In a game in which hits were at a premium, the most important one was the hit that never fell.
With a runner on third charging home with the potential tying run, Parksville Royals shortstop Thomas Green raced back into shallow left field and reached up to snare a soft line drive by Nanaimo’s Finn Martin and preserve a 3-2 victory over the Pirates in B.C. Premier Baseball League play Saturday at Springwood Park.
Nanaimo repaid the favour in the second game, holding off a wild Parksville rally in the bottom of the seventh inning and stranding the tying and winning runs in a 5-4 win over the Royals.
“We’re really pleased with the day, overall,” Royals head coach Dave Wallace said. “We were down 5-0 before we even got to bat, so that second game was almost like a win. “If we’d have gotten that last base hit we’d be ecstatic.”
The split left the young Royals squad at 2-2 in league play heading into another doubleheader Sunday at Victoria. The team will be back home this Saturday to face White Rock at 1 p.m. at Springwood.
“Wins were hard to come by last season, so this has been a good start,” Wallace said, noting a season-opening road win in Victoria a week earlier. “Learning how to win is habit-forming.”
In Saturday’s opener, Parksville starter Adam McKilliken hurled five innings of one-hit ball and overcame a three-error second inning that saw Nanaimo jump ahead 2-0 without the benefit of a hit.
Parksville Royals starter Adam McKilliken delivers a pitch during Saturday’s 3-2 win over Nanaimo in B.C. Premier League play at Springwood Park. The Royals return to Springwood this Saturday to host White Rock beginning at 1 p.m. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
But his teammates managed to scrape back two unearned runs of their own in the bottom of the third, then scored the game-winner in the fifth when Green legged out an infield grounder that Nanaimo shortstop Shane Rogers bobbled briefly before throwing to first too late to catch Green. That scored Spencer Walton, who reached on the first hit of the game surrendered by Nanaimo starter Sam Baker and who advanced to third when Kieran Bowles followed with another, two-out single.
“That’s all I was hoping for,” said McKilliken, whose throw to first was misplayed for on of three errors in the disastrous second inning. “I just tried to keep my composure out there. I knew if I kept them to two runs, my boys would come back.”
McKilliken struck out five, but struggled at times with his command and also walked five Pirates, driving up his pitch count. After he walked the leadoff hitter in the top of the sixth, Wallace went to the bullpen for Aidan Brot, who picked up the save while allowing one single in two shutout innings.
The teams combined for only five hits, and all of the game’s runs were unearned.
McKilliken admitted to a tense moment when Martin hit his two-out flare to left field as Alex Jinda raced toward home with what would have been the tying run in the bottom of the seventh. But Green spun and sprinted back to gather in the ball with a short leap.
“I knew (Green) had a chance, but my heart went up in my throat a little bit there,” McKilliken said. “That was a great play; he’s got really nice range.”