OTTAWA – Although the end result was not what they wanted, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds had a very successful season in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
The Thunderbirds finished 12th in the NAIA rankings, at one point being seeded as high as seventh. They finished the season with a 38-13 overall record, winning the West Conference with a 26-6 mark.
Several UBC players received awards for their play this season. OF Jon Syrnyk, P Mark Hardy, P Eric Brown and RP Shawn Hetherington were named to the Conference All-Star team, while 1B Scott Webster, 2B Alex White, SS Sammie Starr, P Taylor King and Syrnyk in the outfield all were awarded Gold Gloves. UBC finished the season with the top defence in the NAIA.
All of this happened under the watchful eye of 2009 NAIA West Coach of the Year Terry McKaig.
“I thought this was one of the most successful season’s we’ve had,” says McKaig. “When I reflect back on the year, I think we met almost all of our goals.”
The goal at the onset of the season explained McKaig was to qualify for a new sectional tournament brought in by the NAIA and then move on to the NAIA World Series. They were able to achieve phase one by winning the West Regional in dramatic fashion.
“We were the top ranked team in the regional and we lost our opening game of a four-team double knockout tournament,” remembers McKaig. “But we came back and won four straight including two games against a very tough Cal State San Marcos twice in the final.”
After winning the regional tournament, UBC went to one of the nine NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round tournaments. Their bracket was arguably the toughest with three of the top 25 NAIA schools in their five team pool.
UBC put on a valiant effort, winning their opening game against Biola (ranked #20) 8-6, but then fell to number three ranked Pt. Loma Nazarene 7-2 and then eliminated in a 15-12 slugfest with Azusa Pacific.
“Towards the end we were battling injuries and it became clear that we didn’t have enough horses to move on further in the season,” says McKaig.
But considering the UBC roster had only five seniors and they relied on young players such as freshman pitcher and Junior National Team alum Danny Britton-Foster, who McKaig said had one of the best freshman seasons he has ever seen in his time with the program, it was a good season to build on for future success.