Let’s play ball!
The excitement is palpable as the Victoria HarbourCats gear up for a high-stakes clash in the West Coast League Championship.
This will mark the third time in the past five seasons that the HarbourCats find themselves in a nerve-wracking one-game, winner-takes-all contest for the coveted title.
Adding to the anticipation, this critical game is set to unfold once again on the hallowed grounds of Corvallis, Oregon.
Holding the aspiration to become the first Canadian-based team to seize the WCL crown, the HarbourCats have paved their way to the championship clash with an exhilarating 7-6 triumph over the Bellingham Bells in a thrilling Saturday showdown at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.
The upcoming championship spectacle, scheduled for Monday evening at 8 p.m. at Goss Stadium, comes with a slight time adjustment due to extreme heat conditions, ensuring both teams compete under safe and comfortable circumstances.
The HarbourCats’ journey to this point has been nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Their triumphant march saw them clinch their third North Division playoff title, previously achieving this feat in 2017 and 2019. The tumultuous challenges brought on by the pandemic saw play suspended in 2020 and 2021, adding to the significance of this year’s contention.
Equally remarkable is their escape from the clutches of the Bellingham Bells in the playoffs, marking the first time the HarbourCats have prevailed over this formidable adversary. The Bells had previously emerged victorious in clashes during 2016 and 2022.
The Saturday encounter between these fierce competitors started with an impressive offensive display by the Bellingham Bells. The first two batters found their mark with singles, setting the stage for Andrew Valdez to deliver a three-run blast, leaving the HarbourCats reeling at 3-0 with no outs recorded by HarbourCats starter Logan MacNiel.
The second inning continued the Bells’ domination, as MacNiel encountered further challenges, allowing two runners to cross the plate, extending Bellingham’s lead to a daunting 5-0 after just one and a half innings, effectively hushing the crowd of over 3,600 passionate fans.
However, the HarbourCats were not to be silenced for long.
A spirited resurgence in the bottom of the second inning, fueled by an error and a sacrifice fly, saw them notch two runs on the scoreboard, bringing them back within striking distance.
The pivotal turning point came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when the HarbourCats engineered a remarkable five-run surge, dramatically seizing a 7-5 lead. The decisive blow came from Hudson Shupe’s two-run, two-out single, expertly executed off Trevor Moore, the third Bellingham pitcher of the inning.
Pitching proved to be a game-changer as well.
Jake Finkelstein showcased his prowess in relief of MacNiel, delivering five and a third innings of near-flawless pitching, allowing only two hits, no runs, and recording three strikeouts. Josh Berenbaum joined the fray in the seventh inning, skillfully diffusing a bases-loaded crisis and maintaining control through the ninth inning.
The final moments were tense as Bellingham mounted a spirited comeback bid in the ninth inning, closing in on the HarbourCats’ lead and placing the tying run on second base.
However, with poise under pressure, Dustin Davidson induced a crucial fly ball, and Brett Harvey masterfully sealed the deal with a fly to right and a pop-up to first base, clinching victory and igniting a euphoric celebration among the elated crowd.
Standout performances were aplenty on the HarbourCats’ side.
Jack Johnson’s three RBIs, coupled with his stellar defensive play at third base in the third inning, contributed significantly to the team’s success. Meanwhile, Dallas Macias etched his name into the game’s annals with a game-changing catch in left field during the sixth inning.
The stage is now set for the West Coast League Championship game, promising an electrifying showdown this Monday night at 8 pm in Corvallis.
The victor of this monumental clash will earn the prestigious title of 2023 West Coast League Champions, solidifying their place in baseball history.
While the HarbourCats are set to compete away from home in this pivotal encounter, fans can still catch all the action from the comfort of their homes.
Various streaming options are available to ensure that no one misses out on the thrilling moments:
There are a few options to watch tonight's championship in Corvallis. We are working on getting the game on https://t.co/nH0PAy5jDB as well!
WCL Live: https://t.co/G2bjyQDryr
— Victoria HarbourCats (@HarbourCats) August 14, 2023
The countdown is on for a historic clash that promises to deliver heart-pounding moments and unforgettable baseball drama.