VIU won by a little, won by a lot, and took a couple more steps with their game as baseball season continues.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners split a series against the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs on Saturday and Sunday at Serauxmen Stadium, winning 2-1, losing 5-0, losing 9-5 and then winning 9-4.
The highlight of the weekend was the first game, which was 0-0 until extra innings. The Dawgs went ahead 1-0, but a walk-off two-run home run from Phil Whelan ended it in the bottom of the 11th.
Whelan said he got the fastball away that he was looking for and didn’t miss, hitting one over the green monster in right field for the first time. It was the right result for VIU after starter Thomas Lessmeister threw 10 1/3 innings and struck out six during a no decision.
“When a pitcher goes out like that, it makes you want to get a win so much more,” said Whelan. “Guys seemed to have really good at-bats, there was just a lot more focus.”
Nick Salahub, VIU manager, said Lessmeister threw 91 strikes out of 115 pitches and stayed in so long because he was still under 100 pitches going into the 11th.
“I went out there and tried to thow a bunch of strikes, which I did, and it worked out because they hit a lot of ground balls and my defence played great behind me and made a bunch of plays…” Lessmeister said. “My arm felt great so of course I wanted to keep going.”
Ethan Dyck ended up as the winning pitcher in Saturday’s early game. In Sunday’s early game, Tanner Hess was 3-for-5 with four RBI, Zeke Holt also had three hits and Whelan and Spencer Walton had two hits apiece. In the weekend finale, Holt let the offence with two hits and two RBIs and Jordan Moffat was the winning pitcher, striking out six over five innings.
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Salahub said although the defence made mistakes, he said that’s the facet of the game that’s easiest to work through in practice.
“I’m proud of where we’re at; I’m proud of our desire to play the game and not quit,” Salahub said. “We can find a way to work through our defensive lapses and as long as we keep getting good pitching performances and keep swinging the bat, then we’ll be able to overcome some of those minor hiccups as we go.”
Whelan said he’s hitting well because he’s feeling confident and said the Mariners as a team are at their best when they’re calm and relaxed.
“It’s the beginning of the season. We’re coming together, we’re learning from our mistakes and I’m really comfortable with where we’re at right now,” he said.
Lessmeister said the team is “close to playing well” and getting better.
“You want to win every series, but coming out with a couple wins is not too bad,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting after it next weekend and hopefully we can win the next series.”
GAME ON … The Mariners continue their homestand next weekend, April 6-7, against Edmonton Collegiate. Saturday’s games are at noon and 3 p.m. and Sunday’s games are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium. Admission is free.