The Trail AM Ford Orioles swept a non-league doubleheader with the Vernon Diamondbacks on Sunday to prepare for one of their toughest tilts of the Pacific International League (PIL) season against the Northwest Honkers at Butler Park this Saturday and Sunday.
The O’s opened with an 8-1 rout of the D-backs and followed with an 8-0 shut out.
“It was a couple of good wins,” said Orioles player/manager Jim Maniago. “But the competition gets tougher from here.”
Kyle Paulson pitched a gem in the first match, giving up two hits and striking out 11 batters for the win. Dallas Calvin and Brady Glover each had two hits in the 8-1 drubbing. In the back end of the double bill, Scott Robertson and Jim Maniago combined for a two hitter and the shut out, with Joey Underwood and Glover pounding out three hits while Kyle Mace and Robertson each had a pair.
The Orioles face a formidable Honkers team made up of college players and ex-pros in a four-game series at Butler on Saturday and Sunday.
The Honkers are 4-4 in PIL action and are led by last year’s all-star outfielder Max Brown who is currently hitting .500, and a pair of six-foot-six pitchers and former pros in J. D. Scholten and lefty Jason Salers who leads the league in strikeouts with 30 over 25 innings, and pitched a no-hitter against the Kamloops Sun Devils two weeks ago.
“This weekend we have four big games,” said Maniago. “We have most of our team ready to go and we want to see how we stack up. The Honkers are very good, they have great pitching and will be a good test for us.”
The Orioles’ success will likely ride on the starting arms of Paulson – who sits second in the league behind Salers in Ks with 22 – Darrin Kissock, Scott Rhynold, and Robertson. The O’s also enjoy a strong bullpen with Mace, Calvin, Kellen Jones, Scott Davidson, Jaret Conway and Maniago ready to go.
“Things change though game by game and sometimes you make a move in one game which affects the next one,” says Maniago.
Defence has been the strength of the Trail team thus far, and while pitching has been very strong at times, it has also been erratic. Opposing teams average almost five runs per game, as the O’s sport a team ERA of 4.55, while scoring an average of 1.9 runs per game.
Maniago leads the team in batting, going 6 for 23 for a .261 average with two doubles and 10 walks for an impressive .514 on-base -percentage. With solid outings on the mound, generating offence will be key for the Orioles this weekend, in what should shape up to be four excellent games.
The O’s look to end a four-game winless streak in PIL action and improve their 3-8 record, while the Honkers are coming off a split with the Kelowna Jays on the weekend and look to gain some ground on the league-leading Langley Blaze at 9-1.
The series starts with a twilight doubleheader Saturday with games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., followed by Sunday’s matches at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The next Orioles home games won’t be for another month when they play Vernon at Butler on July 13-14. See Scoreboard Page 12.