1DX 3724 2

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

April 19, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Tyson Abbott stroked a bases loaded, 2-out, 2-RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Victoria Eagles a walk-off, come from behind 7-6 win over the North Shore Twins in BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) action Saturday afternoon at Lambrick Park in Victoria.

The Eagles’ Tyson Abbott (centre) is mobbed by his teammates after his walk-off, 2-RBI single gave the Eagles a 7-6 win over the North Shore Twins on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

The win capped a double-header sweep of the Twins by the Eagles, as earlier in the day, pitcher Martin Eckard spun a pretty, six-hit, complete game 2-1 victory, keeping the powerful Twins hitters from earning anything more than a single and walking just a single batter over his seven innings of work.

1DX 3029
Martin Eckard was brilliant Sunday, allowing just a single Twins run on six scattered hits in a complete game 2-1 victory in Game 1 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

There was certainly a playoff atmosphere in the air during both games Saturday. The Twins are 2014 BCPBLSilver medalists, having lost to Langley in last year’s championship game and knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs on their way to that game. It is a safe bet that they will be one of the teams in this year’s final four, which will be hosted by the Eagles at Royal Athletic Park. As such, fans were hoping to be treated to a precursor of things to come in August.

1DX 3114
North Shore catcher Matthew Reyes puts the tag on the Eagles Tanner Hess on this play in Game 1 Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

They were not to be disappointed and in Game 1, were treated to a pitching duel between Eckard and the Twin’s Matteo Vincelli, both of whom held their opposition scoreless through the first two innings.

1DX 3064
Twins pitcher Matteo Vincelli deserved a better fate Sunday as he held the Eagles to just two runs and five hits, but came up on the short end of a 2-1 score (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

In the bottom of the third, the Eagles would use their speed to manufacture their only two runs of the game. After Ben Goertzen and Lenn Nakatsuka would both single and steal a base, Goertzen would score on a wild pitch by Vincelli. Kieran Waters would then walk and when he attempted to steal second, Nakatsuka would scamper home from third, well ahead of the throw back to the plate from second by the Twins.

1DX 3140
Twins baserunner Nick Carusi (15) looked dead to rights on this play, but managed to avoid the tag from Eagles’ shortstop Kobe Morris (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

That would be all the offence Eckard would need and after surrendering a leadoff single and walk in the top of the fourth that led to the Twins only run – a sacrifice fly from Robert Hemer – he would retire the final 12 batters that he faced, including a key game ending double-play, to get the win.

1DX 3197 1DX 3198
In a very controversial play in Game 1 Sunday, Twins baserunner Nick Favaro (30) was ruled safe at home plate, beating the tag from Eagles catcher Tyson Abbott (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

In Game 2, the Eagles received another fine starting pitching performance from Karsten Waters, who through four innings of work, held a 2-1 lead over the Twins and looked to be duplicating Eckard’s Game 1 performance.

1DX 3361
Eagles pitcher Karsten Waters had a solid outing in Game 2, giving up four Twins runs on just three hits, with six strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

However he would falter a bit in the fifth, giving up a leadoff walk and then a single, both of which came around to score thanks to an Eagles error and a passed ball. Waters would be relieved in the inning by Evan Smith, who promptly gave up a bases loaded walk for the Twins third run of the inning, giving them a 4-2 lead.

1DX 3540 1DX 3542
Twins first baseman Robert Hemer (left) could not come up with this throw, allowing the Eagles Brendan Turcotte to reach on a bunt base hit attempt in Game 2 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

The Eagles would get one of those back in the bottom of the inning, but when the Twins got to Smith again for two more runs in the top of the sixth, they looked to be well on their way to their fourth win of the season.

1DX 3668
Eagles third baseman Fynn Chester leaps for the throw under a sliding Nick Carusi of the Twins on this steal late in Game 2 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

But not so fast. This is an Eagles team that will not say die and when Nakatsuka reached on a leadoff walk and Kobe Morris laced a one-out single, the Eagles dugout seemed to come alive with anticipation.

1DX 32661DX 32291DX 3513
Three Eagles new to the team this season – (L to R) Lenn Nakatsuka, Mitch Bryan and Tanner Hess – are having a big impact on the team’s success thus far, sitting 1-2-3 in the team batting race and combining for 23 hits, 18 runs, 15 walks and 7 RBIs in 8 games to date (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

After Twins reliever Braeden Toikka walked Tanner Hess to load the bases, it brought up the Eagles regular number four hitter Tyler Duncan. Duncan, who struggled with three strikeouts in Game 1 and was benched for the early part of Game 2, picked a perfect moment to get his swing back on track, lacing a double down the left-field line to score Nakatsuka and Morris, cutting the lead to 6-5.

1DX 3660
Eagles shortstop Kobe Morris stretches for an errant throw as Twins baserunner Nick Carusi begins his slide into second (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

Toikka then walked Brendan Turcotte to load the bases and struck out Fynn Chester for the second out, bringing Abbott to the plate. Abbott, who like Duncan, has been struggling of late at the plate and was also benched for the first part of Game 2, wasted no time and swatted the first pitch he saw from Toikka into centre field scoring Hess and Duncan, giving the Eagles the dramatic win.

1DX 3703
Tyson Abbott stroked this 2-out, 2-RBI single to give the Eagles a walk-off 7-6 win over the Twins in Game 2 Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

The wins were important ones for the Eagles, not only because they came against the always tough Twins and served as a bit of retribution for last year’s playoff loss, but also because with the wins, the Eagles rebounded nicely after being swept on Saturday by Langley, dropping 11-2 and 2-1 wins to the now 8-1 Blaze.

1DX 3714
Tyson Abbott heads to first and his teammates begin to leap off the bench after Abbott’s game winning hit Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

But for a timely hit here and there in Game 2 against Langley Saturday, the Eagles could have had a 3-1 weekend against two of the most powerful teams in the league and that makes Head Coach Anthony Pluta happy. “It was awesome, both teams are two of the best teams in the league and it was great to play them early in the year, play Langley tough yesterday and then keep our composure and come up with some big rebound wins today.”

1DX 3606
In all the celebratory chaos Sunday, pitcher Evan Smith quietly became the beneficiary of Abbott’s game winning hit, earning the win.  Smith has been solid out of the bullpen thus far in 2015, allowing no earned runs in 5.2 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN). 

As to Martin Eckard’s performance in Game 1 Sunday, Pluta was very complimentary about his performance and his focus, “He’s a stud, he’s a kid that since Grade 10 has had nerves of steel, he’s like a poker player and never shows any emotion. We pushed him today to have a complete game and he came through for us. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the course of the season.”

With the two wins, the Eagles move their early 2015 record to 5-3, good enough for 5th place in the BCPBL, 2.5 games back of the 8-1 Langley Blaze. They will stay home again next weekend and entertain the Whalley Chiefs for two on Saturday April 25th, while the North Delta Blue Jays invade Lambrick for two on Sunday the 26th.

In other BCPBL action of note Sunday, the Victoria Mariners and Parksville Royals both earned their first wins of the year when they split their double-header in Parksville. The Royals took the first game 4-3, while the Mariners responded in Game 2 with a 11-6 win.