The VIBI Mariners were just one inning away from getting the chance to play for a championship.
Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Baseball Institute finished third at Canadian College Baseball Conference nationals in Kamloops this past weekend.
VIBI led the University of Calgary 3-2 heading into the ninth inning, but the Dinos managed a two-RBI single to take the lead. In the bottom of the ninth the M’s got the leadoff man aboard but eventually the season ended with a 7-4 double play.
“They battled,” said Jordan Blundell, VIBI manager. “That is what makes playoff baseball so interesting and fun and exciting and tough and emotionally draining after the fact. It sucks, but it’s life, it’s baseball.”
The Mariners had a tough go of it in the regular season in 2013, finishing with a 9-19 record, but they were playing their best ball at the right time and ended up going 3-2 at the national tournament.
“For them to overcome the hole they were in and get everything together, I’m really proud of the guys for accomplishing that,” Blundell said.
The M’s started the tourney with a 4-2 win Thursday over the host Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, then followed up Friday with an 8-1 victory over the Okanagan Coyotes. The Mariners fell 10-5 later that day to the eventual national champions, the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs, then concluded the round robin Saturday with a 16-9 win over the Dinos that earned them a berth in the semis.
Connor Russell got his team off to the right start in the first game with a seven-inning complete game in which he allowed just one earned run and struck out four. Jackson McCuaig had an RBI double in that game.
The second game it was Cody Chartrand earning the win, striking out 10 batters over 5 2/3 innings. Cody Andreychuk was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Chad Schultz had two RBIs.
In the next game’s loss, Andreychuk’s home run was the only real highlight for the M’s.
The final round robin game, on the other hand, was full of highlights as the Mariners came back from an early 7-0 deficit to win big. Cory Curtis was the winning pitcher, allowing one hit and one run over four innings. Connor Merilees led the team at the plate, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Tyson Dyck also supplied three RBIs. Schultz was 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs and Josh Siemens was 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
In the semifinal loss, Darren Kolk struck out 12 batters over eight innings and also helped his cause at the plate with two hits and two RBIs. Andreychuk went 3-for-5.
All the Mariners are eligible to return next season, but some may move on elsewhere. Either way, they’ll be better ball players after the lessons of the 2013 season.
“They’ll use that experience to hopefully change the results,” Blundell said. “Wherever they are, if they’re with us next year or whatever team or situation they’re in, in that big game they’re able to draw on that experience and be successful.”