After an hour-long rain delay, the sun came out for the San Francisco Seals vs. Alaska Goldpanners’ game on Friday night at James Donaldson Park.(Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

After an hour-long rain delay, the sun came out for the San Francisco Seals vs. Alaska Goldpanners’ game on Friday night at James Donaldson Park.(Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

GFI Day 4: Grounds crew shines in repair of rain-soaked field

A Cuban upset punctuated a five-game day of tournament baseball

  • Jun. 29, 2019 12:00 a.m.

JACOB NOSEWORTHY for the Grand Forks Gazette

An extra game carried over from the night before made Friday a jam-packed day of baseball at the Grand Forks International.

Although four of the games were shortened to seven innings due to time constraints related to Thursday’s postponements, the day served as a testament to the quality of all the teams in the tournament as no teams remain undefeated heading into the final day of the round robin.

San Francisco Seals 2 at Everett Merchants 4

Losing Pitcher: Sam Gomez | Winning Pitcher: Cody Culp

After the Thursday game between the two clubs was postponed due to rain, the Everett Merchants found success as they earned a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Seals on Friday morning.

Although one inning of baseball had been played prior to the postponement and the game was planned to restart in the second inning, both teams started fresh at the top of the first in order to allow for lineup changes.

The game was an incredibly defensive one as Cody Culp and Sam Gomez, Everett and San Francisco’s starting pitchers, respectively, stymied both offenses and allowed no runs through five innings of play.

The Seals got the scoring started in the top of the sixth inning with a single run, but a costly mental error by designated hitter Matt Monohan ended the inning.

With runners on the corners and one out, Monohan hit a groundball to the second baseman who threw out the runner coming home.

Monohan must have thought that the out at home plate was the last of the half-inning, however, as he didn’t touch first and was tagged out.

One can only speculate if the result would have been different without the mistake, but it certainly ended San Francisco’s half-inning prematurely.

The Merchants struck back in the bottom of the inning with four runs, assisted by a three-RBI double by third baseman Nic Anderson to the fence in left-centre.

San Francisco earned one run back in the top of the seventh, but it was not enough as Everett held on for the victory.

The Seals ended the game with a 1-2 record while the Merchants’ record improved to 2-0.

Everett Merchants 6 at Houston Westchase Express 12

Losing Pitcher: Charlie Wright | Winning Pitcher: Nick Labbie

Despite this being the first of four shortened seven-inning games for the day, the fatigue of back-to-back games appeared to be too much for the Everett Merchants, who dropped their second game of the day 12-6 to the Houston Westchase Express.

After losing their first two games of the tournament, Houston expressed their desire to win with strong offensive performances from up and down the batting order.

While the Express started the game strong thanks to an RBI double by Keanu Van Kuren in the first inning, they put up an additional three runs in the second to take the lead early.

The Merchants pulled back within two in the top of the fourth, but Houston took back their four-run lead in the bottom of the inning.

Houston really shone in the fifth inning, however, as a sacrifice fly, a single to right field, and a two-run home run to left put the game away.

Everett attempted a comeback with a two-RBI double to left field in the sixth inning and a two-run home run to deep right field in the seventh, but Houston’s lead proved unassailable.

Olajide “OJ” Oloruntimilehin, the centre fielder for the Express, stood out as he hit the two-run shot and earned five RBIs on the day.

Houston improved their tournament record to 1-2 with the win, while Everett’s fell to 2-1.

Redmond Dudes 4 at Burnaby Bulldogs 13

Losing Pitcher: Cody Tompkins | Winning Pitcher: Braeden Allemann

In a long, wet game, the crowd favourite Burnaby Bulldogs ended their round robin with a 13-4 win over the Redmond Dudes in five innings.

Although the game was called off due to rain in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Bulldogs leading 14-5, the scoreline was scaled back to reflect the balance after five innings, because the sixth was not able to be completed.

Burnaby got the scoring started in the first inning with an RBI double courtesy of designated hitter Jon Thomas, but the Dudes tied it up in the top of the third with Clayton Truex’s two-out home run to left field.

The bottom of the inning proved disastrous for Redmond, though, as they went through four pitchers while the Bulldogs put six runs on the board and took a 7-1 lead.

Redmond looked to begin a comeback in the fourth inning with a three-run performance, but a six-run fifth inning featuring a grand slam from Bulldogs catcher Brody Hawkins, the first of the tournament, truly buried the Dudes.

The game featured a long rain delay before the game was finally called off, but that didn’t stop the players from entertaining the fans.

Redmond centre fielder Chase Hacker ran out beyond second base, removed his shirt, ran across the diamond and slid across the wet tarp covering home plate before a Burnaby player did the same.

The win gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 record to finish the round robin, while the Redmond Dudes dropped to 1-2.

Alaska Goldpanners 0 at San Francisco Seals 2

Losing Pitcher: Derek Alumbaugh | Winning Pitcher: Drew Sthal

After an impressive effort by the GFI grounds crew to dry the field, the San Francisco Seals, in their second game of the day, found themselves with a 2-0 victory over the Alaska Goldpanners after a strong defensive performance.

The only runs of the competitive game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when the Seals were able to string together three singles with two out to earn the win.

The victory was far from guaranteed, however, and Jimmy Cain, the second runner who scored on the two-RBI single, was nearly tagged out at a play at the plate.

San Francisco starting pitcher Drew Sthal was the obvious star of the game.

In seven innings on the mound, he allowed only two hits and three walks while striking out five.

The six-and-a-half-inning game, by far the fastest of the tournament thus far, took just under an hour and a half to complete as the two teams showcased their defensive skills.

The short game was welcomed by many fans though, as the game which was scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. began nearly three hours later due to rain delays.

The Seals ended day four of action with a 2-2 record, while the Goldpanners suffered their first loss and fell to 2-1.

Unión de Reyes, Cuba 3 at Seattle Studs 6

Losing Pitcher: Alejandro Ortega | Winning Pitcher: Merle Rowan-Kennedy

Although the marquee match-up of the night between Unión de Reyes and the defending GFI champion Seattle Studs was delayed until 9:30 p.m., James Donaldson Park was full of fans cheering on the Cuban club.

Unfortunately for those fans, however, Unión de Reyes suffered their second loss of the tournament, losing by three runs to the Studs.

Seattle began the scoring in the first inning thanks to an error by Cuban shortstop Alberto Bello which allowed a run to score, but a Unión de Reyes run that scored thanks to a pair of groundouts and a Seattle error tied the game at one in the top of the second, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

A three-run bottom of the inning dampened the Cubans’ celebrations, though, as the Studs took a 4-1 lead after two.

Unión de Reyes got a run back in the fifth inning on a play where Bello emphatically gestured “safe” at the home plate umpire after crossing the plate, but Seattle restored their three-run lead in the bottom of the inning.

A comeback looked possible in the top of the fifth for the Cuban team as they loaded the bases with two outs, but the appearance of Seattle reliever Anthony Brady, considered by many rivals to be the best pitcher in the Pacific International League, quickly put a stop to any hopes of doing so.

Although Brady walked in a run on the first batter he faced, the talented reliever quickly ended the inning and struck out four in two shut-down innings to close out the game.

Despite the loss, the fans were excited and entertained by Unión de Reyes’ play and antics on the field.

When celebrating an out, the Cubans would often do an “improvised throw around the mound”, in the words of Redmond’s Clayton Truex, while also impressing spectators with their speed on the base paths.

The Studs improved their record to 2-1 with the win, while Unión de Reyes fell to 0-2 ahead of their final two games of the round robin on Saturday.

Grand Forks Gazette