Story and Photos by Christian J Stewart (ISN)
April 2, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Langley Blaze put a damper on the Victoria Eagles BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) home opener Sunday, defeating the Eagles 9-3 and 14-9 on the newly christened Joe Stephenson Field at Lambrick Park in Victoria.
While the scores would seem to indicate that the Blaze had a relatively easy time of it Sunday, that was far from the case, as but for three bad defensive innings, the underdog Eagles gave the perennial powerhouse Blaze all they could handle.
Sunday’s first game saw the teams take a 2-2 tie into extra innings with the Blaze finally exploding for seven runs in the top of the ninth to put the game away. Similarly in game two, the Eagles held 3-1 and 4-2 leads, halfway home, before surrendering another seven-spot in the top of the sixth and another four runs in the top of the seventh to the powerful Blaze. To the Eagles credit, they then battled back with five runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh inning to make the final score a little more respectable.
Doing the bulk of the damage for the Blaze were infielders Michael O’Toole and Marshall Luiz, who accounted for eight of the 22 hits the Blaze had on the day. In game one, O’Toole sparked the Blaze’s seven-run ninth by launching a mammoth two-run homer over the left-field fence. He followed that up with a two-hit and two-RBI effort in game two.
Luiz also played a role in game one, stroking a 2-RBI double in the fourth inning for the Blaze’s first two runs of the game and then added three more hits and an RBI in game two, to begin the season hitting .625.
The Eagles held their own with the Blaze in game one, riding strong starting pitching from Noah Doorschot to a 2-0 third inning lead, runs that came in the bottom of the third thanks to a single from Cole Mayhew, a double from Brody Stark, a sacrifice fly by Trey Sjerven that scored Mayhew and a single from Shutu Araki that plated Stark.
The Blaze would get those two runs back right away on Luiz’s double and then starting pitcher Kyle Prather, the eventual game winner, would take it from there, shutting the Eagles down for the rest of his eight full innings, before giving way to reliever Matt Dalgleish, who inherited a comfortable 9-2 lead, in the ninth.
For the Eagle’s, Doorschot was relieved by Matt Collett in the fourth and he would go 4 and 2/3 innings, taking the loss, giving up 3 runs on 2 hits, while striking out three. Aden Richardson and Leo Jansch would also see mop-up work in relief.
In the second game Sunday, the Eagles jumped into their early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, thanks to a two-RBI single from Cam Devlin that scored Parker Swinton, who had singled, and Andy Weir, who had reached on an error.
Langley would get one of those back in the top of the third on a solo home run from Gus Wilson, only to see the Eagles get another in the bottom of the frame when Swinton would reach on his second hit of the game and eventually score on a wild pitch.
After the teams exchanged runs in the fourth and Langley added another in the fifth, the Eagles took a 4-3 lead into the sixth inning, only to see the Blaze bat around the order and score their seven runs on six hits, the biggest being a pair of two-RBI singles from O’Toole and Mac Berry.
In the seventh, RBI singles from Danny Berg (his third hit of the game) and Luiz and an RBI-double from O’Toole keyed Langley’s four-run frame and put the Blaze up 14-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Langley starter Colby Ring, the eventual game winner (6 IP, 6 R, 8H, 6K), gave up a lead-off single to Jansch and a walk to Araki before being relieved by Kyle Pfeifer. Pfeifer would give up a run on two more walks, watch as two runs scored on a Langley error and give up a two RBI single to Mayhew, before finally getting the final out to secure the 14-9 win.
For the Eagles offensively, Swinton led the way in game two with three hits and a pair of runs scored, while Jansch had a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored in the losing effort. For Langley, Berg, Luiz and Wislon had three hits each to pace the Blaze’s 15-hit attack.
Jacob Butler got the start for the Eagles, going four innings and giving up two runs on four hits, one walk and striking out three. Hayden Wilcox, Mike Musselwhite – who was charged with the loss – and Aidyn Hart, also saw action in relief.
The Langley sweep put a bit of a damper on Sunday’s opening ceremonies that saw longtime Victoria baseball volunteer Joe Stephenson honoured by the Municipality of Saanich and the baseball community by having the Eagles main diamond at Lambrick Park named in his honour.
Stephenson, who played a key role in establishing the Eagles’ PBL franchise in 2010, was also president of the Lambrick Park Baseball Association for many years and spearheaded a number of the great improvements that the ball diamond has seen over the last 20 years, including the addition of a professional scoreboard, the implementation of outfield fence advertising similar to that seen in minor league baseball parks, the installation of lights for night time play and the construction of MLB style dugouts that rival the best in any baseball park around.
Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, along with Eagles Chair Martin Winstanley and current Gordon Head – Lambrick Park Baseball President Steve Gaskin were on hand Sunday to unveil a new sign in Stephenson’s honour that will be installed on the clubhouse to permanently re-name the field, a motion that Mayor Atwell in his opening comments, said passed unanimously at Saanich Council.
Next up for the Eagles are the Parksville Royals, who travel to Joe Stephenson Field on Saturday April 15th for a pair of games. They then travel to North Delta on Sunday the 16th for a pair against the Blue Jays.