HYDE CREEK—Jason West and Ivan Hall combined on a six-hit shutout and Richard Balcke drove in a pair of runs with a double and a triple Saturday as the Hyde Creek Hillbillys belatedly opened the 2014 North Vancouver Island Baseball League season with a 7-0 win over the Port McNeill Rangers at the local ballpark.
The Hyde Creek hurlers were bailed out by some nifty defence from their teammates, who turned three double plays to nullify any Rangers’ scoring threats.
The season had been scheduled to open one week earlier, but a rebuild of the diamond’s infield by an assortment of Hillbilly volunteers was not yet complete. With the Port Hardy Cubs unable to play their scheduled 5 p.m. game Saturday, Port McNeill and Hyde Creek instead met at 1 p.m. under brilliant sun for a makeup of the previous weekend’s postponement.
Port McNeill pitcher Harold Hosken actually had the better of things in the early going, holding the Hillbillys hitless until Balcke led off the third inning with a triple deep to the opposite field. Hosken struck out the next two batters and seemed poised to dodge trouble, but Tom Cessford’s infield grounder was misplayed and Balcke scooted home with the unearned game-winner.
The Hillbillys broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth, batting around and reaching the five-run limit to push their lead to 6-0. Hosken hurt his cause by walking four batters in the frame and one run scored when a botched rundown led to an error.
But the Hillbillys also did some hitting, with Balcke’s two-run double to the base of the left-field fence providing the big blow. Chad Bell added an RBI single, and Jason West and Ryan Rushton also had hits in the inning.
Hyde Creek closed out the scoring with a single run in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Mike Scott and Rushton.
West struck out five batters to pick up the season’s first win. Hall threw the last three innings and struck out the final seven batters he faced to earn the save.
Two of the Rangers’ hits actually came from Keith Balcke, borrowed from Hyde Creek for the day to fill out the Port McNeill roster. Hosken added two hits and also struck out 10 in five innings of work. Rob Kenny finished up with a scoreless sixth for the Rangers.
The NVIBL will take a break this weekend for the annual Sointula Invitational Baseball Tournament, held at the community field each May Long Weekend from Saturday through Monday.
The tourney actually kicks off with an entertaining kids game Friday evening, followed by contests between local clubs and several that visit from the Comox Valley. The feature event is the traditional grudge match between the two Sointula rivals, the Young Guns and the Old Guys.
The tourney is a fundraiser for the Malcolm Island Recreation Association and includes both traditional concession and an oyster/shrimp bar, as well as a beer garden. For younger children, a fenced playground on-site is a popular destination.