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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

May 3, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Heading into Sunday’s BCPBL action against the Coquitlam Reds, Victoria Mariners Manager Mike Chewpoy found himself in some very unfamiliar territory. His Mariners, coming in with a 2-8 record – were off to their worst start in his 12 years behind the helm of the club. While they were able to ease that somewhat with an 8-7 walk-off win against the Reds in Game 1, they dropped Game 2 by a score of 5-3 in extra innings and now, at 3-9 to start the year, are still looking for a way to get the ship pointed in the right direction for the remainder of the year.

Mariners catcher Jason Willow is a bit too late with the tag on Coquitlam’s Nick Panozzo on this play in Game 1 Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“I’m not overly concerned or stressed right now,” said Chewpoy between games Sunday. “If we are going to go bad, I’d rather go bad early. I hate the cliché, but it truly is not how you start, it is how you finish that is important.”

“This has definitely been one of our slowest starts in my time here,” added Chewpoy. “I don’t think we’ve ever been 2-8 to start the year and certainly rarely under .500, but you know what, it happens. We go through stretches in mid-season where we are 3-7 and it never gets noticed, but because it is at the start of the year, such a record attracts some attention.”

Chewpoy attributes the slow start to a combination of a young and inexperienced (at least at the Premier level) team, a few tough breaks and at times, not fully playing up to the Mariners brand of baseball.

“We pride ourselves on playing the game with some basic principles in mind,” said Chewpoy. “Not walking lead-off batters, scoring after they score, or putting up a zero on them after we score, no 2-out walks, things like that and we have struggled with that so far this year and a bit more in the first game today. We’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes and it really comes down to inexperience. We have a lot of young players this season, as well as some of our older guys, that have not been through a Premier season before, so they are learning. We will take our lumps and hopefully learn from it.”

“And our first game today was a good example of one that was a big learning experience for us and hopefully a character builder moving forward. Baseball is one of those games where you are playing against outs…not a time clock or anything, so if you can have the mentality to keep battling and grinding things out, you can turn games in your favour and I am happy we were able to do that.”

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Victoria’s Tyler Schindel heads to first after stroking his game winning hit in Game 1 Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Battling and grinding is exactly what the Mariners had to do in Game 1, as they saw 2-0 and 4-2 leads against the Reds disappear and then had to overcome late 6-5 and 7-6 Coquitlam leads before Tyler Schindel’s bottom of the seventh RBI single gave them the 8-7 walk-off win.

They also had to battle some controversy on a couple of calls that went against them, one on an appeal call that resulted in Chris Lata being called out at first for failing to tag up after a line drive out and another for a Coquitlam batter who was given another life, after what should have been strike three was ruled as only the second strike by the home plate umpire.

The M’s had built their early leads thanks in part to a first-inning solo home-run from Jason Willow, as well as an RBI-single from Brett Irvine that was part of their 3-hit, 2-run third inning. After that, the Mariners took advantage of a number of miscues by the Reds to score the remainder of their runs.

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The Mariners mob teammate Tyler Schindel (left, no helmet) after his game winning hit in Game 1 Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the fifth, despite three hits in the inning, the M’s only run would come when Sam Glowicki would score on a 2-out Red’s error. Similarly in the sixth, Mike Varley would be hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, advance to third on an error by the pitcher and then score on a Willow ground out. Finally in the seventh, another leadoff walk by the Reds, this time to Lata, would prove fatal, as Nic Dawson who came in to run for Lata, would advance to second on a sacrifice, then third on a wild pitch. Brandon White would then reach on an error and advance to second on yet another wild pitch that also scored Dawson with the tying run. White would then score on Schindel’s hit, the only one of the inning.

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With three hits each on Sunday, the Mariners Sam Glowicki (left) and Brett Irvine (right) did what they could offensively to pace Victoria against the Reds (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In Game 2 Sunday, the Mariners would once again jump into an early 3-0 lead thanks to a run in the first and two more in the second that came about courtesy of RBI singles from Seginowich and Varley and a double steal that plated Jeremy Patterson.

Cole Russell started on the hill for the Mariners and he was solid through the first three innings, facing the minimum nine batters and giving up just a lone walk in the second. In the fourth, the Reds got to Russell for an unearned run after a leadoff error came around to score on a single by the Reds’ Matthew Clay.

The Reds would get another unearned run off Russell in the fifth and score again in the seventh, when Cole Nightengale, who singled off reliever Liam Kruse to start the inning, would come in to score on an error by pitcher Brett Irvine, who had come in to relive Kruse after the leadoff hit.

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It was one of those days for Mariners reliver Brett Irvine on Sunday. He got the win in the Game 1 8-7 victory, but was tagged with the loss in the Reds’ 5-3 win in Game 2 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That would be all the scoring until the top of the ninth when errors and control issues would once again prove costly for the Mariners. Nightengale would lead off the inning by getting hit and after a one-out error, would come in to score on a fielder’s choice by Owen Lusztig. After a walk and a hit batter, Lusztig would then come in to score the Reds fifth run on a passed ball.

In the bottom the inning, the Mariners would rally with a lead-off walk and then a single, but Reds reliever Thierry Perry would shut the door after that, retiring the next three Mariners to preserve the win.

For the Reds, the win marked the end of a crazy weekend for them that saw two of their games go to extra innings, two of them end in walk-off losses and two of them end in one-run losses. On Saturday, they went to extra innings in Game 1 against the Victoria Eagles before losing on a 2-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and then were shut-out 1-0 in the second game.

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Mike Varley has been an offensive bright spot for the Mariners and with three hits in Game 2 Sunday, has risen to the top of the Mariners batting charts with a .353 average (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For the Mariners, the loss was the third of the weekend after being swept by North Shore on Saturday and was another that Manager Chewpoy will have to put in the “learning” column.

“No one ever plays to lose and I certainly don’t,” said Chewpoy between games Sunday, “so for me, losing is sometimes hard to take, especially when you see our kids, who are pretty talented athletically, not be rewarded for their hard work. Sometimes you do everything right and you just don’t get the bounces, or the timely hits and that’s just the way it goes. You learn from your losses. You don’t learn from your wins because everyone is happy and giddy after the game, but when you lose, you are a bit more introspective and what you take from that becomes important for the next time.”

That next time for the Mariners is Sunday May 10th when the Mariners travel to Langley to face the always tough 9-3 Blaze. They return to Victoria to play the Nanaimo Pirates at Layritz Park on Saturday May 23rd and then return to Henderson Park on Sunday the 24th for a pair against the Abbotsford Cardinals.