LEWISTON, Idaho – Coughing up multiple runs in both the 9th and 10th innings, the George Fox University Bruins opened the 2012 baseball season with a 9-8 10-inning loss to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the Guardian Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Tournament Friday here at Lewis-Clark State College's Harris Field.
Costly errors and a shaky bullpen proved to be the Bruins' undoing as the defense, which led the NCAA Division III in fielding last year with a .975 average, committed five errors leading to five unearned runs. Bruin relievers were touched for eight of the T'Bird runs in 4.1 innings after George Fox ace Brian Ranta had worked the first five frames, allowing only three hits and an unearned run while striking out four with one walk.
George Fox got on the board first with two runs in the top of the 3rd. Todd Nagamine walked, Jared Chase singled, both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Taylor Hunter delivered them both with a single to center. The Bruins added two more in the 6th as Danny Clifford doubled, Derek Blankenship walked, Clifford scored on a passed ball, and Blankenship crossed on Derek Dixon's single up the middle.
UBC got a tainted run off Ranta in the 3rd when Jerod Bartnik singled in Blake Carruthers. The T'Birds cut the deficit to 4-3 in the 6th after Ranta left with two runs off Bobby Orozco, who walked Kevin Brio and Matt Spillman with two out and then surrendered RBI singles to Brody Hawkins and Sebastian Wong.
The Bruins appeared to have the game in hand after scoring three in the 9th to build a 7-3 lead. Nagamine singled and Chase was hit by a pitch before Hunter doubled in the first run of the inning. Josh Rapacz's grounder to second scored Chase, and Clifford singled in Hunter.
The T'Birds rallied for four in the last of the 9th, starting with consecutive fielding errors at short and second by the normally sure-handed Blankenship and Hunter. Back-to-back singles by Mike Hole and Bartnik scored Carruthers and brought Carl Mason to the mound to replace Connor Harris. Andrew Firth's grounder scored Nick Senior to make it 7-5, and Biro fanned for the second out of inning. Spillman was intentionally walked to set up a force all around, but then Mason unintentionally walked Hawkins and Wong to tie the game. Carruthers fouled out with the sacks loaded, sending the game to extra innings.
The Bruins took an 8-7 lead off Nathan Kirby (1-0) in the top of the 10th when Zach Miller reached on a two-out error by Spillman at short and Nagamine and Chase hit consecutive singles, but again the Bruins could not nail it down in the bottom of the inning. Reliever Taylor Hill (0-1) was greeted by Senior with a game-tying homer to right-center, and Hole doubled down the left-field line. Ryan Taylor sacrificed Hole to third, and Firth was intentionally passed to set up a double play, but Biro singled through the left side as UBC pulled out the shocker.
George Fox banged out 11 hits in the game, British Columbia 12. Chase, Hunter, Clifford and Nagamine had two hits apiece for the Bruins, with Hunter knocking in three runs. Senior picked up three hits for the Thunderbirds while Hole, Bartnik and Spillman had two safeties each.
NEXT: George Fox (0-1) plays two games in the tournament Saturday against Concordia University-Portland at 10:00 a.m. and host Lewis-Clark State at 1:00 p.m. ... British Columbia (1-0), after a game with Concordia on Friday, plays L-C State Saturday at 4:00 p.m.