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Trail U18 Orioles playoff hopes come to end against COMBA Sun Devils

COMBA sweeps a doubleheader, U18 Orioles just miss playoff for first time in three years
Trail U18 Orioles pitcher Owen Dickson brings the heat in College Prep league action. Photo: Jim Bailey

The Trail U18 Orioles were once again in it until the end, but couldn’t pull out the must-win match up against the COMBA Sun Devils in Penticton on Sunday, just missing a berth to the College Prep playoffs.

The Orioles trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, when a single from Trail’s Darren Mailey tied it, scoring Landen Gustafson who had led off the inning for the Orioles with a triple. The run kept the Orioles’ hopes alive of catching eighth place North Shore who sat a game ahead in the final playoff spot.

COMBA, however, scored the game winner in the bottom of seven on a single, a sacrifice fly, and another single to walk it off with a 3-2 win.

“A typical game for us,” said Orioles coach Jim Maniago. “Logan (Bradford) pitches great, we make a few errors which directly lead to runs and we lose.”

Gustafson went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Bradford threw six and one-third innings giving up two earned runs on 10 hits, and four strikeouts.

In Game 2, the Orioles trailed 5-4 in the bottom of four, when Kelowna exploded for five runs in a decisive 10-4 victory.

Tate Robinson took the loss on the mound giving up four earned runs on two hits, a strikeout and five walks, but also contributed at the plate going 2-for-3, with a run scored.

The 9-31 Orioles finished the season in ninth place, one game back of North Shore, and three behind Vancouver Island Mariners.

Trail had beaten North Shore in all four games in a June homestand, but lost both ends of a doubleheader to the same team on July 2.

“One win against North Shore when we were down there and we get in,” said Maniago. “It was a tough season. We knew it was a rebuilding year, had hoped to make the playoffs, but fell short.”

The Orioles showed flashes of excellence throughout the year, particularly at home at Butler Park where they earned eight of their nine wins.

“The last part of the year we were in almost every game, we just didn’t have the confidence and experience to get us over the hump,” said Maniago. “We were definitely the youngest team in the league.”

Trail had a mediocre regular season the previous two years, but their best came out in their respective playoff runs, which lifted the U18 Orioles to the top four in 2021, and a third-place finish last season.

“Hopefully the guys learned lots from the situations they were exposed to and will be more prepared next year.”

The Orioles will play one more game tonight (Tuesday, July 18) at 6 p.m. against Webber Academy from Alberta, who is on its way to the U.S. for a tournament and stopped by Trail.

Jim Bailey

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