, it was a long day, it was cold, but they didn’t back down and I was really proud of how they kept putting pressure on that team and responded. It was a great game.”
The wins improve the T-Birds to 6-1 at home in conference play with a chance to earn their first NAIA West series sweep on Sunday.
In the first game of the double header the T-Birds bettered the Yotes in a low-scoring affair while getting a solid start from Tyler Gillies.
The fourth-year right-hander went six innings strong allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out four for his second conference win of the season.
Tyler Yorko got UBC’s offence rolling right off the hop with a lead-off double in the bottom of the first and proceeded to advance to third on the throw. A wild pitch by Yotes starter Anthony Martine allowed Yorko to score as the ‘Birds took a 1-0 lead into the second inning. Martine took the loss allowing four runs, three of them earned, on seven UBC hits with five strike outs through six and two thirds innings.
Down by a run after the second inning, the T-Birds tied up the game in the bottom of the third when Mitch Robinson singled to right field scoring Brendan Rose who served as UBC’s DH. Robinson finished the game three-for-four and a pair of RBI.
The ‘Birds re-took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. Mackenzie Parlow hit a sacrifice fly to right field allowing Robinson to score the go-ahead run. Robinson hit another single in the seventh to give the ‘Birds a bit more breathing room.
Patrick van den Brink was sent to the mound for UBC in the seventh pitching two full innings allowing a hit and striking out three. Christian Botnick came in to close and retired three straight batters picking up his second save of the season.
Runs were a little harder to come by early on in the second game of the double-header. The ‘Yotes got on the board in the top of the fifth when Ryan Murkle hit a ball to deep right field scoring Nathan Hundley from second who had reached base on a walk. C of I then took the lead as Sam Grise doubled down the left field line sending Murkle across the plate.
Then in the seventh with two out, Braeden Allemann doubled spelling the end of Yotes’ starter Niall Manning’s day after 6 2/3 innings, with Riley O’Brien coming in from the bullpen. Austen Butler pinch ran for Allemann and promptly scored on a Rose single to tie the game at two.
With the game headed to extras tied at two, it would take until the 13th before another runner crossed the plate. With two outs and a man on second, C of I’s Bobby Wright singled to right field scoring Sam Grise as the Yotes took the 3-2 lead heading to the bottom half of the inning.
But the T-Birds refused to give in and tied the game at three when Allemann hit a sacrifice fly to left field allowing Vinny Martin to score. The bases remained loaded for the T-Birds but they weren’t able to cash in any more runs as the game headed to the 14th.
The Yotes scored two runs in the top of the inning to take a 5-3 lead but once again the T-Birds battled back to extend the game. With runners on second and third, Robinson came through yet again singling to right field scoring both Yorko and Kyle McComb. The Yotes got Martin to hit into the inning ending double play as the game headed to the top of the 15th tied at five.
Brad Smith got the win for the T-Birds pitching the final four and two thirds innings and faced the minimum number of batters in both the 15th and 16th setting the stage for the T-Birds’ bats.
Yorko had a lead-off single and was advanced to second base on a Nick Spillman sacrifice bunt. The Yotes intentionally walked Robinson and a base hit by Martin loaded the bases. Goyer then hit a perfect single to left field scoring Yorko and ending UBC’s longest game of the season.
Martin had a school-record eight at-bats in Game 2.
There were impressive pitching performances on both sides in the second contest.
O’Brien struck out nine batters in 6 1/3 innings of relief, while giving up just a pair of runs.
Niall Windeler got the start for UBC, allowing a couple of runs in 7. 1/3 innings, while Liam Stroud got the next 12 outs without allowing C of I to score.
“Everybody contributed, everyone was backing people up on the bench,” said Pritchett.
“It was a long day and it would’ve been easy to pack it in and go at it the next day but they wouldn’t let that happen.”