VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds’ pitching staff delivered another impressive performance on Saturday, surrendering just two runs in a doubleheader sweep of the visiting Menlo College Oaks in NAIA West baseball action on Saturday.
In Game 1, UBC scored single runs in the eighth and ninth to claim a 2-1 win at Thunderbird Park, while in Game 2, T-Bird hurler Jeremy Newton (Toronto) threw a complete-game, seven-hitter as the hosts won 4-1.
“We’re getting towards the end of the season and you want the players to show each other we’re capable of starting to play consistent baseball. That was my only issue with the last two, three weeks, just the inconsistencies that were happening,” said UBC head coach Terry McKaig. “Today is one day and we have to follow this up by playing well tomorrow.
“We had two more well-pitched games at this park, which is what you need. It took us a while but we had a better approach, getting those two runs in the last two innings of the first game to win it. Then in Game 2, we scored four runs here and that’s kind of your goal.”
The Thunderbirds had only one hit through the first seven innings in Saturday’s opener. Down 1-0 in the home half of the eighth, third baseman Kevin Biro (Deep Bay, B.C.) started the comeback with a two-out single. He moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on a single to left field by pinch hitter Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.).
UBC relief pitcher Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.) threw a 1-2-3 ninth to give his team a shot at earning the win in the bottom of the inning.
Second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) led off with a single past Menlo’s second baseman. First baseman Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.) followed up with a single to put runners on first and second.
Catcher Cam Firth (London, Ont.) then placed a bunt into play that the Oaks’ catcher threw over the first baseman, allowing Orton, who was already on the move from second, enough time to score the game-winning run.
Gillies got the win for UBC to improve to 1-1. Starter Conor Lillis-White (Toronto) was excellent for the home side, giving up just three hits and one run in eight complete innings of work. He also had nine strikeouts on the day, pushing his season total to a team-best 84.
Menlo starting pitcher Thomas Cox was also very good, giving up just two runs. The lefty recovered well after taking a Biro line drive off his right foot in the third inning, which was UBC’s only hit until the eighth.
Biro was 2 for 3 batting in the first game with a run scored to lead UBC.
Newton improved to 7-2 on the season with his complete game triumph in Game 2. He held Menlo scoreless until the ninth and didn’t allow a baserunner from the fifth inning to the eighth.
Newton pitched out of a jam in the opening inning, striking out Adam Ochart and inducing a groundout from reigning NAIA West Player of the Week Alex Tenorio to strand Oaks’ runners on second and third. Menlo was frustrated in the third and fourth as the Oaks again left two runners on base in each of those innings.
UBC took advantage in the fifth, scoring twice, which ended up being enough offence for the win.
Biro opened the inning with a double to right centre and then advanced to third on a passed ball. Right fielder Griff Goyer (Burnaby, B.C.) stepped up next to hit his first career triple to left centre to score Biro. Two batters later, shortstop Kyle McComb (Surrey, B.C.) knocked a sacrifice fly out to centre to bring home Goyer.
In the sixth, designated hitter Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, B.C.) scored on a balk after leading off with a double, which was followed by a stolen base.
The Thunderbirds added another run in the eighth. Things began again with a leadoff hit, this time a triple from Yari. Hawkins plated Yari with a sacrifice bunt to make it 4-0.
With the two Saturday wins, UBC moves into a tie for first place in the NAIA West standings with a 14-4 record. The Thunderbirds have an overall mark of 31-10. Menlo (27-16) remains in sixth in the NAIA West at 8-10.
The two teams will wrap up their four-game series on Sunday with a doubleheader that will begin at 11 a.m. at Thunderbird Park on the UBC campus.