The U18 West Kootenay Orioles remain in the mix after battling to two more splits in BC Minor Baseball’s College Prep League on the weekend.
The Orioles are 6-7 and currently sit tied for sixth in the 11-team league after splitting their doubleheader against Kelowna Saturday and against Penticton on Sunday.
“All in all a pretty good result given we’re banged up, have a couple older kids injured, and we’re missing a few kids for work so we’re happy to split but disappointed in that we could have swept both days,” said Orioles coach Jim Maniago. “Especially Sunday we were pretty shorthanded and showed up to a gunfight with a slingshot but still managed a win.”
In Saturday’s doubleheader at Butler Park, the Orioles exploded for five runs in the fourth inning against the Kelowna Sun Devils and Jake Maniago pitched a no-hitter, while striking out eight in a 5-0 victory.
The O’s Reid Gerrand went 2-for-2, including an RBI, along with Brayden DeWitt, Landon Uzeloc and Connor Stainer who all knocked in a run in the pivotal fourth inning.
However, in Game 2 the O’s struggled at the plate and in the field in a 7-4 loss.
Jesco Knelsen pitched five strong innings, as West Kootenay took the lead after scoring four in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a two-run double from Nathan Dann.
But the Sun Devils replied with a two-run bomb in the sixth and then added two more unearned runs in the seventh.
Uzeloc had two hits for the Orioles.
Sunday’s first game was a war of attrition. The Orioles made seven errors but emerged from a 3-1 deficit with a 5-4 win in the first match of the doublebill in the den at Carmi Park versus the Penticton Tigers.
“Was a pretty good team win as we were down 3-1, but battled back and stole some bases and then Sam McLaren got the game winning RBI on a squeeze play,” said Orioles coach Jim Maniago.
An exciting win, backed by DeWitt who earned the W with a gutsy performance in a complete game 4-hitter.
“Brayden got the last two outs in the seventh with the bases loaded,” said Maniago. “He was hurt and was basically pitching on one leg, but he knew we were short and he sucked it up and gutted it out.
“It was one of the more gritty things I’ve seen.”
Jake Maniago and Logan Bradford both had two hits in the victory.
The Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 2 but then gave up three unearned runs in the fourth.
The Tigers tied it in the fifth, then manufactured the winning run in the bottom of seven. An infield hit, turned into a stolen base, followed by a bunt and sacrifice fly for the walk-off win.
Logan Bradford took the loss in relief of Jesse Boyer and both pitched well but the Orioles could only manage three hits.
The competition in the College Prep League is intense and having a few players back in the line up for the upcoming stretch of eight games on the road can make a difference for the Orioles.
“The league is really tight and every game matters. We’re in a playoff spot now but a bad day or weekend can drop you out in a hurry. We’re hoping to hang in there until we can get our full team together and maybe take a run at someone.
“It’s tough for us as we only have a very small pool of players to pull from compared to all these bigger centres but we’re right in the mix.”
The Orioles are off to Kamloops for four games this weekend and then Vancouver for two doubleheaders the following week.
West Kootenay lost 2-of-3 against Kamloops when they visited Butler Park July 3-4, losing 6-4 and 7-4 in the opening two games, before closing the series with a 3-2 win in Game 3.
West Kootenay’s last home games are a pair of doubleheaders on July 31 (12 and 2:30 p.m.) and Aug. 1 (1 and 3:30 p.m.) at Butler Park against Ridge Meadows and Penticton, and it is likely that a playoff spot will be on the line.