VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds baseball team completed a sweep of its first NAIA West conference games with two wins on Sunday against the Simpson Red Hawks in Redding, Calif., by scores of 4-0 and 8-1.
As in Saturday’s two triumphs, the No. 23-ranked Thunderbirds used strong pitching and the long ball on Sunday to dispatch the hosts.
Sunday’s first game was scoreless as both starters, UBC’s Alex Graham (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Simpson’s Humberto Solorio, pitched strong games.
The Thunderbirds got Graham the victory by plating four runs in the final three innings.
First baseman Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) led off the seventh inning with a home run the centre field wall on a 1-1 pitch to give UBC the lead.
Then later in the inning, second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) drove in shortstop Kyle McComb (Surrey, B.C.) with a single to shallow centre to make it 2-0 for the visitors.
After Graham pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, the Thunderbirds added an insurance run in the eighth. Left fielder Tyler Enns (Winnipeg) singled to left field on the first pitch he saw. He moved to second on a passed ball before advancing to third on a single by centre fielder Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, B.C.). Catcher Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.) brought Enns home on the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to put UBC ahead 3-0.
Simpson looked to tie the game in the home half of the eighth by loading the bases with just one out. Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) came into pitch and proceeded to strike out Daniel Mills and Walker Gemmill looking to end the threat.
Designated hitter Brendan Rose (Calgary) scored on a passed ball in the ninth to round out the scoring.
Graham gave up just six hits in 7.1 innings while striking out five batters. Taylor earned the save by pitching the rest of the game.
Alex Webb (Surrey, B.C.)’s 11 strikeouts were one of the big highlights for UBC in the series finale.
The pitcher gave up just one run and four hits over six innings of work.
The Thunderbirds got on the scoreboard early bringing two runs across in the top of the second. Orton drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 1-0. It was one of three walks earned by UBC in the inning. DH Bryan Arthur (Abbotsford, B.C.) later scored on an RBI ground out by McComb.
Catcher Cam Firth (London, Ont.) got hit by a pitch to lead off the third. Bartnik made it 4-0 for UBC by knocking a home run to right field. He did it again in the top of the fifth inning, recording the fourth home run of the weekend.
The T-Birds’ sixth run came in the sixth as third baseman Anthony Cusati (Burnaby, B.C.) hit a bases-loaded RBI ground out to plate centre fielder Griff Goyer (North Vancouver, B.C.), who homered to right in the eighth.
In the ninth, left fielder John Whaley (Oakville, Ont.) hit a sac fly to score Firth, who had led off with a double deep down the right field line.
Pitchers Brad Smith (Vancouver) and Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.) combined to throw three shutout innings in relief of Webb.
UBC improves to 21-6 overall and 4-0 in NAIA West play. The Thunderbirds will play their first home games of the spring against the College of Idaho Coyotes this weekend.
The first doubleheader is Saturday at Thunderbird Park with games at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday’s games are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.