UBC Baseball: ‘Birds fall in NCAA litmus test

August 14  2019, Vancouver- After a historic night at the Nat Bailey Stadium, complete a dominant 8-2 no-hit win, the UBC Thunderbirds returned to their true home at the Tourmaline West Stadium on their beautiful Point Grey campus. The crowd, although not near the 3300 of Tuesday night, was still rambunctious and packed the much smaller confines of the UBC Stadium. 

The second game of the tournament, although not of historic nature was the first showdown between the two North American schools at the tournament. The NCAA Sacramento State Hornets featured a large group of Canadians, a few of whom are from Vancouver. While the Thunderbirds, who also compete in the US leagues (NAIA not NCAA) are filled with Canadian talent. 

UBC, who play at a lower level of the US collegiate baseball circuit took the North American showdown as a litmus test to see how they stack up against the best. While Sacramento Hornets are not in the class of Vanderbilt or other college world series favourites- they are a high quality, well-regarded program which has established itself it the uppermost hierarchy of the collegiate game.

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The Thunderbirds dominated the University of Tokyo, showing that their North American power was not to be outdone by the intricacies of the Japanese game. However, when UBC was given the test of Div.1 NCAA, they showed the gulf in class between the two college circuits. The first inning was a struggle for the home side, as errors and tactical deficiencies highlighted their defensive struggles through the opening inning, as they found themselves in a 3-0 hole incredibly quickly. Things failed to get better for the T-Birds as the night progressed. 

In their first attempt at a response, UBC was able to get a runner to second base- but only doing so on two outs, failing to cut into their early deficit.

Adam Maier was the starting pitcher for UBC, making his first appearance for the Thunderbirds. Maier, a native of the Lower Mainland is one of the highlight recruits for the UBC baseball program for 2019. The former North Shore Twin made news earlier this summer when he pitched a perfect game in the BC Premier Baseball League. Whether or not his first-inning struggles were due to nerves, or simply being outclassed are for individual interpretation, however, the 19-year-old will want to improve in his future games for UBC. an intriguing piece for the 18-year old was the fact that his former Twins teammate, Eli Saul was on the field for the Hornets. 

Maier lasted the opening three frames, a debut which he will not forget- even though it did not go they way he wanted. He was relived by Finnegan Duffield, a third year UBC athlete, who has much more experience than the fresh-faced Maier. After his three innings of work, Duffield had only given up a single earned run, as well as putting up four strikeouts. In search of the save, UBC manager Chris Pritchett sent in Jacob Mahone of Whiterock in the seventh inning. 

Mahone’s day started out terribly, hitting the batter with his first pitch, the first of two in the inning, on his way to giving up the sixth run in quick fashion. He did not even last an inning, as his wild pitches forced him out early. Jack Caswell came in with hopes of keeping the score below a massacre level. Caswell was given the not so nice gift of loaded bases and one out, he allowed an additional two runs, both of which were credited against Mahone as the home team fell into a much deeper 8-0 hole. The day was finished by Brendan Woods, who was sent in for the ninth inning only to get some game practice in.  

UBC was unable to find much of any offence in throughout the game, striking out many times as they were stifled by the Sacramento pitcher, Connor Sparks- who himself is from Canada. Sparks lasted through five innings before making way for Carter Morris, yet another Canadian- this time from nearby Kelowna, British Columbia.

There was astounding fielding from the visitors, showing their class and why they play in a higher rung of the US baseball pyramid. As much as UBC knew what they were up against, many involved presumed that a better showing would have come through against high level opposition. The loss is not the end of the world for the T-Birds, as they still have a chance of getting a high seed in the knockout rounds. Whatever the end result is for UBC after the round robin, the litmus test that was their game against Sacramento is a good learning point for their fresh-faced roster.

 

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