VIBI Mariners runners-up at nationals

Nanaimo's college baseball team loses 5-1 to Prairie Baseball Academy in Canadian College Baseball Conference championship final.

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute pitcher Connor Russell throws during the national championship game Sunday in Kamloops.

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute pitcher Connor Russell throws during the national championship game Sunday in Kamloops.

The VIBI Mariners went into the national final with their ace on the mound, with momentum, with a chance to win a championship.

But the M’s didn’t get the breaks, and finish the season as runners up in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Vancouver Island Baseball Institute lost 5-1 to the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs on Sunday in Kamloops.

“Those games come down to a break or two …you’ve got to make your own breaks,” said Jordan Blundell, VIBI manager.

It was the third straight season that the Nanaimo team has played in the national final. VIBI won it all in 2010 but placed second to PBA in 2011 and again this past weekend.

“We didn’t get it done but I still feel like we would take that ball club into that championship game again and lay it all on the line,” Blundell said.

VIBI beat PBA 3-0 on Thursday to start the tournament, then defeated the Okanagan Coyotes 8-2 and handled the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack 11-4 on Friday. On Saturday the M’s were clobbered 16-1 by the University of Calgary Dinos, but in Sunday’s semifinal, VIBI turned that around and beat Calgary 7-4.

That semifinal saw the Mariners trail 4-2 going into the ninth inning.

“What a crazy inning that was,” said Jordan Blundell.

VIBI graduating veteran Cody Phipps smacked a solo home run to spark a rally.

“Like he’s done his whole career here, he found a way to get a big hit when we needed it most,” Blundell said. “Our guys were excited about that and then we were able to get another guy on and then this happened and then that happened and then all of a sudden it’s a couple runs, and then now we’re up, and holy cow, we’re going to get this one.”

The M’s were all out of comebacks by that day’s tournament final, however. Ace Connor Russell allowed two earned runs over eight innings in the 5-1 loss, with Dallas Monk garnering two hits.

Blundell said the end of the season is bittersweet.

“Obviously we’re not happy that the outcome was what it was, but I think guys can keep their heads up high…” said the manager. “Looking back on the season, it’s filled with great moments, lifelong friendships were made, it was another year in the development of VIBI as a program.”

BASE LINES … Russell picked up the win over PBA in the tournament opener, allowing four hits and striking out five over seven innings. Chad Schultz and Monk had two hits each. In the win over Okie it was Reiley Grose earning the win, throwing 5 2/3, giving up just two hits and one run while allowing no walks and striking out five. Cody Andreychuk was 3-for-3, Blake Robson was 3-for-4, Monk was 2-for-3 and Jeremy Harasymchuk and Thomas Bidzinski had two RBIs apiece. In the blowout over TRU Andreychuk had a single, a double, a walk and five RBIs and Liam Goodall was 3-for-5. Aaron Witzke and Bidzinski both had two-hit games and Jorhn Kaluzniak struck out six over 5 2/3 for the win. In the loss to U of C, Matt Davis was the pitcher of record. In the win over Calgary the winning pitcher was Luke Hawkins who threw 2 1/3 innings of relief. Grose got the save. In addition to Phipps’ home run, offence came from Bidzinski who had two hits and two RBIs. Goodall had two hits and Schultz added two RBIs … Phipps won the weekend’s home run derby.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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