They say pitching and defence win baseball games. They say that at playoff time, especially. And that old adage was proven right again this past weekend, as the Nanaimo Pirates advanced in the playoffs.
The Hub City Paving Pirates swept a best-of-three series against the Victoria Mariners on the road Saturday despite managing just three hits all day. Nanaimo won 1-0 and 2-0 to advance.
The Pirates got outstanding pitching performances, said manager Doug Rogers. Aidan Goodall threw a complete-game victory in Game 1, allowing four hits, and Luke Skingle tossed a complete-game one-hitter to earn the ‘W’ in Game 2.
“Goodall and Skingle were almost mirrors of each other in their dominance,” Rogers said. “They never walked a batter all day and were ahead strike one, which is a key component of shutting teams down.”
A turning point in the first game came in the fifth inning, when right fielder T.J. Mah threw out a Mariners baserunner at home plate.
“It was 0-0 at the time, so that would have shifted any momentum…” said Rogers. “One run is huge in those games.”
The Pirates finally broke through in the top of the seventh, when Tristan Olsen reached base on an error, scoring Zach Diewert.
The playoff intensity ratcheted up in the second game. Nanaimo loaded the bases in the third inning and Diewert came through with a two-RBI single. The runs held up and the Pirates became the only B.C. Premier Baseball League team to sweep their first-round series.
Rogers said the limited number of hits is typical at this time of year.
“They are going to be minimized because pitchers bear down and the defence is tougher. It’s just harder to get those hits,” he said. “You have to make good on getting a guy in scoring position and getting him over.”
The No. 7-seeded Pirates weren’t the only BCPBL team to pull off a playoff upset. The No. 8-seeded Vancouver Cannons toppled the pennant-winning Langley Blaze in three games and the No. 6-seeded Victoria Eagles beat the No. 3-seeded North Shore Twins in three games. The only favourite to advance was the No. 4-seeded Abbotsford Cardinals, who needed three games to defeat the Coquitlam Reds.
A relatively young Pirates team is in the midst of its best winning streak of the season at the right time and will try to keep playing as though it’s got nothing to lose heading into the BCPBL championship tournament.
“I’m excited for it,” Rogers said. “This is not the team I maybe expected to take into a final four, but it’s happening.”
GAME ON … Nanaimo will start play at the tourney in Abbotsford on Friday (July 26) with a game against the Eagles.