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No quit in VIBI Mariners, but no wins
The VIBI Mariners played the defending champs tough on opening weekend, but the M's still need to learn how to win close games.
Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Baseball Institute was swept by the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs at Serauxmen Stadium, losing 5-4 and 6-4 on Saturday and then 6-3 and 12-2 on Sunday.
"It's a learning experience. You've got to play tight, fundamental baseball to win close games," said Jordan Blundell, VIBI manager. "We had opportunities the first three games to have a little different result … so there is a positive there."
Saturday's Canadian College Baseball Conference season opener began encouragingly, with one of VIBI's best-ever crowds taking in the game, and those fans got some fireworks in the third inning. The M's loaded the bases and then Darren Kolk hit a grand slam home run over the opposite-field fence in left to give his team a 4-1 lead.
"I think that was the biggest reaction we've ever had in this park when Darren hit that ball out. It was a roar," Blundell said.
Connor Russell ended up with the loss on the mound, allowing four earned runs over seven innings while striking out five. Dallas Monk went 3-for-4.
The second game it was the Dawgs that got out to a 4-0 lead before the M's came back. Jeremy Harasymchuk's game-tying RBI in the bottom of the ninth forced extra innings, but PBA got the lead back in the 10th on a wild pitch.
"Another late-inning rally," said Blundell. "It's a group of guys that are committed to playing the whole game out."
Cody Chartrand struck out nine batters over five innings and got a no-decision. Kolk, Cody Andreychuk and Jackson McCuaig had two hits apiece.
Sunday's early contest was close all the way through before PBA scored a couple in the seventh. Reiley Grose allowed three earned runs in the loss.
The finale ended up being a mercy-rule finish but was close until the Dawgs batted around to score seven runs in the seventh inning. Monk led VIBI's offence, going 3-for-4.
"Every game was close other than the end of that last game there where we kind of lost it and we kind of lost our confidence…" said Kolk. "We did a good job in battling. Throughout the beginning of the season we've been a late-inning kind of team and we just need to focus on making sure we play like that during the whole game."
GAME ON … The Mariners have a ton of game action at Serauxmen Stadium this week. They play an exhibition doubleheader on Monday (March 25) at noon against the Sherwood Park Athletics, then host the Edmonton Prospects on Thursday in a 1 p.m. doubleheader. On Saturday (March 30) it's back to CCBC play as the University of Calgary Dinos visit for a noon doubleheader. The next day the Mariners and Dinos close out their series with another doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. … To read last week's season preview article on the VIBI Mariners, please click here.