The White Rock Tritons ran their way to three victories last weekend.
The BC Premier Baseball League team – losers of three straight and struggling with a 2-7 record prior to their weekend schedule – swept a doubleheader with the Whalley Chiefs Saturday, winning 8-7 and 6-1, before earning a split with the Vancouver Cannons Sunday afternoon.
“We really needed that,” said White Rock head coach Russ Smithson. “We didn’t get off to the best start… but winning three of four games, that’s got to be the norm for us for the next few weekends so we can climb back (up the standings).”
In all four contests, White Rock did most of their damage on the base paths, stealing 19 bases in the four-game stretch, including 12 in the nightcap Sunday against Vancouver, won 11-9 by the Peninsula squad.
The Tritons lead the PBL with 39 steals this season.
Smithson – who admits he coaches his players to be aggressive on the base paths – doesn’t expect his team to keep up such a torrid pace, but said it was a key reason for their weekend success, especially considering the team is dealing with injuries to key offensive players. Both leadoff hitter Daniel Cassino and No. 4 batter Tom Melenchuk are currently “day to day” with injuries.
Melenchuk did play the first game of the weekend, going 2-for-6 with five runs-batted-in against the Chiefs, but was restricted to pinch-hitting duties after that, while Cassino sat out the entire weekend.
“We are just grinding out games right now, and trying to be aggressive without some of our players in the lineup,” Smithson said. “We’re stealing a ton of bags, we bunted a few times, had some hit-and-runs – anything to get the ball in play and make the other team play some defence.
“We aren’t that fast, but we’re aggressive. It’s risk and reward, but it’s working for us right now.”
Smithson was also impressed with his players’ ability to play out of position – and often in multiple spots per game – as the team tries to fill holes created by injured players.
In the absence of Cassino and Melenchuk, for example, Smithson pointed to James Pavelick as one such example.
“James had a really great weekend,” Smithson said of the Earl Marriott slugger, who played three different positions in Game 2 against the Cannons.
Pavelick went 2-for-5 in that game, with a run, a stolen base and four runs-batted-in.
“We’ve had to play guys all over. In that (second) game Sunday we used 17 different players,” Smithson explained. “We’ve had to put pitchers in at first or second base, but everybody’s really stepped up. I love their attitudes – they never say no, they just say, ‘sure coach’ and they go out and play.”
Keaton Edwards picked up the win in that game, pitching two-and-two-thirds innings of relief, striking out two.
In Saturday’s two wins over Whalley, Barry Caine – pitching in relief of starter Zach Campagne – and Allen Hogg earned the victories on the mound.
Despite the latest stretch of wins, which boosted White Rock’s record to 5-8 – good for ninth in the 13-team circuit – Smithson said his team still had a lot of room to improve, especially defensively.
“We still haven’t played to our full potential, not even for a single game,” Smithson said. “Coming into the season, I really thought defence would be our strength. But we’ve been struggling so far.
“We really just have to tighten up.”
The team has just three games this week. They host the Abbotsford Cardinals tonight (Thursday) at South Surrey Athletic Park, and then play a pair of home games Saturday against Parksville.