VANCOUVER – The 20th-ranked UBC baseball team split its spring opening weekend home series with the College of Idaho Coyotes. The Thunderbirds lost Game 1 of Sunday’s matinee 5-4 in extra innings after a rally, and held onto their lead to earn the win 5-4 in Game 2. UBC is now 23-8 (6-2 in conference play) and C of I is 20-11 (4-4).
An improvement from yesterday’s doubleheader, Sunday’s games were offensively strong for the ‘Birds in which they recorded 14 hits in the first game and 11 in the second.
“One of the big differences from yesterday was that they Coyotes didn’t give us a lot of free bases,” UBC head coach Terry McKaig said after the games. “Today we got some walks, had a few hit batters, they made a few defensive mistakes and that added to us being able to score some runs… That and the hitting. Since our bats were struggling so badly yesterday we were worried the zeros would just pile up, but 14 hits in Game 1 was a good sign and then we came out much better in the second game. We packed our hits and in five different innings we scored one run so that’s what we look for: consistency.”
The Yotes set the tone of Game 1, scoring their first run in the opening inning and taking advantage of ‘Birds starter Alex Graham‘s (North Vancouver, B.C. ) slow start. After a single, shortstop/catcher Mitch Viydo was hit by a pitch, reached second on a fielder’s choice, third on a wild pitch, and made it across home plate when first baseman Matt Hamilton grounded out to second.
C of I continued its offensive surge into the second, when two runners who were walked and hit by a pitch were batted in by outfielder Jordan Grubbs’ line drive up the first base foul line, good for a double.
“The game can get away from you pretty easy when you’re down 3-0 that early,” Coach McKaig said. “But Alex really settled down and gave us a chance to come back.”
In the bottom of the third, the Thunderbirds got on the board, after singles had earned outfielder Tyler Enns (Winnipeg) and catcher Cam Firth (London, Ont.) first and second base. First baseman Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) was hit by a pitch and for the first time of the game the bases were loaded. Designated hitter Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.) hit a sacrifice fly into right field, allowing Enns to tag and score.
UBC’s second run in the fourth had a very similar formula. Two singles up center earned them runners at first and second and then a sacrifice bunt from shortstop Kyle McComb (Surrey, B.C.) advanced the runners another base each. Enns flied out, allowing the runner at third to tag and score.
The Coyotes extended their lead 4-2 in the top of the sixth, but the Thunderbirds would rally in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game, sending it into extra innings. Second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) singled to second base and was ushered home on a John Whaley (Oakville, Ont.) triple for the first run of the inning. A few batters later, Enns knocked another triple out into right field to bring Whaley home to even the score.
C of I retaliated with their own triple to open the tenth inning, which was converted into the winning score when Viydo popped a sacrifice fly to center field.
Third-year right-handed pitcher Alex Webb (Surrey, B.C.) started Game 2, throwing seven scoreless innings. He struck out 10 batters while surrendering just two hits.
“Alex Webb was outstanding,” Coach McKaig said. “That was probably one of his best starts in his Thunderbird career. Big for Alex in that he sometimes struggles with a couple of guys on in the first inning—getting out of those jams when he gets into them—but I thought he really grew as a pitcher here today, of not only being able to get out of the first inning but then to put up six zeroes after. So, today was one of the best starts he’s ever had for us and it was much needed after being 1-and-2 in the series and going into that fourth game.”
UBC built a 5-0 lead going into the ninth, but needed to stave off a College of Idaho comeback to split the series.
Designated hitter Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, B.C.) scored in the first on an overthrow and McComb came home in the fourth on a Yotes’ throwing error.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, Enns drew a walk to force home catcher Hawkins, who drove in UBC’s fourth run with a single in the seventh that plated centre fielder Bryan Arthur (Abbotsford, B.C.).
Whaley was batted in by a Yari single up the middle for the final run in the eighth.
Five walks and a pair of doubles contributed to four Coyotes runs in the final inning, but reliever Anthony Duen (Markham, Ont.) induced a double play that ended the game.
The Thunderbirds are back in action next weekend as they travel to Klamath Falls, Ore., to take on the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls.