VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds split their NAIA West baseball doubleheader with the Menlo College Oaks on Sunday, losing 2-1 in the opener before bouncing back to win 6-2 in the series finale at Thunderbird Park. UBC won three of its four games against Menlo this weekend.
The Thunderbirds are now 32-11 overall and 15-5 in NAIA West play, good for second place behind 16-4 Lewis-Clark State. Since L-C State gains an automatic berth to the NAIA World Series, UBC is currently leading the race to host the NAIA West playoffs.
“We had some good swings in the eighth, with a ball in the gap,” said UBC head coach Terry McKaig of his team’s output in Sunday’s second game, “but it was a struggle offensively today.
“It shows there is still work to be done. We’ll take a couple of days to recover and come back out Wednesday and prepare for Corban and continue to work on some things offensively that hopefully, at some point here before the playoffs, will bring out more consistent at-bats.”
In Sunday’s opener, UBC couldn’t overcome Menlo’s two runs in the top of the fourth inning.
The Thunderbirds got one run back in the home half of the fourth. Catcher Cam Firth (London, Ont.) knocked a one-out single through the left side. Third baseman Kevin Biro (Deep Bay, B.C.) followed up with a double down the left field line to advance courtesy runner Mo Imdakem (Vancouver) to third.
Second baseman Justin Orton (Essex, Ont.) brought Imdakem home with a sacrifice fly out to centre field.
After that, pitchers from both teams kept the opposing offences at bay. UBC got one runner into scoring position after the fourth inning, while Menlo had two.
Pitcher Alex Webb (Surrey, B.C.) started for the Thunderbirds and gave up just two runs and three hits but still suffered the loss to fall to 7-3.
In Game 2, UBC trailed 2-0 after five and a half innings, but three Menlo errors in the sixth led to three runs for the home side, which ended up being enough offence in a 6-2 triumph.
With one out in the home half of the sixth, both left fielder Brendan Rose (Calgary) and shortstop Biro were hit by pitches.
They both came home on a wild sequence that ensued. The next batter, first baseman Bruce Yari (Waterloo, Ont.), hit a grounder towards Oaks’ second baseman Nick Quejado, who couldn’t field the ball. Rose beat the throw to home to score. Menlo’s catcher then fired the ball to third base to tag out Biro but it sailed past the third baseman, giving Biro time to score.
Designated hitter Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, B.C.) reached on a fielding error by Oaks’ pitcher C. J. Romero to move Yari to third base. Catcher Brody Hawkins (Delta, B.C.) plated Yari on the bext at-bat on a fielder’s choice to give UBC a 3-2 lead.
The Thunderbirds added three more runs in the eighth to seal the victory. Bartnik tripled to right center to score Biro and Yari, who had gotten on base via a hit by pitch and a walk, respectively. Hawkins then knocked a single to centre to bring Bartnik home and round out the scoring.
Reliever Brad Smith (Vancouver) pitched four shutout innings in relief of starter Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) to earn his second victory of the season. Taylor struck out five batters and surrendered just three hits in five innings of work.
Bartnik and Hawkins led the hosts with two RBI each.
UBC will play its final regular season home series next weekend when it hosts the Corban Warriors of Salem, Ore., with doubleheaders on Friday (12 noon) and Saturday (11 a.m.).
UBC’s graduating seniors will be honoured in between games on Saturday.