HYDE CREEK—In typical fashion, the North Vancouver Island Baseball League season opener served up a full-spectrum smorgasbord of fastball follies at the local ballpark.
Big hits shared the menu with shutdown pitching. Highlight-reel defence with head-scratching errors and mental miscues. Wind-blown rainshowers with bright sunshine.
Oh, wait — everything except that sunshine thing, that is.
Chris Lamothe pitched six innings of four-hit ball and drilled a two-run home run as the Port Hardy Cubs rolled to a 16-7 victory over the Port McNeill Rangers Saturday to kick off the 2012 league season.
The Cubs opened the game with four runs in the top of the first inning and continued to build on the advantage against a succession of Rangers pitchers. The lead eventually grew to 16-1 in the seventh inning before Lamothe left the mound and the Rangers engineered a belated rally against a pair of Cubs relievers.
The rally — and the game — ended fittingly on a successful rundown on the Rangers’ third double-steal attempt in the inning.
Dave Stewart went 3-for-5 with three RBI and three runs for the winners. Curtis Martyn went 2-4 with a double, four runs scored and an RBI, and Rod Romas was 2-for-3 with a pair of runs and an RBI.
Much of the offensive onslaught came through the wildness of the five pitchers the Rangers employed on the chilly, damp evening. In all, they issued 11 walks and were backed by a defence that made six errors in the field.
While pitching a much cleaner line from the other dugout, the Cubs’ Lamothe was not without struggles. His first pitch of the night plunked Rangers leadoff hitter Deon Steinhauer, who eventually came around to score on a single by Jordan Altmiks, and plunked two more batters before the game was finished.
But Lamothe was also bailed out of his few jams by his defence. Left fielder Jake Colbourne made a fully extended, diving catch to rob Ed James of potential extra bases with one out and a runner aboard in the fifth inning, and Martyn, the shortstop, threw out Greg Johnson at the plate to prevent a run in the sixth.
The NVIBL instituted a new rule this season, plucked from the world of slo-pitch, limiting clubs to five runs per inning (when not trailing). The Cubs built their big lead without ever hitting this threshold, instead battering the Rangers with three and four runs per inning.
The Rangers finally put together a belated rally in the seventh inning when Stewart relieved Lamothe and suffered the same control struggles as most of the Rangers hurlers. Jason Evans and Jackson Taylor sandwiched walks around an infield single by Steinhauer — his second of the game — and all three batters eventually scored, two of them on steals of home. Three more walks and an RBI single by Nick Russell followed before Romas took the mound and closed out the game after allowing a bases-loaded walk to Evans for the final run.
League play resumes this weekend with a pair of games. The Hyde Creek Hillbillies open their season against Port Hardy Saturday at 6 p.m., then host Port McNeill Sunday at 4 p.m. All games are at Hyde Creek Ballpark.
Cubs 16, Rangers 7
Port Hardy 430 323 1—16 12 2
Port McNeill 100 000 6— 7 6 6
Lamothe, Stewart (7), Romas (7) and Romas, Lamothe (7). Hosken, Altmiks (3), Russell (3), Berry (5), Steinhauser (7) and Berry, Russell (5). LOB — Port Hardy 10, Port McNeill 8. 2b — Port Hardy, Martyn. HR — Port Hardy, Lamothe (1). SB — Port Hardy: Colbourne 2, Romas. Port McNeill: Steinhauer 3, Hosken, Russell, Evans. Umpire — Baker. T — 2:57. A — 12.