Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

The Victoria Eagles dropped a pair of games to the Langley Blaze Saturday afternoon in BC Premier League Action at Lambrick Park.

Victoria (ISN) – They say that “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but it also applied Saturday to the Victoria Eagles, who dropped a pair of games – 8-6 (in nine innings) and 7-4 – to the Langley Blaze in BC Premier League action at Lambrick Park in Saanich.

If not for a bit of luck here or there, or a well timed hit or out, the Eagles could have easily won both games, but instead it was Langley who found the way to win in both.

IMG 1144
Eagle’s second baseman Brandon Feldman turns a double play after forcing Blaze runner Bill Germaine at second base in Game 1 action Saturday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

In Game 1, starter Brett Hull continued his fine pitching thus far this year by holding the Blaze to just three runs over the first 6 innings, and aided by a Vinnie Martin 2-run home-run, trailed the Blaze 3-2 heading to the top of the 7th.

IMG 1072
Brett Hull was solid for the Eagle’s, but was snake-bit by a 2-out, 3-run home in the top of the 7th (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

In the top of the 7th, after surrendering a lead-off double to Nick Rutckyj, Hull struck out the next two batters, but then gave up a walk and then a crushing 3-run home-run to Aaron Horanski that appeared to put the game out of reach for the Blaze.

IMG 1204
Langley’s Aaron Horanski watches his 7th inning 3-run homer sail toward the left-field fence in Game 1 (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The determined Eagles however were not going to go down easily and in the bottom of the 7th, Martin and Alex Hendra-Brown reached on an error and single respectively to begin the inning, and after an out, advanced to second and third on a passed ball. Gobind Sall then walked to load the bases for Brad Van Wyk, who would drive in Martin on a fielders choice.

That then set the stage for a dramatic 2-out, game-tying, 3-run homer by rookie Sam Stevenson, who went deep over the left field fence off Blaze reliever Mitchell Kennedy to send the game into extra innings.

IMG 1281
Sam Stevensons’s 7th inning 3-run home-run would tie the game for the Eagles and send it to extra innings (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

After both teams went three up three down in the 8th inning, the Blaze rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth thanks to singles by Mitchell Robinson and Horanski, and then a clutch, two-out single by Preston Kokotailo.

IMG 1317 IMG 1318
Eagle first baseman Kurt Horne snags a hot ground ball in extra innings of Game 1 Saturday (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Eagles were unable to respond in the bottom of the inning and the Blaze escaped with the 8-6 win.

For the Eagles on the mound, Hull went 6 2/3 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on 8 hits,with 2 walks and 6 strike outs. Riley Edmonds, who gave up 2 runs on 3 hits was tagged with the loss.

IMG 1314
In addition to solid defensive play, Vinnie Martin’s 2-run home run earlier helped the Eagle’s stay close to the Blaze in Game 1 (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

At the plate, Stevenson’s and Martin’s home-runs were the big hits of the game, with RJ Forbes, Jesse Thomson and Hendra-Brown also getting in the hit column.

For the Blaze, starter Liam Stroud went 6 1/3 innings giving up 4 runs on 4 hits, with 6 strikeouts. Jordan Atkinson picked up the win in relief, shutting down the Eagles over the final 2 1/3 innings.

IMG 1327
Langley’s Jordan Atkinson would shut down the Eagles over the final 2 1/3 innings to earn the win in Game 1 (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

At the plate, Horanski had a monster game with 2 hits including his homer, 2 runs scored and 3 RBIs. Kokatailo and Bill Germaine also had a pair of hits each while Rutckyj scored a pair of runs.

In Game 2, Eagles starter Thomas Koop looked solid in the first, retiring the first three batters. His counterpart, Blaze starter Jon Bauer then struggled in the bottom half of the first, loading the bases, but the Eagles failed to capitalize as Gobind Sall watched three straight strikes sail over the plate for the third out of the inning, killing the threat.

IMG 1472
Eagle’s Game 2 starter Thomas Koop would leave the game after 4 innings with a 4-3 lead (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

In the second inning the Blaze got to Koop for three runs, as Bill Germaine (walk) and Mason Cratty (hit by pitch) reached base and were then moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Mitch Robinson. Josh Wray then stroked a 2-RBI double scoring Germaine and Cratty. Wray would then later score on a Tanner Shaer 2-out double.

The Eagles would respond in the bottom of the inning though as Bauer continued his struggles, giving up a lead-off walk to Mitch Hawkins and a single to Will Wild.

IMG 1523
Blaze right fielder Aaron Horanski comes up with a nice catch in Game 2 Saturday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN). 

Both runners would advance on a stolen base and then Hawkins would score on a Sam Stevenson ground out, while Wild would score on a Jesse Thomson sacrifice fly to make the score 3-2 for the Blaze.

In the next two innings, the Eagle’s Koop would rebound from his rough 2nd inning to retire six of the next eight Blaze batters, while his teammates scored in the bottom of each inning to give the Eagles a 4-3 lead after four.

IMG 1679
Langley shortstop Tyler O’Neill avoides the slide of Eagle Vinny Martin while completing a double play in Game 2 Saturday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Eagle’s then sent lefty Kurt Horne to the mound and after a scoreless 5th inning, the Blaze got to Horne for a pair of runs in the 6th thanks to another clutch 2-out hit, this time by Nick Rutckyj, who stroked a double to the fence scoring pinch runner Jordan Atkinson and Mitchell Robinson.

IMG 1655
The Eagle’s Kurt Horne would get tagged with the loss in Game 2 after giving up 4 runs over the final 2 innings (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Blaze would strike for another pair off of Horne in the top of the seventh when they used some crafty small-ball to score a pair of runs off a bases-loaded sacrifice bunt by Michael Dagg that would score Aaron Horanski from third and then Preston Kokotailo who would hustle home all the way from second.

Meanwhile the Eagles would mount a small rally off Blaze reliever Luke Miller in the bottom of the 6th, putting runners at 1st and 3rd with nobody out after Will Wild singled and Sam Stevenson doubled to start the inning.

IMG 1730
Will Wild would lead the Eagle offence in Game 2 with a pair of hits (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Blaze closer Cortez Chappell then came in and shut things down, getting Jesse Thomson to ground into a fielder’s choice that cut down Wild at home plate, and then retiring RJ Forbes and Vinny Martin to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 7th, Chappell retired the side to close out the Blaze’s 7-4 win.

IMG 1783
Cortez Chappell would get the save for the Blaze in the 7-4 Game 2 win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

With the 2 wins, the Blaze move to 12-4 and into a tie for second with Okanagan in the PBL standings. Both teams however have 12 wins, the same as league leading Nanaimo, who are in first by virtue of having just 2 losses.

The Eagles drop to 8-6 and sit in 5th place, just behind the Victoria Mariners who are 8-4.

The Eagles will look to rebound on Sunday as they host the 4-8 Abbotsford Cardinals on Sunday at Lambrick Park. The Cardinals were swept Saturday by the Mariners 10-0 and 2-0.