Eagles Pitching Silences Calgary Bats in Pre-Season Baseball Action

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN) – The Victoria Eagles used solid pitching from eight different players to defeat the visiting Calgary Blues by scores of 4-1 and 1-0 in BC Premier Baseball League pre-season action Saturday at Lambrick Park in Victoria.

The games were the first for the Premier Eagles in the 2014 season as they prepare to defend their 2013 BC Premier Baseball League (PBL) Championship title.

The visiting Blues, who on Friday had devoured the Victoria Midget AAA Selects pitching for a total of 25 runs, were largely silent on Saturday against the tougher Eagle's pitching, with their only run on the day generated in the first inning of Game 1, when Todd Layton would draw a leadoff walk and then come in to score on a single by Jeff Derks.

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Eagles pitcher Adam Bontkes (top), Ethan Skuija (second), Stephen Thorton (third) and Karsten Waters (bottom), would hold the Calgary Blues to just a single run in Game 1 action on Saturday (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

After that, Eagle's starter Adam Bontkes would settle in nicely to keep the Blues off the board for the rest of his 2 plus innings and then turn it over to relievers Ethan Skuija, Stephen Thorton and Karsten Waters who would hold the Blues to just three hits the rest of the way.

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Jeff Derks had a hot bat for Calgary all weekend and singled home the Blues only run in Saturday's games against the Premier Eagles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

On the offensive side of the diamond, the Eagles would get things going in the bottom of the second when catcher Sam Stevenson would draw a leadoff walk from Blues starter Tanner Jesson and then eventually come in to score on a wild pitch.

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Calgary catcher Jacob Cuch would chase down the Eagles Karsten Waters in this Game 1 run-down on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Stevenson, healthy again after missing most of last season due to a knee injury, would key another rally in the bottom of the third inning as he notched a 2-RBI double that scored Zane Takhar and Ben Goertzen, who had reached base on a walk and single respectively. Earlier in the inning Tyson Abbot singled and scored and the Eagles held the 4-1 lead after three innings of play.

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Healthy again after missing most of 2013, the Eagles Sam Stevenson had a 2-RBI double in Game 1 and will be an important bat in the Eagle's line-up this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

After that, credit the Blues relief pitcher Justin Johnston and his defence who would hold the Eagles to just three more scattered hits for the game, including second hits on the day for both Abbott and Stevenson.

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Calgary pitchers Tanner Jesson (top) and reliever Justin Johnson (bottom) would do well to keep the Eagle's batters in check in Game 1 Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In Game 2, the Eagles trotted out 15-year old Martin Eckard to the mound and he demonstrated why Manager Anthony Pluta is very high on his potential, cruising through three innings of work with little damage.

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In Game 2 Saturday, Eagle's starter Martin Eckard (top) and second pitcher Riley Edmonds (bottom) would silence the Calgary bats through the first five innings of the game (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Eckard would turn the ball over to the Eagle's expected #1 starter this season, Riley Edmonds, and Edmonds side-arm delivery would continue to frustrate the Blue's batters through both the fourth and fifth innings.

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Calgary pitcher Jeff Derks had an impressive outing Saturday, holding the Eagles to just a single run in his 5 innings of work (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Not to be outdone however, Calgary starter Jeff Derks was spinning a beauty of his own, retiring the first six Eagles batters he faced and remaining unscathed until the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Eagles strung together four singles in a row – by Cade King, Thorton, Waters, and third baseman Evan Smith – that brought Thorton home with what would be the only run of the game.

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The Eagle's Zane Takhar looks back at his perfectly placed bunt during Game 2 Saturday. Takhar would beat it out for an infield hit (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Following that, Eagles relievers Koby Morris and Tyler DeMan, as well as Dallas Patterson, who went in to pitch for the Blues in order to give Calgary's weary pitchers a break, all worked the rest of the game without surrendering a run and the Eagles would finish with the 1-0 win.

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Eagle relievers Kobe Morris (top) and Tyler DeMan (bottom) would shut the door on the Blues to reserve the Eagles 1-0 win in Game 2 (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

For Eagle's Manager Anthony Pluta, seeing all of his pitchers work effectively today was an optimistic sign for the coming season, especially given the turnover from his 2013 BCPBL Championship winning squad. No less than 12 players from that team have now moved on including hurlers Brett Hull, Kurt Horne, Jason Heckl, Brandon Feldman, Eric Hegadoren and Tony Ebbs-Canavan.

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Calgary baserunner Kyle Dejardins would slide safely into second as this throw would get away from Eagle's shortstop Zane Takhar (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

As such, Pluta will be counting on the likes of Edmonds, as well as Skuija and Eckard to be big performers for the club this season. "Riley [Edmonds] and Ethan [Skuija], who started the Championship game for us last season, will likely by my #1 and #2 starters this year, with Eckard and Adam Bontkes, who was in the pen last year, also seeing their fair share of starts. We have a bunch of other players who can take the mound as well, so I have a lot of confidence in my pitching staff this season."

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Calgary batter Brett Biever bids for a base hit Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Those other arms in the Eagles bullpen include the likes of Morris, DeMan, Thorton, Karsten Waters and Patterson, all of whom pitched Saturday, as well as Drew Davidoff and Brendan Turcotte, who were both away for the games against the Blues and Evan Smith, who pitched for the Selects on Friday.

The Eagles will also be buoyed this season by the return of Sam Stevenson who missed all of last season after an injury to his knee. "Sam will bring some power to our lineup and he will be our main guy at catcher and bring some stability there for us, especially with our young pitching staff." noted Pluta.

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Sam Stevenson (top) and Tyson Abbott (bottom) should see the bulk of the catching duties for the Eagles in 2014 (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Taking some of the load off Stevenson behind the plate will be Tyson Abbott, who caught Game 2 Saturday, and who stroked a pair of singles in Game 1.

Other defensive positions are up for grabs this season notes Pluta, especially second and first. "Those spots are open and we are going to have a few guys compete for those spots." On Saturday, Alex Hendra-Brown played both games at second and acquitted himself nicely in that spot, although it is anticipated he will see also see a fair share of time in centrefield, a spot he has played well in the past. 

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Alex Hendra-Brown could see a fair bit of time at the second base position for the Eagles this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

At first, Karsten Waters, Cade King and Stephen Thorton shared the first base duties in both games Saturday and are all expected to see time there early in the season, as will Brendan Turcotte (absent Saturday) until a #1 candidate emerges.

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Look for Cade King to see some time at first base this season for the Eagles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

On the other side of the infield, it looks like Zane Takhar will be the #1 shortstop as he played both games Saturday in that position. Pluta will have a number of choices for third base as well, given that Evan Smith, Kobe Morris and Noah Brassert all saw time in that spot at various times on the weekend.

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The Eagles Zane Takhar should be a regular fixture for the Eagles at shortstop in 2014 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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Kobe Morris (top) will see his fair share of time on the third base corner this season, while Evan Smith (bottom) will add another arm in the bullpen  (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In the outfield, the speed of Ben Goertzen and Alex Hendra-Brown will be definite assets, while others like Kieran Waters, Brassert (who made a nice running catch in Game 2), DeMan, Dallas Patterson, Tyler Duncan, Davidoff, Turcotte and Karsten Waters will be more than capable to fill in as needed.

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With this great running catch Saturday, Noah Brassert showed that the Eagles' will have a very capable outfield in 2014 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Pluta and his coaching staff – Jay Longpre, Jesse Blackstock, Charlie Strandlund, Roy Moretti, Justin Gibson and Mitch Davidoff – are looking forward to working with this young team this season. "Last year will certainly be a tough act to follow," notes Pluta, " but I think this year is going to be lots of fun. We have four of the best Grade 10s in the city, plus some key returning guys, and they all have a ton of confidence. I'm excited and I know we are ready to go. Our guys have lots of potential and they are all great athletes. We are deep in pitching, with lots of speed, and I think that gives us a great chance to win back to back titles."

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Kobe Morris (top) and Tyler Duncan (bottom) give the Eagles a couple of left-handed sticks in their offensive attack (Photos: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Premier Eagles will continue their pre-season for the next few weeks and then kick off the 2014 PBL season on Saturday April 12th when they host the Parksville Royals for a pair at Lambrick Park. Game 1 is scheduled to begin at 12 Noon.

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The Eagles installed their 2013 Championship sign Saturday, where it sits under the right-field scoreboard (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

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