JACOB NOSEWORTHY for the Grand Forks Gazette
Although the teams pushed through rain most of Thursday to play their games at the Grand Forks International, a torrential downpour starting around 5:10 p.m. cut the day short when it turned the baseball diamond at James Donaldson Park into a muddy mess.
Despite the weather, two full games and the first inning of a third were able to be played, while the postponements forced the organizing committee to remake the schedule for the remainder of the round robin.
Seattle Studs 1 at Burnaby Bulldogs 4
Losing Pitcher: Alan Vasquez Winning Pitcher: Brogan McDougall
The Burnaby Bulldogs put an end to the Seattle Studs’ long GFI win streak on Thursday morning as the Canadian team earned a 4-1 win in a game plagued by rain.
After a rain delay early in the game, the Studs found the scoreboard first in the third inning thanks to Gavin Grant’s stand-up triple over the head of the diving right fielder and a dropped ball from Burnaby centre fielder Jeff Bouchard, which gave Landon Riker an RBI double.
Four consecutive walks by Studs pitcher Alan Vasquez to begin the fourth inning allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game, however and a Jeff Bouchard sacrifice groundout gave Burnaby the 2-1 lead after four.
A two-RBI double off the left field wall by Nolan Weger in the eighth inning put the game away and gave the Bulldogs the 4-1 victory.
Bulldogs head coach Mike Sinclair was pleased with the win over the defending champions, but also saw it as just another victory.
“The win always feels great,” Sinclair said, noting that “it’s always a battle” when the two west coast teams play. “Obviously, a win against a club like [Seattle] is a sweet thing, but you’ve got to win games to get to the final.”
Sinclair said the rainy weather and delays to be challenging and felt like it took away from a good pitching battle, however.
“It was a little tricky coming in [and] trying to balance arms was the biggest thing,” he said. “The starting pitchers of both teams [had] to come out early in the games because of the weather. Those are two quality arms [and] it would’ve been fun to see those starters go deep in a game, but the weather just didn’t really allow it.”
Northwest Honkers 6 at Alaska Goldpanners 8
Losing Pitcher: Blaze Hastings | Winning Pitcher: Harrison Goebel
In the only game of the day to be played under sunny skies, the Alaska Goldpanners improved to a 2-0 record with an 8-6 victory over the Northwest Honkers.
The Honkers took the lead early with a three-run first inning, but Alaska struck back in the bottom of the inning to take a 4-3 lead.
The game looked to be a high scoring affair early on with the Goldpanners taking a 7-4 lead after three innings, but Northwest was unable to come back after leaving runners in scoring positions on multiple occasions.
A highlight of the game was Blake Porter’s two-run home run for the Goldpanners in the second inning that flew far into the grassy area beyond the right-field fence.
The long ball was one of Porter’s three hits on the day, as the centre fielder improved his batting average at the tournament to a remarkable .444.
The loss meant that the Honkers fell to a 1-2 record ahead of their final game against the Houston Westchase Express on Saturday.
New-look Alaska Goldpanners hoping to one-up 2017 effort
Although the 2017 finalist Alaska Goldpanners seem familiar to many at James Donaldson Park now, fans may be surprised to know that the current iteration of the team is brand new to the tournament.
While Dave Nakama coached the ‘Panners to the finals in the last tournament, new head coach Miles Kizer brought an entirely new team of players when compared to their 2017 roster.
Ahead of the new-look Goldpanners’ second game of the tournament, Kizer both praised and critiqued his team for their performance the previous day.
“I thought we played well,” Kizer said. “There were a couple of things I thought we could’ve done a bit better [like] getting a few more quality at-bats with runners in scoring position and making a couple plays that could’ve saved two runs in the seventh. Outside of that, we pitched really well and played really good defensive baseball. We did a really good job getting a lead-off man on, too.”
Kizer also extolled the quality of teams in the tournament while explaining the importance of defence.
“I think as the week goes on that the most important thing is going to be pitching and defence,” Kizer told the Gazette. “The team that makes the fewest mistakes defensively and gets the most quality starts is the team that’s going to be in the best spot come Monday.”
Looking forward in the tournament, the head coach explained his plans to keep the status quo for the team and predicted more success ahead for the Goldpanners.
“We’re going to stick with the [pitching] rotation that we’ve established throughout the summer,” he said. “I think that as we get a bit more comfortable, we’ll be more offensive with runners in scoring position. The surface is awesome, so I think that we’ll be able to pick it up and do some good things. I expect us to continue to play good baseball.”
Postponement and Rescheduling
Only one full inning of play was completed between the San Francisco Seals and Everett Merchants before the game was delayed due to rain and eventually postponed.
Despite the best efforts to dry the field by the tournament’s grounds crew, the amount of rain that had fallen made the surface unplayable.
The remainder of the game will be played Friday morning, while Thursday’s scheduled evening game between Unión de Reyes and the Reno Astros was pushed back to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
To accommodate the rescheduling, the remaining games of the round robin, not including the two postponed games from Thursday, will be shortened from nine to seven innings.
The ‘Money Round’ schedule on Sunday and Monday remains unchanged.
Fans can check the Grand Forks International website for the latest scheduling updates.