VIBI comes close at championships

Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners finished third at Canadian College Baseball Conference nationals in Lethbridge, Alta.

Every spring the VIBI Mariners put themselves in championship contention, and they were able to do so again last weekend.

Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners finished third at Canadian College Baseball Conference nationals in Lethbridge, Alta., winning their first two games and losing their last three. The M’s went 2-2 in the round robin, then fell 6-5 to the eventual-champion Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs in Sunday’s semifinal.

VIBI fell behind 5-0 through five innings in the semi, but didn’t get discouraged and got those runs back.

“We were able to … scratch four across and really turned it into a ball game,” said Jordan Blundell, VIBI manager. “It’s coulda, woulda, shoulda. If a couple things go our way, we get that game. That’s usually the way it is in the playoffs. One or two breaks that you don’t get and the other team gets is usually the difference.”

The Mariners had defeated the Dawgs 10-4 in the tournament opener Thursday. On Friday, VIBI defeated the Okanagan Coyotes 5-3 but lost 7-6 to the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. A 4-2 loss Saturday to the Calgary Dinos wrapped the round robin.

Blundell said he’s proud of his guys, who got better as the season went along.

“We weren’t able to achieve our goal that we had set out at the start of the year, but we got to the situation we wanted to be in, we controlled our own destiny,” the manager said.

An extended 10-day road trip leading up to and including nationals was a fun way for the Mariners to finish ball season.

“What a great group,” Blundell said. “The guys all seemed to get along really well; they’re all buddies. It was just a really fun time.”

Thanks in part to the leadership of the veterans, the Mariners succeeded in developing young players and are already looking ahead to next season. Blundell said he’s thankful to the graduating guys and also to the Nanaimo baseball community.

“We’re really privileged to be in that situation with this community and minor baseball’s support, so we definitely want to let them know that we appreciate it,” he said. “Nanaimo’s a great spot to be a baseball player.”

In the tournament opener at the CCBC championships, Greg Brady was 4-for-4 at the plate and Gobind Sall was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Steve McKinnon had two hits and Tyson Dyck drove in two runs. Connor Russell threw seven innings for the win.

The next day’s win saw Jeremy Harasymchuk earn the ‘W’ with seven innings pitched. Cody Pendergast led the offence, hitting a single, double and a triple and scoring three runs. Dyck added two more RBIs.

In the close loss to TRU, Harasymchuk had a single and a triple and Pendergast and McKinnon had two hits apiece.

McKinnon took the loss on the mound in Saturday’s loss to Calgary, allowing two hits and striking out 11 in five innings of work.

In Sunday’s semi, Sall hit two doubles.

BASE LINES … Russell made the CCBC’s All-Conference first team and Harasymchuk, Pendergast and Connor Merilees are on the second team. Russell had the most strikeouts in the league with 46 and Harasymchuk was tied for most wins with five.

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