Thunderbirds obscure Beacons in four-game sweep

Baseball fans at Tourmaline Stadium experienced déjà vu this weekend. Under overcast afternoon skies, the UBC men’s baseball team beat the Bushnell University Beacons four times over the weekend. 

Pitcher Sean Heppener toed the rubber for the Thunderbirds in Saturday’s first game, and a conservative instead of single run allowed through seven innings pitched earned him the win over Bushnell’s Kai Keamo. Keamo was steady until the bottom of the fourth, when UBC first baseman Trent Lenihan opened up the inning with a double, kicking off a string of small ball offence — walks, bunts and several continuous singles — that ultimately put UBC up 6–0 by the time the rally was quelled.

Two more runs in the bottom of the seventh and a shut-the-door relief performance by pitcher James Brock propelled the Thunderbirds to a breezy 8–1 victory. 

But the Beacons didn’t let it get them down. In the second game, Bushnell set out their offensive campaign early. Albert Jennings capitalized on the free base afforded by a passed ball, scoring from third on a sacrifice fly in the top of the first. Bushnell tacked on two more in the third for a 3–1 lead. 

The T-Birds reclaimed a run in the bottom of the third, but the decisive moment came in the fifth, as David Draayer’s two-run home run capped off a healthy five spot that placed UBC ahead 6–3. Thunderbird pitcher Evan Hoegler earned the win, entering in the top of the fifth and holding Bushnell scoreless until the end of the game. 

Sunday’s game three would prove a much closer contest, as the Beacons bats sought to keep up with the T-Birds, mimicking UBC’s two run innings in the first and sixth with ones of their own in the second and the seventh. 

A T-Bird runs into base.
A T-Bird runs into base. Zoe Wagner / The Ubyssey

By the bottom of the eighth the game was tied at four. Vicarte Domingo paved the way into extra innings for the T-Birds, striking out the side in the top of the eighth and surrendering only one baserunner to a walk in three innings through the tenth. 

Locked in an extra-innings tie, the Thunderbirds needed a hero and Mitch Middlemiss answered the call. With Jonny McGill on first, Middlemiss turned on belt-high a fastball, sending it beyond the left-center field gap and over the fence for a two-run walkoff home run. 

But the weekend wasn’t over, with one more game left and the team wasn’t ready to celebrate yet.

“It is definitely huge to have [rush] in the first game, to ride the momentum with it, but again it’s one pitch at a time. We just try to be as calm as possible and take it one step at a time,” said Middlemiss.

The final of the four games was the least calm of the bunch, as both teams traded bursts of offence throughout the contest. 

Bushnell inched ahead in the middle innings, capitalizing on passed balls, misplayed bunts and throwing errors by the Thunderbirds for a fragile 7–6 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. 

Yet, the Thunderbirds repented for their shaky defence with seven runs off of Bushnell’s Max Chapman; three of those runs were off a McGill home run. After nine innings UBC recorded 17 hits on 15 runs, more than enough to beat Bushnell’s 9 and secure the weekend sweep. 

After this weekend UBC’s perfect record at home remains intact (14–0), but head coach Chris Pritchett was adamant that with playoffs approaching towards the end of the month, this is no time for the Thunderbirds to ease off the gas. 

“We take pride in the fact you’ve got to beat us,” said Pritchett. “We don't want to beat ourselves, and we certainly gave them a lot of free bases … We’ll acknowledge it and we’ll clean it up.”

The ‘Birds will go on the road to face the College of Idaho Yotes on April 12.