T-Birds take down Oaks to wrap up series

UBC Thunderbirds

by Lee Dorner (Sports Information Assistant)

March 30, 2014, VANCOUVER (ISN) – The UBC Thunderbirds rounded out their weekend series with the Menlo Oaks with a 6-3 win on Sunday afternoon behind a strong start from Bryan Pawlina.

The Oaks struggled to do much against UBC starters all series long, scoring just two runs in 30 combined innings against starters this weekend. Pawlina, who established himself as one of the top relievers in the conference last year, improved to 3-1 in his fifth start of the season in place of the injured Alex Graham. He went six complete innings, allowing a run on four hits and a walk, with five strikeouts.

“Bryan was pretty efficient in those first three or four innings, and placing his breaking ball down for some strikeouts,” said UBC head coach Terry McKaig. “He was quite solid today, and had maybe a bit of a hiccup in the fifth there but got the double play ball to get out of it. Six good innings from a guy who, at the start of the year, wasn’t projected to be in the starting rotation is another good outing for us.”

The T-Birds also played some very solid defence behind Pawlina, including a couple of very different-looking double plays. One was the standard 6-4-3 turn in the fifth inning to get Pawlina out of a bit of a jam, and the other was courtesy of centre fielder Bryan Arthur, who fielded a fly ball for the first out of the play before gunning down a runner after he tagged up and went for third. UBC made just one error in the entire series, while Menlo committed eight.

“All year for the most part we’ve played solid defence. We’re not a really athletic team that’s going to make all the highlight plays, but when you think of Bryan Arthur throwing that guy out at third from centre field today, or making all the double play turns when we get our chances, that’s all you ask for as a coach,” said McKaig. “When routine plays need to be made, lets make those, and it’s ok if you don’t make those highlight plays once in a while if we can just be consistent. And it helps pitchers buy into that plan of attacking the zone if you can do that.”

Curtis Taylor pitched the seventh for UBC, allowing a run on one hit and one walk. Matt Thornton took over in the eighth with a 4-2 lead, and although he ended up surrendering one run as a result of a single, a couple groundouts to advance the runner, and then a wild pitch, McKaig was extremely pleased with his closer’s outing overall.

“Last weekend he had that game in the rain that didn’t go so well against Oregon Tech where he gave up the save, but today he really established himself back as a dominant guy, and that’s so nice to have that guy. It’s more about the other team seeing it when you have a guy who can come in throwing 88-90 MPH with that splitter. He’s got some nasty stuff up there, and it’s a great feeling to nail down games with a guy who has legitimate stuff like that.”

Thornton struck out three and allowed just the one hit in his two innings of work to earn the save.

The T-Birds opened the scoring in the second inning, when Tyler Enns smacked a two-out triple down the right field line, and Arthur cashed him in with a single up the middle.

In the fourth, the Oaks failed to execute on a bases loaded groundball with one out that they wanted to come home with – something that led to a big inning for UBC on Saturday as well. This time it allowed two runs to score on the play as the throw in from the third baseman skipped away from the catcher. It also allowed Matt Spillman to score one more for UBC with a sac fly later in the inning, making it a 4-1 game at the time.

Menlo cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh, but in the bottom half the ‘Birds got two more, again aided by some shaky defence. Jerod Bartnik’s single to centre field scored Spillman from second base, but Kevin Biro also came all the way around to score from first after the Oaks tried to throw him out at third, and the throw went wide into their dugout.

Arthur, Bartnik and Enns all went 2-for-4 on the day. Arthur was the main man this series offensively, with a combined 8-for-18 effort and three RBIs.

UBC improves to 22-6 overall and 13-3 in the conference, putting them in a tie for first with Lewis-Clark State. Menlo falls to 18-21 and 5-11.

Next up for the T-Birds are a couple weekend road swings, starting with the College of Idaho next Saturday and Sunday. The next home conference action for the ‘Birds will be April 18 and 19 against Simpson University.