- Published on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 18:19
- Written by Administrator
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First game: Matt Bannister and Josh Brink combined to give the Thunderbirds their second straight shutout.
Bannister went five innings, allowed the only two hits the Cougars got. He was upstaged by Brink, who went the rest of the way, and put in a career-best performance. He allowed only one baserunner, on a walk. He had only one strikeout, but it was for the final out of the game. The Cougars never got a baserunner past second.
The Thunderbirds left the bases loaded in the first inning. They left them loaded in the second inning, too, but SS Sammie Starr first batted in DH Bob Foerster for the winning run. Foerster originally reached first on a walk, was bunted to second by C Ben Torrie, and went to third on a balk.
The Thunderbirds proceeded to score one run per inning for the next four innings. 3B Ryan Pilgrim doubled in the third, then came in when Torrie reached on an error. Starr scored in the fourth by reaching third on an error, and coming home when CF Jon Syrnyk reached on a fielder's choice. RF Mike Elias hit an RBI single in the fifth, and 1B Scott Webster hit a home run in the sixth. Pilgrim completed the scoring with an RBI single in the eighth.
Bannister was helped by two great defensive plays. In the first inning, there was a double play where Pilgrim got the first out by fielding a ground ball and stepping on third, then getting the throw to Webster in time. Syrnyk made a great catch in center field in the fourth inning.
Johnny Holtman got the loss for the Cougars. He allowed eight hits over seven innings, but walked six. 2B Alex White was 2-4 for the game, and he was the only Bird with multiple hits.
Story from UBC Athletics site: ‘Birds Shutout Cougars, Set Up Showdown For Automatic Birth in NAIA Championship
Second game: Jeff Hall came through big time in his first start of the season; six shutout innings, only four hits, struck out five.
The Thunderbirds didn't get on the board until the fifth inning, when DH Bob Foerster hit an RBI single. The winning run came in the sixth, when SS Sammie Starr reached on a bunt single, and scored on an RBI single by CF Jon Syrnyk.
The Cougars got something going in the bottom of the sixth. (They were the home team for this one.) They had runners on first and third with one out, but Hall retired the next two batters. He was replaced in the next inning by Shawn Hetherington, who continued the Birds' stretch of defensive success. He allowed only two hits the rest of the way, and struck out four. The Cougars got their only run in the bottom of the eighth, on a double by James Scott, and a single by Dane Ponciano. Mitch Grossell got a pinch-hit single in the top of the ninth, but the Birds were unable to convert it into an insurance run. However, Hetherington got the Cougars to go three up, three down in the bottom of the ninth to end the game and the tournament.
Chris Skaalen got the loss for the Cougars, Both teams had six hits, and no Thunderbirds had more than one hit.
Story from UBC Athletics site: T-Birds Crowned NAIA West Champs After Another Stellar Pitching Performance
Now, let's put all this into perspective. After losing an 11-inning thriller in the first round, the Birds won four straight to win the tournament, starting with the bottom-of-the-ninth thriller against College of Idaho. Then there were two straight shutouts, and a string of 26 scoreless innings. And, this all happened without the Thunderbirds' best starter, Mark Hardy.
With the six scoreless innings, Hall dropped his ERA to 0.66. (Today's win was his third of the season, and he has no losses.) Jayson Kuehn of Saint Xavier leads the NAIA with 0.30, and Hall hasn't pitched quite enough innings to be listed among the national leaders.