VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds baseball team swept the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls in a four-game NAIA West weekend conference series, winning Game 3 6-1 and Game 4 12-3 on Sunday in Klamath Falls, Ore.
With the sweep, the Thunderbirds advance to 27-8 (10-2 in conference) and the Owls fall to 11-21.
The wins came from a herculean offensive effort, headed by first baseman Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) who returns to UBC with three home runs on the weekend, including one in each of Sunday’s matchups. Yari also knocked out a grand slam on Saturday.
After three shutout innings, UBC scored its first two runs in the top of the fourth. Second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.), who carried his offensive barrage from Saturday into Sunday, doubled down the left field line, and wheeled home on Yari’s subsequent single. Third baseman Kevin Biro (Deep Bay, B.C.) reached first on a fielder’s choice and Yari was thrown out at second. Catcher Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.) singled, advancing Biro to third, and designated hitter Cam Firth (London, Ont.) drilled a sacrifice fly out to left field, giving Biro enough time to tag and score. The inning ended with two runs, three hits, and two left on base.
OIT was quick to retaliate, scoring their first run in the bottom half of the inning, as first baseman Dylan Rogers homered. The hit was the only one of the inning for the hosts, but it was good enough to halve their deficit to 2-1 going into the start of the fifth.
UBC added to its lead with singles in the sixth and seventh, thanks to homers from Yari and right fielder John Whaley (Oakville, Ont.). Yari’s home run was his fifth of the season and his second of the weekend conference series, and Whaley’s was his second of the season.
The Thunderbirds scored again in the ninth to solidify their win 6-1. Center fielder Bryan Arthur doubled (Abbotsford, B.C.) to get on base and then Whaley walked. Shortstop Kyle McComb (Surrey, B.C.) reached first on an error to load the bases. Orton hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Arthur to score, and then Yari’s ensuing single pushed Whaley across the plate for the second run of the inning and final of the game.
Alex Graham (North Vancouver, B.C.) pitched a solid 8.1 innings, surrendering a single run and five hits. The senior also struck out seven Owls batters. Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) came in to finish out the ninth, giving up no hits for his ninth save of the season. The second-year hurler is second in the NAIA in saves.
The home run trend continued into Game 4 as Biro earned his first of the season in the second inning to open the scoring. UBC bolstered its lead after Arthur was hit by a pitch and Whaley squeezed his way onto first on a fielder’s choice that turned astray, allowing him to take second but resulted in Arthur being tagged out.
The T-Birds were able to bring the runner in scoring position home as Firth hit an RBI single on the next at-bat.
Yari was at it again in the third, giving the Thunderbirds the 3-1 lead as he hit his third home run of the weekend.
After a scoreless fourth, UBC collected two more runs. Orton found himself on first after a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Yari drove him in with double, and then scored himself on a Biro single, which put the T-Birds up 5-0.
OIT earned its first two runs in the bottom of the fifth, breaking up starting pitcher Alex Webb‘s (Surrey, B.C.) shutout bid. Alex Antonaras singled, and Jackson reached first on an error, allowing Darian Benanua (Antonaras’ pinch runner) to advance to third. Benanua scored on a sacrifice bunt from Beau Tittensor, who reached first on the fielder’s choice. Another sacrifice bunt moved the runners along and the following sacrifice fly to center field allowed for the Owls runner at third to tag and score.
UBC stifled the comeback attempt after an OIT pitching change, posting an additional five runs in the sixth, and a run each in the seventh and eighth.
Firth’s two-run home run highlighted the scoring in the fifth. Yari added an RBI single, followed by a two-run double by Bartnik.
In the seventh, McComb hit a line drive down the right field line to bring home Tyler Enns (Winnipeg) for the team’s 12th run. Whaley drove in UBC’s final run of the day in the eighth.
Yari went 3-for-5 with three RBI in the first game on Sunday and then had four hits in six at-bats in the series finale, recording three more RBI. He drove in 10 runs over four weekend games.
UBC is back in action next week with a home-and-home conference weekend series against the Concordia (Ore.) Cavaliers. Friday’s doubleheader will be played in Portland, Ore., and then the two teams will travel to Vancouver for two games on Saturday at Thunderbird Park.