The Trail Orioles hosted a three game series against the Kelowna Jays on the weekend and after a tough start last week, the O’s eventually settled down to win their first game of the season.
It was the Orioles second series in the Pacific International League, a league that will provide tough and exciting competition for the Trail squad this year.
“The caliber of baseball that we play now is higher than it ever has been and basically we are playing against college summer teams and ex-pros,” said coach Jim Maniago. “We won’t have any easy games this year but hopefully we’ll win our share.”
The Trail team dropped their first two games to Kamloops last week but hoped for better against the Kelowna Jays.
Unfortunately, the first game at Butler Park on Friday was a 13-2 disaster for the home team. The Jays capitalized on poor pitching, too many walks, a rash of fielding errors, mental lapses and poor hitting.
But the first game of the double header Saturday was like night and day. The O’s Kyle Mace pitched a superb game for the 7-2 win, going the distance while ceding five hits and striking out five.
Mace helped out his own cause by going 1-for-3 with three RBI’s. His three-run double in the first inning set the tone early, giving him a four run lead.
Infielder Joey Underwood also went 2-for-2 at the plate while knocking in two.
In the rubber match, Darrin Kissock got the ball and pitched a near perfect game, leading 5-2 entering the seventh but the Orioles had virtually no bullpen, as pitcher Ashton Florko was injured and Connor and Kellen Jones out of town.
With no relief, Kissock was forced to finish the game. Shouldering a precarious no-hitter into the top of seven, fatigue set in.
The right-hander ended up walking the first three batters then beaning the fourth. He gave up five runs in the inning on two hits, four walks and one hit batter. The Jays won the rubber in a close 7-5 match.
The league’s competitive factor is already showing as the Orioles start the season 1 and 4. Yet, for a small pool of players swimming in an unfamiliar ocean, the O’s are doing well, with all but one game being close.
“It makes it tough for a small town like ours. The Vancouver teams have 2.5-million people to choose from, Kelowna recruits guys from California plus they have their college team to draw from. Only a handful of their players are actually from Kelowna,” said Maniago. “That being said, we have good young local talent and we’re always competitive.”