With their season on the line, the UBC Thunderbirds pounded out 21 hits in a 10-4 victory over the Vanguard Lions at the Santa Clarita Bracket of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round on Tuesday.
“We set the tone early and it was nice to get a big lead like that and relax,” said UBC head coach Terry McKaig. “We didn’t take advantage of that on the pitching end, unfortunately, as we weren’t as efficient as we needed to be, but we’ll take a win with the season on the line. We’ve got one more to focus on tomorrow at 11.”
With the victory, UBC still has a chance to qualify for the 58th annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
To do so, the Thunderbirds will have to continue winning, starting with another elimination game on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. against third seed Davenport (Mich.) at Pete Reese Field on the campus of The Master’s College.
On Tuesday, a six-run third inning proved pivotal in a rematch of Monday’s game, which UBC claimed 1-0.
Already up 2-0 on second inning runs batted in from Tyson Popoff and Mackenzie Parlow, UBC used a barrage of singles in the third to put six runs on the scoreboard.
After a Kevin Biro fly out, Tyler Enns got things started with a single to shortstop. Brody Hawkins then knocked a hit to right field, followed by Bryan Arthur, whose hit plated Enns and forced Vanguard starting pitcher Scott Torrey out of the game. Matt Spillman immediately drew a walk after the change to load the bases. The next batter Jerod Bartnik singled to first to score Hawkins and make it 4-0.
Popoff popped out to centre field for the second out to make way for Parlow, who got his first start of the Opening Round today. The Qualicum Beach, B.C. native delivered, getting two RBI on a single to shallow centre to put UBC up six runs. Bruce Yari followed up with a one-bagger of his own to bring home Bartnik. Biro, in his second at-bat of the inning, hit a ball through the hole at second to score Parlow and round out the Thunderbirds’ offensive output in the third, which consisted of seven singles and a walk.
Vanguard threatened to score in the second, third and fourth innings but couldn’t get anyone across the plate against UBC starter Bryan Pawlina until the fifth, when the Lions loaded the bases and got two runners across home plate on four hits. Vanguard had a runner on third base and one out but Pawlina struck out Taylor McKnight and induced a lineout from Jack Daru to prevent any more damage.
The teams each got two more runs to finish with a 10-4 scoreline in favour of UBC.
The Lions left 13 runners on base in the game while the T-Birds had a dozen in that category.
“We really set the tone, swinging the bats early,” said McKaig. “But it was one of those games where we had a couple of bases loaded situations against and we hit into some costly double plays. If the score isn’t 8-0 and it’s 2-1, those are game killers.”
Pawlina got the win, after surrendering up two runs in five innings, to improve to 6-1 on the season. He struck out six before being relieved by Sean Callegari and Alex Graham, who both went two innings.
Yari ended the day with four hits in six at-bats and an RBI. Parlow drove in three runs and was 3-for-6 at the plate.
Bartnik had two RBI and was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Enns and Hawkins were also 2-for-4 at the plate.
The offensive outburst was needed after the T-Birds scored three runs in two NAIA National Championship Opening Round games on Monday.
“Now is the interesting part of the tournament because teams are getting to the back end of their pitching rotations,” commented McKaig. “I think bats can take over this kind of tournament so maybe that’s the most encouraging aspect of today, maybe our bats are going to have a little bit more success against the people who aren’t the aces of their teams.”
Davenport, UBC’s opponent on Wednesday, is ninth in the entire NAIA in opponents’ batting average (.234); the T-Birds rank 24th in that category (.250).