VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds split the first doubleheader of their four-game NAIA West baseball series against the College of Idaho Coyotes. They won the first game 1-0 and lost the second 3-1. After earning a win each, UBC’s record is now 22-7 (5-1 in conference play) and the Yotes’ are 19-10 (3-3).
The Game 1 shutout was made possible thanks to stellar pitching from Conor Lillis-White (Toronto), who gave up just two hits over 7.2 innings of work. The preseason NAIA All-American struck out nine batters
As UBC head coach Terry McKaig cited before the game, the strength of the bullpen is often what gives the offence time to come around. In the first game, it didn’t take long for the ‘Birds to score first, but after that, in 18 whole innings, they only scored once more.
“You can’t win games only scoring one run,” McKaig said after the doubleheader. “We’ve been struggling with the bats for a good portion of the year. And, the thing about playing at Thunderbird Park is that it’s a tough place to hit. Runs are hard to come by here so you have to really focus on line drives and hard hit ground balls, and we didn’t really do a good job of that today.”
UBC scored their first and only run of Game 1 in the bottom of the second, when catcher Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.) reached second on a throwing error from the Yotes’ shortstop Mitch Skaggs. Hawkins rounded for third on outfielder Griff Goyer‘s (Burnaby, B.C.) single to left field and reached home when second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) singled to center field.
Although the pitching was evenly matched, the ‘Birds connected more than the visitors, finishing the game with 10 hits off C of I starter Zach Fabricius, who threw the complete game, compared to the Coyotes’ three.
With the Game 1 win, Lillis-White’s record improves to 6-2 while Fabricius’ falls back to .500 at 3-3.
The dominance on the mound continued into Game 2 as T-Bird starter Jeremy Newton (Toronto, Ont.) pitched seven shutout innings. During that time, however, UBC was only able to stow away a single run, which came in the fifth on a fielder’s choice by centre fielder Bryan Arthur (Abbotsford, B.C.) that scored Mo Imdakem (Vancouver).
“Pitching was really good until the ninth inning of the second game, but, it’s like I told the guys, it’s hard to pitch when you feel like if you give up a run you’re going to lose the game,” said McKaig. “At some point, the offence needs to score some runs so the pitchers can relax.”
Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.) relieved Newton in the top of the eighth.
In the ninth, the College of Idaho rallied for three runs and the road victory. With Coyotes outfielder Jordan Grubbs on first, Gillies walked designated hitter Cole Mansanerez, gave up a single, knicked third basement Jack Hennessey, and walked the next two batters before Brad Smith (North Vancouver, B.C.) entered the game. Smith walked in the third and final run, solidifying the Yotes’ 3-1 victory.
“Game 2 was just a poor performance offensively,” said McKaig. “There’s no way a second game should be 1-0 again heading into the ninth. Gillies was great in the eighth and then he just lost his groove and couldn’t throw strikes. And that happens in our long season, but we’ve got to get those bats moving to counteract that. Like I said, you can’t win games only scoring one run.”
The Thunderbirds and the Coyotes meet again tomorrow for another doubleheader at Thunderbird Park. First pitch is at 11 a.m.