HYDE CREEK — In the middle of the third inning of Wednesday’s North Vancouver Island Baseball League playoff opener, the Hyde Creek Hillbillys found themselves trailing the Port McNeill Rangers 8-2 and had shown little life other than an Ivan Hall home run.
Fortunately for the Hillbillys, Hall was just warming up.
The Hyde Creek catcher stroked home runs in each of his first three trips to the plate, added a bases-loaded double and finished with 10 RBIs as the Hillbillys stormed back for an 18-8 win at the local ballpark.
Jason West added four innings of scoreless relief, allowing just two hits, to pick up the victory and lift the Hillbillys into Saturday’s 10 a.m. semifinal against top-seeded Port Hardy.
The loser of that semifinal will face Port McNeill at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game, and the winners of the two games Saturday will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. for the league championship.
Taking advantages of shaky pitching and defense in the early going, Port McNeill jumped in front with four runs in the first inning and four more in the third off Hyde Creek starter Tom Cessford.
Hugh Connon hit a two-run single, Rob Kenny, Arron Harper and Jordan Altmiks had RBI hits, and Greg Johnson and Ed James drove in runs with a bases-loaded walk and a fielder’s choice, respectively.
Between those outbursts, Hall drove a pitch from Kenny high into the trees across Hyde Creek Road in the second inning to plate Cessford.
In the bottom of the third, Hall came to the plate again with Cessford aboard, and sent the ball deep to center field and just over the fence to bring the Hillbillys within 8-5.
The first four Hillbillys reached base in the fourth inning, with Nick Bono and Ryan Rushton driving in runs. With two outs, Cessford delivered a run-scoring single to tie the game and Hall followed with his third straight blast, onto the road beyond the left-field fence that gave Hyde Creek the lead for good.
The host club jumped on reliever Tyler Berry for seven more runs in the fifth, highlighted by Hall’s bases-clearing double to the gap in left-center field. Joe Leblanc and West, who finished 3-for-3, added run-scoring doubles.
Hall collected his final RBI in unconventional fashion to close the scoring in the sixth inning. With Rushton on third base and Keith Balcke on second, he hit a sharp grounder to shortstop. The Rangers’ Ed James threw to third, catching Balcke in a rundown that allowed Rushton to scamper home with the final run before Balcke was tagged trying to get back to second base.
Wednesday, July 20
Hyde Creek 18, Port McNeill 8
Rangers 404 000 0— 8 8 6
Hillbillys 023 571 x—18 15 4
Kenny, Berry (5) and Berry, Johnson (5). Cessford, West (4) and Hall. W — West (1-0). L — Kenny (0-1). LOB — Rangers 9, Hillbillys 5. 2b — Hillbillys: Hall, Leblanc, West. HR — Hillbillys: Hall 3 (3). Sb — Rangers: James, Altmiks. Hillbillys: Cessford 2, Galeazzi, Rushton, Bono, West. CS — Rangers: Berry. Picked off — Hillbillys: Rushton. Sac — Rangers: Connon. Hillbillys: Balcke 2. HBP — By Cessford (Hosken). By Kenny (Rushton). Umpires — Plate: Dumonceaux; Bases: Baker. T — 2:29. A — 24.