The Northwest Honkers pulled off a four-game sweep of the Trail AM Ford Orioles with a come-from-behind victory in the final inning of the final game on Sunday.
The Honkers beat the Orioles 11-2 in Game 1, and followed that up with a tight 2-0 win in the nightcap Saturday. In Sunday morning’s game, the Honkers rolled over the Orioles 11-2, then scraped out a 6-4 win in the afternoon tilt.
“It’s always good seeing good competition, but it’s a matter of whether we show up or not,” said shortstop Joey Underwood. “When we only have nine guys it’s hard to compete at a high level.”
Despite a short bench in the final game Sunday, the Orioles led 4-2 heading into the seventh inning with pitcher Joel Graff throwing a gem, and ceding just two runs on six hits over six innings. But with a dearth of rested arms, Graf walked out on the mound for the seventh inning and the Honkers’ batters jumped on him right away.
“We ran out of arms,” said Underwood. “He (Graf) pitched a heck of a game, but got tired and we didn’t have anyone to bring in.”
Zach Zurbrugg came off the bench for the Honkers and belted a double to deep center to lead off the top of the seventh. A single by Darren Wilson put men on the corners, before the Orioles second baseman Jarret Conway made a great running catch behind first base to hold the runners. However, Cameron Padron stepped up and stroked another double to centrefield to tie the game, and following a walk to Ethan Klosterboer, the Honkers second baseman Erik Peterson delivered a bases clearing double to give the Honkers a 6-4 lead.
“Once you get that first guy on with nobody out you kind of feed off it,” said Honkers coach Dave Sauter. “The key is to get that first guy on … We were lucky enough to make that switch with Zurbrugg and he’s been hitting the ball hard and I wanted to bring him in and see what he could do, he ended up hitting a double off the wall, and started it for us and everyone just fed off that momentum.”
The Honkers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Conway singled to lead off and Underwood sent him to third on a double to left, before scoring on a passed ball. The Orioles took a 3-1 lead in the second inning. With two men on, Graff laid down a bunt but an errant throw to third to get the force sailed wide scoring the Orioles’ Brad McLeod. Conway singled to load the basesand Scott Davidson cashed in two runners with a two-out single to give the Os a two-run lead.
The Honkers cut the lead to one in the top of the fifth, but Graf helped out his own cause in the bottom half with a double to centre to score Cam Ferguson in a close play at the plate and give the Os a 4-2 lead. Graf set the Honkers down in order in the sixth, but the Bellevue team would not go quietly, mounting the seventh inning rally for a 6-4 victory.
“Those three games it was really close,” said Sauter. “I mean they (the Orioles) hit the ball and pitched well, they could have took that game today, we just got a little lucky at the end there.”
The Orioles faced a scare in Saturday’s game when Chris Kissock was hit in the head by a pitch that caused a heated exchange by both sides. Kissock would be okay and returned to the team after a trip to the hospital.
“It’s a little bit of competitiveness, and guys want to protect each other,” said Sauter. “If they feel like they’re being attacked, the number one thing is for the guys to protect the team, and both sides felt that a little bit too.”
In the opening match, the Orioles fell behind 5-0 but back-to-back homeruns by Sean Barta and McLeod in the second inning cut the lead to 5-2. However, a six run deluge in the top of seven made the final 11-2 Honkers.
The second match was a pitcher’s duel between Darren Kissock and Brad Bennett, but the Northwest tandem of Bennett and reliever Ryan Sheeley combined for five hits and 11 strike outs to shut down the Orioles offence in the 2-0 victory. The Orioles suffered another 11-2 defeat Sunday morning, but bounced back with one of their best efforts in the final match.
The Orioles have had a difficult time getting players out, but the addition of Davidson, Darren Kissock, Lyle Frank, Dallas Calvin, Dave Colquhoun and others made the team more competitive, despite limited action this season.
“It’s fun having them out there,” said Underwood. “We probably didn’t compete the way we wanted to for the most part. But when we did it was because everyone was having a good time out there.”
For the Honkers, it’s a long drive from Bellevue, Wash. but Sauter says the Pacific International League (PIL) team looks forward to the annual trip.
“We love coming out to Trail every year, we get the guys together and pile on in and get the hotels reserved, this is one of our favourite places to come.”
The Honkers are a combination of young developing players from across the country and seasoned veterans that have played college and minor pro baseball. The team currently sit in second place in the PIL behind the 2016 GFI champion and reigning National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series champion Seattle Studs.
“We are going to put our best foot forward, before we leave for the NBC World Series, which is the biggest amateur tournament in the country” said Sauter. “The goal is to go back there and play for a championship – we got some good momentum now and we’ll try to get that first goal, get first in PIL, then go from there.”
The games wrap up the Orioles home season, and Trail will now prepare for the Senior Men’s Provincial Baseball championship in Nanaimo, July 29 to Aug. 1.