The Victoria HarbourCats 2016 regular season has been a thrilling ride.
After starting the season 0-3, the team went on an unprecedented run, winning a West Coast League record, 19-consecutive games. The streak started with an 11-1 win over the Wenatchee AppleSox on Opening Night, June 7 at Royal Athletic Park. In that game, starting pitcher Dalton Erb, now in the San Diego Padres organization, carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
The streak set a new team record at ten, and a new WCL record after 15. Win number 18 on June 30 saw the HarbourCats clinch their first ever playoff berth by winning the WCL North Division first half pennant in a 9-1 win in front of a league record crowd of 5,133 fans at Royal Athletic Park.
The HarbourCats began the season 16-0 at home, and carry a remarkable 21-3 record in home games at Royal Athletic Park with three games remaining.
Baseball fans of Victoria have been flocking to the ballpark in record numbers all summer, and the HarbourCats are poised to set new franchise and league attendance records for total and average attendance, and will surpass the 50,000 mark at this Friday’s game against the Yakima Valley Pippins.
Victoria sent six players to the WCL All Star Game in Longview, WA on July 19, including their top three starting pitchers. Right-handers Austin Dondanville (Cal Poly) and Will McAffer (Central Arizona) along with lefty Josh Mitchell (Pitt) have combined for an 18-3 record, and with six wins apiece, have all tied the HarbourCats franchise record for wins in a single season.
Second year HarbourCat outfielder AJ Alcantara (UC Irvine) has led the team at the plate and in the field throughout the season, leading the team in batting average (.365 as of August 3), helping the team lead the league in runs scored by over one full run per game (303 runs scored in 50 games, 6.06 per game).
Entering the final four games of the regular season, the HarbourCats have won a team-record 37 games (37-13 overall) with four games remaining. That does not happen without contributions on all sides of the ball, and with a dominant pitching staff, combined with a prolific offence, and defence that has seen Alcantara make three highlight reel catches in left field taking away home runs, you can see how this incredible year came together.
With their 37 wins, the HarbourCats need three wins in their final four games to set a new West Coast League record for wins in a season with 40.
This Sunday, the HarbourCats play the finale of a three-game series against the Yakima Valley Pippins, who own the second best overall record in the WCL (31-19) and have a 2.5 game lead for the second half pennent in the WCL south division. This series is the only meeting of the season between the top two teams in the league, and there is a possibility that it could be a bit of foreshadowing for what could take place in the playoffs.
Saturday is FIREWORKS Night. Join the HarbourCats for their third and final fireworks display of the season as they say ‘Thank you’ to the fans. The display is a spectacular 17-minute show set up in center field, and is always one of the hottest tickets of the summer!
At the last fireworks game on June 30, a West Coast League record 5,133 filled Royal Athletic Park to watch the HarbourCats clinch the north division first half pennant and then celebrate with the fireworks.
It has been a remarkable year for the HarbourCats and their fans. After they celebrate with the fans this weekend, highlighted by Saturday, a 6:35pm start, they will be looking to cap off a great year in fitting fashion in the playoffs.
The team has already announced that they are bringing in additional seating at Royal Athletic Park for the playoffs as a boisterous and potentially record-breaking crowd is expected for the first playoff baseball game in Victoria since 1952, which will take place on Wednesday, August 10 at 6:35pm at Royal Athletic Park.
There is a long and storied history of baseball in the city of Victoria and the HarbourCats have written, and are still writing, one of the greatest chapters yet.
Planning on going to Saturday’s fireworks game? Victoria Buzz has obtained 200 tickets. A portion of the sale of these tickets will go to the Oakley family. There will also be a silent auction happening at the game to help raise funds for them. Tickets are $15 each. Please email email@example.com if you wish to purchase.