The UBC Thunderbirds baseball team continued their American road-trip this past weekend with a four-game series in Keizer, Oregon. After dropping three of four in Idaho versus Lewis-Clark State last weekend, the Thunderbirds looked to get back on track against the Corban Warriors, a team who has never won a series against UBC.
With pitching and defensive issues getting the T-Birds into trouble as they gave up huge offensive innings to the Warriors in three straight games, UBC would escape the weekend with only one win as Corban clinched their first ever series victory over the ’Birds.
UBC has fallen to 4-7 within their conference to open the season.
Friday: 2-9 loss
UBC ace Niall Windeler took the mound to open the series against Corban’s Kris Jackson. In the fourth inning, UBC picked up a pair of runs on an Anthony Cusati runner batted in (RBI) single and a fielding error to open the scoring 2-0.
Through six innings, Windeler threw exceptionally well, giving up just three hits and one unearned run. His performance included a stellar second inning in which he struck out the side, three of his nine strikeouts on the afternoon. Windeler now leads the NAIA West Conference in innings pitched (20.1) and strikeouts (21).
In the seventh inning, however, the Corban hitters started to figure Windeler out. They tagged him with two hits and a run on just one out, before Braeden Allemann was handed the ball in relief. Though Allemann struck out the first batter he faced, Corban’s offensive outburst was fuelled by four straight errors from the UBC defence. Allemann gave up two hits and four runs (one earned), managing just one out before being replaced by Christian Botnick.
Botnick would give up only one more run in the inning, before throwing a scoreless eighth frame — but the damage had already been done. UBC’s offence failed to respond to the eight-run seventh inning and would ultimately lose the game 2-9.
Saturday: 7-13 loss
UBC started second-year right-hander Adam McKillican who had solid outing last week, in which he picked up his second win of the season against Lewis-Clark State.
Both teams came out swinging in the early afternoon. The offences traded blows through the first seven innings and would wind up tied, with both teams picking up seven runs. UBC had 10 hits, including solo home runs from veterans John Whaley and Mitch Robinson, after being held to just three total in the series opener.
For the second game in a row, a close contest quickly got out of hand for UBC though. Relief pitcher Finnegan Duffield took the mound in the eighth to throw his third inning, having given up only one run. He would manage just one out in the inning, walking three, hitting one batter and allowing four runs before he was replaced by Anthony Olson. Olson would be charged with no runs, but two more would score by the end of the inning to put Corban up by six.
Managing just one hit in the top of the ninth, UBC would drop the game 7-13.
Saturday: 2-12 loss
Saturday's final game would only last seven innings, as Corban continued their offensive dominance en route to a 12-2 victory to secure their first series win over UBC.
Corban’s Connor Mattison threw seven strong innings for the opposition, giving up just two unearned runs. For the second time in three games, UBC would be held to just three hits, as their offensive woes continued.
UBC handed the ball to Brad Smith for the start, following his decent but short performance last weekend. He would only last four and a third innings, giving up seven hits and six runs (three earned), and would be tagged with the loss.
For the third game in a row, Corban was able to put the game out of reach with an explosive inning. After entering the game in relief of Smith and closing out the fifth inning, UBC’s Jack Caswell took the mound in the sixth with the team down by just five at 6-1. Caswell would face six batters and record no outs. He threw four walks, two wild pitches and gave up three runs.
Jackson Valcke would replace Caswell and throw three strikeouts to end the inning, but Corban would score three more in the process. The inning ended with the ’Birds behind by 11 runs.
UBC would manage one more run in the top of the seventh, but the game would end with Corban up by 10 at 12-2.
Sunday: 4-1 win
Already having lost the series, the Thunderbirds played Sunday afternoon with hopes of avoiding their first sweep of the season.
Though he has struggled early in the season, UBC starter James Bradwell took the mound and threw an exceptional game. In his complete game outing, he gave up just one run and struck out eight to secure his first win of the season.
Corban’s pitching was also fairly impressive on Sunday afternoon, but UBC was able to pull together two fundamental-based runs, an RBI single from Olson in the fourth and an RBI sacrifice fly from Robinson in the seventh. Through the top of the seventh, the Thunderbirds led 2-0.
In the bottom of the seventh though, with two men on base, Corban stole home to cut the lead in half.
In the top of the ninth, UBC scored two insurance runs – veteran Lucas Soper hit an RBI double and Whaley brought Soper home on a one-run single. With a three-run lead in the bottom of the frame, Bradwell was able to close out his gem of a game in just five batters.
Though Corban’s offence was only able to generate four runs on twelve hits, UBC was able to hang on to their tight lead to avoid the series sweep thanks to their stellar pitching.
UBC struggled this weekend, giving up double-digit runs for the second and third times this season. After back-to-back series losses, where they were outscored 25-15 and 35-15 respectively, the team has fallen to three games below the .500 mark. They currently sit in the fourth of five spots in the conference, just two games ahead of College of Idaho.
Though the team has showed signs of promise, both offensively and in terms of pitching, they just haven’t been able to pull it all together consistently. Over the weekend, they were competitive late in every game, but bad innings — the fault of both the defence and the pitching — let some close games get away from them. They had two games in which they had double-digit hits and their pitching crew had decent starts in all four games, but when it came down to it, they could only manage a single win.
After some non-league games in Washington and Oregon over the coming week, the ’Birds return to Thunderbird Park for their first home series of the season the following weekend. They are set to face the .500 Oregon Tech Owls, with a double-header on Saturday, March 24.