A pair of late comebacks that fell just short is all that kept the White Rock Tritons from cracking the win column after two weekends of play in the BC Premier Baseball League.
The Tritons, who sit with an 0-4 win-loss record – they also played Tuesday against the Langley Blaze after Peace Arch News press deadline – dropped a pair of home games to the visiting Victoria Mariners, 4-2 and 8-7, on Saturday at South Surrey Athletic Park.
“We’re hitting the ball well, and we’re never out of any game when we have the sticks going, but it’s just our pitching that we’re having a little trouble with,” said Tritons head coach Russ Smithson.
Both games were close, and both contests involved the home team falling behind, only to make a late run in the final innings.
In Game 1, Victoria staked themselves to a 2-0 first-inning lead, and though the teams traded runs in the second frame, the Mariners extended the lead to 4-1 in the third.
White Rock’s lone early run came when first-year outfielder Quin Hall led off the second inning with a triple, and crossed the plate two batters later on an Anthony Walcott single.
The two hits were the team’s only ones of the game.
The teams played the next three innings scoreless, as the two starting pitchers – Victoria’s Liam Kruse and White Rock’s Saylor Gray – kept the opposing team’s bats at bay.
Each pitcher went the distance, with Kruse allowing just one earned-run and three hits over seven innings, while Gray struck out eight over seven frames, while giving up six hits and walking one.
“Saylor is just a horse for us, and when he gets into a grove, he’s tough for any team in the league,” Smithson said. “But we can’t pitch him 14 innings a week, so some of the young guys will have to step up. They just need innings, need to adjust to this level, so in the meantime we’ll hopefully tread water, and hopefully get a win or two.”
Despite his strong performance on the mound, Gray wasn’t able to pick up the win, though a comeback attempt in the seventh made it close for the home squad.
Trailing 4-1 in the final inning, third baseman Michael O’Toole led off with a walk, and advanced to third after an error, and then a play that resulted in an out. He crossed the plate for the team’s second run on a passed ball, when a pitch from Kruse got away from the catcher.
The second game was even closer, albeit higher in scoring.
Victoria scored at least one run in each of the first five innings – highlighted by a four-run fourth – while the Tritons kept pace with two runs in the first, another in the third, followed by a four-run burst over the final two frames.
White Rock trailed 8-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but closed the deficit to two runs when Nick Kutilin singled, moved to second on a balk from Victoria pitcher Dylan Price, and then scored on a Travis Klein double.
The Tritons weren’t able to get any further runs across the plate, and dropped their fourth consecutive game to start the year.
As opposed to the first game, in which Gray lasted the full seven innings, the nightcap was a group effort on the mound, with Tanner Carmont, Chris Kaufmann, Gavin Wilson and Allan Hogg all taking a turn pitching, with Hogg lasting the longest, at two-and-a-third innings.
Despite the winless record, Smithson insisted he wasn’t yet panicking.
“It’s a long season, we know that. And we know wins can come in bunches, especially when you’re playing four games a weekend,” he said. “We’re just going to keep swinging.”
The veteran coach knows full well the damage that a slow start can do to a baseball season. Last year, the Tritons started the season with just three wins in their first 21 games, before rallying for a playoff spot in late spring. The surge came up just short, however, and the team was eliminated from contention on the final weekend of the regular season.
White Rock gets another chance to move up the standings this weekend, as the team travels to Vancouver Island for four games. On Saturday, they’ll play two against the Parksville Royals, before heading to Nanaimo for a Sunday doubleheaders against the Pirates.
The Royals are 2-2 so far this season, while the Pirates sit with a 1-3 record.
“There are games out there to be won, and if there was ever a time where we needed to put forth our best effort and get one win or four wins, this would be it,” Smithson said.
“But saying that, these teams see us coming in at 0-4 and probably think they’re winnable games, too.”