VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds baseball team swept the first of their two weekend conference doubleheaders against the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls 13-7 and 9-6 on Saturday. UBC’s record advances to 25-8 and 8-2 in conference, while OIT’s falls to 11-19 and 5-7 in league play.
While it might have taken the ‘Birds an inning or two to get adjusted down in Klamath Falls, Ore., they were quick to bounce back from an early scare in the opener and never relinquished the lead after that.
The Owls were the first to jump, scoring six runs in the second inning of Game 1. Center fielder Dominic Morris reached first base on an error and was advanced to second on a single and third on a sacrifice bunt. Another bunt drove him home for the first run of the game, while runners remained at first and third. A hit batter allowed the Owls to steal second and another bunt drove in their second run, followed by a sacrifice bunt for their third. First baseman Dylan Rogers tripled, driving in another two runs, and a subsequent double and single ushered in another two. Morris, the first to score, earned OIT’s last RBI of the inning, before T-Birds starting pitcher Conor Lillis-White (Toronto) was able to end the inning with a strikeout.
Lillis-White shut down the Hustlin’ Owls in the third, forcing a fly out to right field and striking the following two batters out in an 1-2-3 inning.
At their next at-bats in the top of the fourth, UBC earned their first two runs. Right fielder John Whaley (Oakville, Ont.) was walked and advanced to third by a Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) double. On a balk, the two ‘Birds advanced on the basepaths as Whaley crossed the plate for UBC’s first run of the game. Designated hitter Mackenzie Parlow (Qualicum Beach, B.C.) grounded out to second to score Yari. The inning ended with two runs, one hit, and no runners left on base.
UBC loaded the bases in the fifth, and eventually got six runs to counter the additional run OIT earned in the bottom of the fourth. Second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) and center fielder Bryan Arthur (Abbotsford, B.C.) were walked, and shortstop Kyle McComb (Surrey, B.C.) bunted to advance them and was safe at first to load the bases for the top of the order. Left fiender Tyler Enns (Winnipeg) singled, driving in Orton as the T-Birds’ comeback continued. Whaley singled, pushing Arthur across. Then, Yari homered, clearing the bases with a grand slam, giving the visitors an 8-7 lead.
Lillis-White pitched seven innings, shutting the Owls out in the sixth and seventh, to earn his seventh win of the season. Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) pitched two shutout innings for eighth save of the year.
The Thunderbirds earned another run in the eighth, courtesy of some quick feet from Orton who stole home.
The ‘Birds secured four more runs in the final inning to further their lead and defeat the Owls 13-7. Leading off the inning was Yari, who singled and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from catcher Cam Firth (London, Ont.). Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, B.C.), pinch hitting for Parlow, clobbered his seventh home run of the season, bringing both himself and Yari home. Following Bartnik, third baseman Kevin Biro (Deep Bay, B.C.) and Orton singled and each scored on a sacrifice fly and a single respectively, earning UBC their 13 runs in their comeback victory.
Yari finished with four runs batted in and three hits in the series opener.
UBC carried their momentum into Game 2 as Jeremy Newton (Toronto) took the mound to complete their Saturday sweep, earning the ‘W’ 9-6.
The ‘Birds scored runs in six out of nine innings played.
Their first run came thanks in part to some flustered play from the Owls’ infield. Left fielder Brendan Rose (Calgary) reached first on an error and was advanced by Biro’s single, making it to third on a subsequent error. Two walks pushed in Rose for UBC’s first run of the game, leaving the bases loaded for Orton, who flied out to right field, sacrificing his at bat for Biro to score.
The Thunderbirds didn’t stop there, nor could they if they planned to keep the lead. In the second, Hawkins singled and was advanced to third by McComb’s double. Biro’s next at bat drew the ball to first for the out, buying Hawkins just enough time to secure UBC’s third run of the game.
OIT battled back, scoring their first run in the bottom of the second with a single that was batted home on an ensuing double. Neither team scored in the third.
Both teams scored five runs in the middle three innings. Rose and Bartnik drove in runs for UBC in the fourth. Hawkins and Biro had RBI singles in the fifth to make it 7-4. OIT replied with a run in the bottom half of the inning to close within two.
Then in the sixth, Orton hit his first home run as a Thunderbird to push his team to an 8-5 advantage. He went 3-for-4 at the plate in Game 2 with three runs batted in.
Up 8-6, the ‘Birds scored their final run in the eighth—another Yari offensive contribution—and right-handed relief pitcher Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.) shut the Owls out in the final three innings for his fourth save.
The Thunderbirds and the Owls will play out the series tomorrow with another doubleheader, with first pitch for Game 3 slated at 11 a.m.