A Mid Island Pirates team loaded with Cowichan Valley talent won the B.C. Premier Baseball League regular-season pennant last week and is now making a push for the league championship.
The Pirates finished the season with a PBL-best 38-10 record, then swept past the Victoria Eagles in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday to advance to the championship tournament this coming weekend at UBC.
The Pirates defeated Victoria 6-1 and 5-3 in the playoff games at Nanaimo’s Serauxmen Stadium to earn their spot in the four-team tournament.
The first game saw Marcus Steen go 2-for-3 at the plate with a three-run home run, and Dylan Brock had a two-run home run. Brody Deverill was 2-for-3 and Ryan Waatainen was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game.
Ladysmith’s Steen and Duncan’s Deverill are among a sizable contingent from the Cowichan Valley on the Pirates. Other Duncan products include Josh Hill, Jackson Stephen, Connor Caskenette and Odhan Manhas, while Matt Simpson hails from Chemainus and Dylan Wilkinson is also from Ladysmith.
In the second game on Saturday, Caskenette hit a two-run single to break a 3-3 tie in the ninth inning, and also had a solo home run earlier in the game, finishing 4-for-5 with four RBIs. Mackinnon Homeniuk went 3-for-4, Waatainen added two hits and Steen drew three walks. Colby Neff was the winning pitcher, throwing three innings of shutout relief.
The Pirates will join four other teams at the BCPBL championships, including the host UBC Thunder, the Langley Blaze, the North Shore Twins and Coquitlam Reds.
The Pirates beat the Thunder twice last Wednesday to clinch the PBL pennant, defeating UBC 2-1 in the first game and 16-2 in the second.
Hill, the winning pitcher in the first game, said it was “pretty big” for the Pirates to win the BCPBL title and something that they wanted.
“It really pushed us and we went for it,” he said. “It means a lot to us. We’ve been here for three years and we’ve fought for it, but this year we finally had the team that could do it.”
The Pirates trailed the early game 1-0, but in the bottom of the sixth inning tied the game and then pushed across a go-ahead run when Waatainen’s squeeze bunt scored Steen. The Pirates won it in the top of the seventh as Hill struck out the Thunder’s final batter.
The last time the Pirates won the pennant was 2011, when they went 34-14. The 2019 Pirates established a new franchise record for wins, surpassing the 2012 Pirates who went 36-12.
In the blowout second win, Caskenette was 3-for-4, Hill was 2-for-3 with four RBIs, and Stephen had three RBIs.
Caskenette ended up as the league leader in RBIs with 45, to go along with his .343 batting average and a team-high 15 doubles. Steen batted .367 and led the Pirates in walks with 23 and steals with 12. Hill hit .323, Stephen hit .298, and Manhas hit .288.
Stephen also had the team’s best pitching ERA of 0.63 over 11 appearances, including six starts and five complete games, and also tied Hill for third on the team with seven wins. Hill posted a 2.64 ERA in 12 appearances, including seven starts and five complete games.
With files from Greg Sakaki, Black Press