The Nanaimo Pirates did things the right way.
Already assured a host berth in the B.C. Premier Baseball League championships this coming weekend (Aug. 3-5), the Hub City Paving Pirates qualified on their own merits. The team swept the Victoria Eagles on Saturday in a best-of-three series at Serauxmen Stadium, winning 7-1 and then 4-3.
In the second game, the Pirates needed to score a run in the seventh inning to force extra innings, and then in the eighth, Crosby Rushton’s RBI single held up as the game-winning hit.
Pirates manager Doug Rogers liked the way his team responded to the intensity of playoff baseball.
“We get challenged during the year, but it’s just not the same as when you have a lot of people in the stands and the games mean a lot,” he said.
The Pirates’ comeback win seemed almost like a foregone conclusion considering the number of times the team won one-run ball games this season.
“We’re fairly comfortable in those games,” said Rogers. “We know we can come back, we’ve done it so many times, that the seven innings, we’ll play ’em all out.”
Pirates outfielder Ryan Smith said the players believe in each other in those situations.
“Everybody has faith in everybody else…” he said. “When the next person steps up to the plate, you know they’re going to do the job, you know the next person’s going to do the job, and the person after that.”
Bryan Odgers, Pirates pitcher and designated hitter, said his team doesn’t lose concentration.
“We’re working as hard as we possibly can, and then we get some luck and string some hits together and we always come out on top,” he said.
The Pirates tied Saturday’s Game 2 when Alex Rogers scored on a passed ball. Brady Rogers scored the winning run on Rushton’s hit in the eighth.
“I just had to basically put something in play,” Rushton said. “It was nice that it went up the middle and dropped.”
Colby Morgan was the winning pitcher, allowing one earned run over seven innings, and Bryan Odgers picked up the save. Alex Rogers and Nathan Odgers had two hits apiece and Ben Dunbar doubled.
In the first game, Luke Skingle was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game while striking out five Eagles and allowing no earned runs. Griffin Andreychuk was 3-for-3 at the plate in that game, Bryan Odgers had a single, double and two RBIs and Alex Rogers also had two hits and two RBIs.
Blaze get bounced
In addition to the on-field excitement, Serauxmen Stadium was buzzing Saturday about the out-of-town scoreboard. The pennant-winning Langley Blaze, defending PBL champions, were upset in their series by the No. 8-seeded North Shore Twins, two games to none.
“As soon as we heard that we were all so happy. With them not being there, it gives us that much more of a chance to win,” said Bryan Odgers. “We still have to work hard this week and go in with all guns going.”
Doug Rogers said Langley’s elimination is sort of bittersweet, since he would have liked the challenge of taking on the Blaze, but he’s also happy for his friend Larson Bauck, Twins manager.
Smith, too, saw positives and negatives to Langley’s elimination.
“They’ve always been our rivals and it kind of sucks that we don’t have the opportunity to match up with them at the end of the season,” he said. “I don’t want to say it thins out the herd, but that’s kind of what it looks like for us.”
Rushton said the Pirates know they can’t take anything for granted.
“Knowing that Langley’s out, that’s a big thing for us because we’ve always had trouble with them,” he said. “Now there’s North Shore that we have to focus on. It’s another good team, they’ve got good pitching, so it’s going to be an interesting go.”
The No. 3-seeded Victoria Mariners were also upset in their series by the Coquitlam Reds, so the four teams participating in provincials this weekend will be the Pirates, the Okanagan Athletics, the Reds and the Twins. Nanaimo was 3-1 versus the A’s, 3-1 versus the Reds and 4-0 versus the Twins this season.
GAME ON … The Pirates’ first game at provincials will be Friday (Aug. 3) against the Twins at 6 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium. Nanaimo will play Coquitlam on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and take on the A’s later that day at 6 p.m. The BCPBL championship final will be Sunday at 12:30 p.m. For a full schedule of games, please click here … Admission to the stadium for the final-four tournament will be $5 per game, or $20 for a tournament pass. For ticket information, please call 250-714-6140 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.