HYDE CREEK—Keith Balcke had just put the finishing touches on his most recent baseball bat a couple of days earlier. Four batters into Saturday’s North Vancouver Island Baseball League game, Hyde Creek Hillbillys teammate Ivan Hall gave it a memorable debut.
After watching the first pitch from Port McNeill hurler Harold Hosken pass by for a called strike, Hall turned on the second pitch and sent it over the left-field fence and into the woods across Hyde Creek Road.
“That was the first ball to ever touch that bat,” Balcke said. “I just finished it the other day.”
The bat is one of four “Hillbilly Slugger” models churned out by Balcke this spring. Four innings later, Hall used a different one to blast his second homer of the game, and the Hillbillys went on to a 15-5 romp over the Rangers.
Hall finished 4-for-4 with a double, four runs and five RBI as the Hillbillys improved to 2-1 on the young season. Curtis Carmen went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, and Taylor Galeazzi scored three times on a pair of hits and two walks.
After Hall staked the Hillbillys to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Rangers quickly tied it in the bottom half. Evan Steinhauer and Jordan Altmiks started the frame with a walk and a single, respectively, and both scored one out later when Jason Evans’s fielder’s choice was misplayed into an error.
But from there on, it was all Hyde Creek.
Hyde Creek tacked on three runs in the third inning behind an RBI triple by Ryan Rushton and run-scoring singles from Hall and Carmen. The Hillbillys pushed the lead to 7-2 in the fifth, on Hall’s second round-tripper and a run from Carmen, who singled and later crossed the plate on an error.
Galeazzi drove in Bill Rushton with a single run in the sixth, and the Hillbillys blew it open with an eight-run seventh inning.
The Rangers added three runs in the bottom of the seventh, but the rally was too little, too late.
Rob Kenny, Hugh Connon, Evans and Hosken all hit singles in the inning, which was aided by a pair of walks. Evans finished 3-for-4 and added a walk in his other plate appearance.
The Rangers, however, left 13 runners on base, including eight in scoring position.
Tom Cessford, who came on in relief in the second inning, picked up the win with four innings of four-hit ball. Hosken was pegged with the loss.
Sointula tourney on tap
The league takes a break for the coming weekend for the annual Sointula Invitational Baseball Tournament Saturday through Monday. The tourney is something of a homecoming for Malcolm Island, with many former residents returning to play on one of two local teams. The field is bolstered with competitors from the NVIBL and the Comox Valley.
A full concession runs throughout the weekend, along with a beer garden and oyster feed. A large children’s playground is located adjacent to the community ballfield, making the site ideal for a family outing.