Coming off a successful sweep of the Simpson University Redhawks in California, the UBC Thunderbirds baseball team kicked off their home opener against the College of Idaho Coyotes with a win and a loss, taking a 1-0 victory in the first game and dropping the second by a score of 3-1.
Although the Thunderbirds only managed one run in the first game, they were bolstered by an impressive performance by their pitcher, Conor Lillis-White. Lillis-White earned a total of eight strikeouts in the eight innings that he pitched for.
“He was an all-region pitcher last year for us; one of the best guys in the entire NAIA,” said head coach Terry McKaig. “We’ve seen many performances like that by Conor.”
The only run the T-Birds scored in the first game was by designated hitter Brody Hawkins in the second inning. Second baseman Justin Orton got the RBI as Hawkins scored.
While UBC only won by a small margin over the Coyotes in the first game, they did achieve 10 hits, in comparison to the Coyotes’ three.
In the second game, it took until the fifth inning for the Thunderbirds to take an 1-0 lead with a run scored by third baseman Kevin Biro off the bat of centre fielder Bryan Arthur. However, just as the home team was looking to shutout the Coyotes for the second time, they fell prey to a flurry of three consecutive runs in the top of the ninth.
Pitcher Tyler Gillies consecutively walked the Coyotes’ Zach Fabricius and Troy Carr, both times as the bases were loaded, which resulted in two runs for Idaho. Brad Smith then replaced Gillies as pitcher, only to walk a third Coyotes player, Brady Mooney. The Thunderbirds were unable to respond.
Despite the T-Birds’ late-game defensive struggles, McKaig still expressed how his team’s inability to score runs was the more critical problem in they way the team played overall.
“[Allowing three continuous runs] is never the way you want to do it, but the bigger problem in a day like today with 18 innings [is that the Thunderbirds] only scored two runs, and it’s tough to win a game when this is the case,” said McKaig.
UBC now holds a conference record of 5-1 and will finish up the series Sunday with two more games against Idaho at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., both at Thunderbird Park.