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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

July 3, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Eagles began a critical stretch of their 2014 BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) schedule with a double-header split with the Nanaimo Pirates on Thursday afternoon, losing the first game 12-1 and rebounding for a 2-1 win in the second at Lambrick Park in Victoria.

Victoria baserunners Sam Stevenson (foreground) and Tyler Duncan (background) motor around the bases after a hit by Karsten Waters in Game 2 Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The defending champion Eagles are facing a critical juncture in their 2014 season. Heading into Thursday’s action, the 17-18 Eagles were hanging on to 7th place in the BCPBL, just a game ahead of 8th place Abbotsford for the final playoff spot, and facing a weekend schedule that could make or break their 2014 season.

Counting today’s double-header with the Pirates, the Eagles play seven games over the next six days. If they play them all like they did in Game 1 Thursday, they could easily find themselves on the outside looking in when the regular season is done. If however, they play like they did in Game 2, a 2-1 win, then they will have a chance to defend their title in the playoffs.

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Nanaimo shortstop Aaron Page would recover from this bobble to get an out against the Eagles on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Eagles have been an up and down ball club all season – not a totally unexpected fate given the loss of twelve players from the 2013 squad – and Thursday’s set against the Pirates was a perfect example of that.

In Game 1, the Eagles looked unmotivated and lost, with starter Riley Edmonds – showing noticeably slower velocity than normal – getting rocked for six runs on six hits, in just 3 and 2/3 innings of work.

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Victoria’s Ben Goertzen would have hits and score in both games against Nanaimo on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The damge started early, as Nanaimo’s Zach Diewert drilled a 1-2 Edmonds pitch over the left field fence for a 2-run homerun in the top of the first inning. The Pirates would add another in the third and three more in the fourth to chase Edmonds from the game in favour of reliever Dallas Patterson.

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Nanaimo’s Shawn Arabsky lays down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt for an RBI in Game 1 on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Unfortunately Patterson would fare no better and after pitching a scoreless fifth, the Pirates would jump all over him for six runs in the sixth and take a 12-1 lead. The Eagles defence did not help however and two critical errors on the first two batters of the inning, both of which should have been ground ball outs, led to all six of those runs being unearned.

Doing most of the damage for the Pirates at the plate were Ziewert, who along with his homerun added another hit, scored two runs and finished with three RBIs, as well as North Rainey, who finished with three hits and a pair of runs scored. Tristan Olsen chipped in with a pair of hits, while Garrett Goodall had a hit and pair of RBIs.

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Nanaimo’s North Rainey would have three hits and score three runs in the Pirates 12-1 Game 1 victory (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Eagle’s offence meanwhile was held in check by the pitching of highly touted prospect Josh Burgmann, who went the distance, limiting the Eagles to their one run, on four scattered hits and striking out four. Burgmann improves his record to 3-1 and drops his ERA to a team leading 1.03 which would be good enough for sixth in the league, except that he does not have enough appearances to qualify.

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Nanaimo’s Game 1 starter Josh Burgmann would get the Game 1 win, going the distance and allowing just four hits (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In Game 2, the Eagles ran Ethan Skuija out to the mound and he did what he has been doing all season – throwing strikes and making outs. He cruised through five innings of work before being pulled because of pitch count issues and shut the Pirates down, allowing just two hits, while walking two and striking out seven.

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Victoria’s Ethan Skuija had another fine outing in Game 2 Thursday, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 7 in his 5 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

He was replaced in the sixth by Martin Eckard, who allowed the lone Nanaimo run, albeit unearned, and then in the seventh by Drew Davidoff who got some defensive help, with a double-play, to close out the 2-1 win.

Offensively, the Eagles got all the runs they would need in the first inning when Karsten Waters stroked a 2-RBI double off Nanaimo starter North Rainey. That scored Ben Goertzen, who had led off with a double, and Sam Stevenson, who had walked.

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Karsten Waters provided all the offence the Eagles would need in Game 2 with this 2-RBI double in the bottom of the first inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After that, Rainey settled down and although he finished the complete game allowing eight walks, he held the Eagles to just one additional hit – a fifth inning single to Kobe Morris – and no additional runs, to give his team a chance to win.

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Nanaimo’s Shawn Arabsky attepts to turn a double play in the face of a hard slide from the Eagle’s Evan Smith in Game 2 Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With the win, Skuija improves his recored to 4-2 and drops his ERA to a miniscule 0.53 second only in the league to the 0.19 posted by the Mariners Colton Wood. Skuija however has amassed 53 innings of work in his 11 appearances, while Wood, who has frequently been away with the Canadian Junior National Team, has worked just 37 innings over 7 games.

With the split, the Eagles move to 18-19 on the year and they remain a game up on Abbotsford for 8th and four games up on 9th place Whalley. The Pirates move to 12-24 and they currently sit in 11th.

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Nanaimo third baseman Tristen Olsen makes a nice play on a short ground ball in Game 2 Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Eagles will continue their busy weekend when they host the 5th place White Rock Tritons for a pair on Saturday and then the last place Coquitlam Reds for a pair on Sunday. All games are at Lambrick Park with Saturday’s games beginning at Noon, while Sunday’s games against the Reds start at 11:00 am. Then on Tuesday, the Eagles will travel across town to meet the Victoria Mariners in the last of their four meetings of the season. Game time there is 6:00 pm at Henderson Park.