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Jays chase a playoff spot

Lose two to Abbotsford Cardinals, defeat Whalley Chiefs
Jordy Cunningham of the North Delta Blue Jays beats Abbotsford Cardinals infielder Luke Cooke to second base during a BC Premier Baseball League double-header at Mackie Park Sunday.

After a weekend where their offence was all but non-existent in two losses, the North Delta Blue Jays took one small step towards a B.C. Premier Baseball League playoff position with a 4-2 victory over the Whalley Chiefs Tuesday night at Mackie Park.

The victory came on the heels of two shutout losses at home Sunday, 2-0 and 7-0 setbacks to the Abbotsford Cardinals. After play Tuesday, North Delta’s won-loss record was 12-21, two games behind the eighth place Victoria Mariners.

The Chiefs scored first when Brad Fitzsimmons got on base on a North Delta fielding error, then scored from third on another miscue.

The Jays went ahead in the bottom half of the opening inning, with Clint Taylor driving in Shoma Sasaki with a single, then scoring on Bryan O’Hara’s base hit.

A bunt single from James Matthews scored Connor Prentice to pull the Chiefs even in the top of the second.

North Delta’s Sodai Hoshi scored the winning run on a passed ball in the third inning, then singled to score Sebastien Hayes for an insurance run in the fourth.

Starting pitcher Brett Sakaki got the victory for the Jays, allowing the two unearned runs on five hits while striking out five Chiefs batters. Luke Manuel got the save, collecting four strikeouts over the final three innings with Whalley managing just one hit and a walk.

The Jays struggled at the plate all day against Cardinals pitchers Sunday afternoon.

Singles by O’Hara and Jordy Cunningham was the only offence in game one, as Abbotsford pitcher Daniel Koo earned the shutout win by not allowing a walk and fanning five Blue Jays batters.

Abbotsford broke open a scoreless tie with a five-run fourth inning, adding two more in the fifth.

After a lead-off walk by Cunningham in the bottom of the first inning of game two, the next 16 Jays batters were retired in order. A bunt single from Riley Grewal in the sixth ended the no-hit bid, and when Trent Fletcher was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning, he was just the third Blue Jay to reach the basepath.

Pitching was not a problem for North Delta.

Steven Van Vooght was forced to take the loss after Abbotsford scored two earned runs on three hits and five walks in four innings. Van Vooght struck out five Cardinals batters. Luke threw the final three innings for North Delta, striking out five of the six batters he faced.

Despite Tuesday’s loss, the Chiefs are in contention for a playoff position after a pair of one-sided victories late in the week at Whalley Stadium. They blanked the North Shore Twins 2-1 Wednesday and stopping the Vancouver Cannons 7-1 on Thursday to improve to 8-21, and are four and one-half games away from eighth place.

Fitzsimmons earned the win in the victory over the Twins, as the 17 year-old Chilliwack resident allowed just three hits and four walks in five innings pitched, striking out four North Shore batters.

Tyler Ang threw the final two innings, in which the Twins managed only a single.

Whalley made the most of just three hits. Connor Rogers drove in one run in the second inning with a double, later scoring on a Twins miscue. In the third inning, Rogers smacked a bases-loaded double to score Brendan Lim, Will Motley and Braeden Allemann.

A day later against the Cannons, the Chiefs fell behind early when Vancouver scored an unearned run in their first at-bat.

Whalley responded by sending 12 batters to the plate in the bottom half of the frame, scoring seven times. Rogers hit his third double in two days to drive in the first run, then Prentice singled to put Whalley up 2-1.

Alleman singled to score another two runs, scoring on a bases loaded walk to Kyle McComb. Jordan McComb drove in the final two runs with a single.

North Delta resident Yuta Kikuzaki was the winning pitcher. The Cannons scored the one unearned run on five hits and a walk. Kikuzaki collected five strikeouts, and lowered his earned run average to 1.08, seventh-best in the 13-team PBL.

Both Whalley and Blue Jays are idle on the long weekend, but the Chiefs will host the Victoria Mariners in a rare midweek double header on Tuesday afternoon. Game times are noon and 2:30 p.m. at Whalley Stadium.