Following a tight series win over the College of Idaho to open their National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics West (NAIAW) season, the UBC Thunderbirds baseball team continued their road-trip through Idaho this weekend. They faced a tough opponent in the first-ranked Lewis-Clark State College, and ultimately dropped three of a four-game set to fall to 3-4 on the season.
Friday: 1-10 loss
Friday’s game saw UBC’s lefty Niall Windeler (2-1) take the mound against Lewis-Clark State’s undefeated Justin Hammergren (4-0). The Thunderbirds would be held to just one hit by Hammergren — and one in relief — en route to a 10-1 loss to open the series.
After a rocky first inning during which he gave up a lead-off home run and three earned runs total, Windeler threw six decent innings and left the game down just 3-1 at the end of the seventh.
In the eighth inning, however, things got out of hand for the ’Birds. Fourth-year pitcher Brad Smith managed just one out, giving up four hits, two walks and five earned runs before Nick Virdo took over to close out the inning. Lewis-Clark would score seven in the inning and put the game well out of reach for UBC’s struggling offence.
The lone offensive highlight of Friday’s game was the starting designated hitter Lucas Soper, who finished the game with a runner batted in (RBI) single, a walk and a stolen base.
Saturday: 5-1 win
UBC was quick to answer in their mid-day game on Saturday, the first of a double-header that day. Their starter, Adam McKillican (2-0), gave up just one run through seven innings.
After a quiet night on Friday, the T-Birds’ bats started to come to life mid-way through the afternoon’s game. Soper followed up his strong first outing with a double and a run in the fourth, coming home on a two-RBI single from UBC catcher Anthony Cusati.
With a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth, Cusati would pick up his first home-run of the season: a two-run shot to put UBC up 5-1.
Right-handed reliever Patrick Van Den Brink threw the bottom of the ninth, in a non-save situation. He struck out a pair and stranded two to seal the 5-1 victory.
Saturday: 3-7 loss
Lewis-Clark State responded to their Saturday afternoon loss in the evening repeat, as they tagged UBC’s second-year James Bradwell (0-3) with seven hits and five earned runs through six innings. UBC would ultimately lose 3-7 and fall behind in the series 1-2.
The ’Birds would be held to just four hits in the contest. Thunderbird veterans John Whaley and Anthony Olson each picked up home-runs of the season off starter Rian Bassett.
UBC’s offence, however, would be no match for Lewis-Clark State, who took Bradwell deep four times. Relievers Jack Caswell and Finnegan Duffield threw the seventh and eighth innings in perfect fashion, but Lewis-Clark State would hold on to their 7-3 victory to close out the game.
Sunday: 6-7 loss
After three consecutive blowout games (though with different winners), the Thunderbirds closed out the four-game set in dramatic fashion. Their ninth-inning rally would ultimately fall just short, and they would pick up the 6-7 loss in the game and 1-3 loss in the series.
UBC’s Brad Smith started the game in decent fashion, giving up just two hits and two earned runs through five and two thirds.
In the top of the fifth inning, UBC’s bats finally came to life. With two strikeouts to open the inning, rookie Jaxon Valcke hit a single, followed by an RBI-double off the bat of Whaley. Anthony Olson and Soper would each pick up an RBI-single, and the ’Birds took a 4-1 lead.
Lewis-Clark State would respond with six runs of their own, two of which came on wild pitches, and would carry a 7-4 lead into the top of the ninth.
To open the ninth, Valcke and Whaley hit back-to-back singles. After Lanferman flied out, Olson would hit a single of his own to load the bases. Mitch Robinson then picked up an two-RBI-double to cut the lead to just one.
Soper would then be intentionally walked to load the bases once again, but Austen Butler would ground into a double-play to end the game. The ’Birds couldn’t quite complete the rally and would end up losing 6-7.
Despite the loss, there were many positives from Sunday’s thriller. The offence collectively generated 13 hits, including three each off the bats of Olson, Robinson and Whaley. However, the team was missing key hits in the middle of the lineup that would have turned their offensive outburst into more runs.
Butler – who leads the team in doubles, sacrifice flies, and sacrifice bunts – hit fifth in the lineup, and just wasn’t able to pull it all together. He was 0 for 5 for the game and would leave four men on base total.
If the UBC batters can get going again as they did on Sunday against Lewis-Clark State, and the middle of the lineup is able to come through with hits in the clutch, the Thunderbirds offence is going to be formidable and difficult to slow down going forward in the season.
The Thunderbirds continue their American road trip next weekend in Oregon, where they will play a four-game set against the Corban Warriors — first game is on Friday, March 9.