Vinny Martin’s clutch hit won the Victoria Eagles its first B.C. Premier Baseball League championship on Sunday, 3-2 over the Nanaimo Pirates in Abbotsford.
It was the moment kids dream of.
The Eagles were down 2-1, the bases were loaded, and there was two out when Martin stepped into the batters box to face Pirates closer Luke Skingle in the bottom of the seventh, the final inning.
“We were really nervous but I knew (Martin) was going to get a hit,” said Brandon Feldman, who pitched the top of the seventh.
“Martin is a great curveball hitter and (Skingle) throws a good curveball. Once Martin had two strikes on him I knew it was coming and he hit it to left field (to win the game).”
Mitch Hawkins, Ben Goertzen and Kyle Murai singled ahead of Martin. Feldman had a pretty good view as he watched from the on deck circle. He would have batted next if Martin had reached but only scored one, but Goertzen wheeled in from second base to win the game.
The championship win was still sinking in for Feldman when he woke up on Monday, only to find out he had been voted by the BCPBL coaches as the regular season MVP for hitting .439 with 54 hits, three home runs, 35 runs batted in and a .507 on base percentage (OBP).
“I had no idea I was MVP until I woke up today.”
It’s the latest of Feldman’s trophy haul, which includes the B.C. championship as well as the top hitter award from the BCPBL playoffs, where he led with nine hits for a .429 average, five RBI and a .500 OBP.
Feldman also hit one of the only two home runs in the playoffs, a solo shot which spurred the Eagles to a four-run rally in the third inning of Game 1 of the BCPBL Final Four versus the Pirates on Friday. Kurt Horne pitched a complete game with six strikeouts for the win.
The Eagles were shutout by Vancouver Cannons pitcher Brandon Marklund in Game 2 on Saturday but bounced back later that day to win Game 3 over the host Abbotsford Cardinals on the shoulders of Riley Edwards’ complete-game shutout with seven strikeouts. It set up an unthinkable all-Island final, with the sixth-place Eagles facing the seventh-place Pirates.
“It was kind of expected of ourselves to be in the top four (of the regular season) but we missed it with a bad stretch for the last six games,” said first year Eagles manager Anthony Pluta.
Pitcher Riley Edmonds was named top pitcher of the playoffs and Martin was named MVP of the final for hitting in all three Eagles runs. Martin allowed Zane Takhar to scored in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly.
“This is a team which is only four years old. It had never won a playoff game and only made it to the playoffs for the first time last year.”
“The turning point” was the opening round, when the Eagles took down the second-place North Shore Twins in the best-of-three series, Pluta said.
The Eagles shocked the Twins with an eight-run rally in the second inning of the first game and won 12-7. The Twins took Game Two 8-2 and went up 6-1 in the first inning against Edmunds in Game 3.
“I told Edmunds even big leaguers give up five-spots in the first inning then settle down to pitch a complete game. He went four scoreless innings and we scored runs every inning until the seventh to hang on for the (9-7) win,” Pluta said.
Feldman and Eagles pitcher Brett Hull are headed to Otero Junior College in Colorado in three weeks, while Martin will join Eagles teammate Eric Hegadoren at the University of B.C., as seven Eagles in all are graduating on to play college baseball this year.
Feldman and Martin were both named to the BCPBL all-conference first team as infielders, with Victoria Mariners pitcher Colton Wood. Mariners Jesse Mycock (outfield) and Chris Fouger (utility) were named to the all-conference second team and Mariners pitcher Dan Philips was honoured for throwing a no-hitter this year.