BELLINGHAM, Wash. — For the Victoria HarbourCats, the drive to reach the West Coast League’s playoffs, to be one of four teams in the 12-team loop battling for the championship, was halted on the season’s second-last day.
The Corvallis Knights defeated the Medford Rogues 7-4 on Saturday, minutes after the Yakima Valley Pippins came up short in a 2-1 loss to Wenatchee, eliminating the Pippins from contention. The Knights win clinched the Wild Card spot for Corvallis, making the final score in Bellingham — 4-3 win for the Bells — a non-factor, and making the HarbourCats the last team to be eliminated from the playoff picture.
Bend and Corvallis will meet in one series, while Kelowna and Bellingham will play the other best-of-three semifinal. The winners will meet in a best-of-three final. Bellingham is the defending champion.
The HarbourCats are 28-24 on the season, with Sunday afternoon’s capper in Bellingham. Victoria is guaranteed the first over-.500 record in franchise history. Previous teams won 22 and 25 games respectively, not near enough to truly challenge for the playoffs.
“We took a step this year — but we’re not satisfied,” said GM Jim Swanson. “We made strides in changing the culture but we’re not done, there is more to do to tighten the program on and off the field, and continue to raise our level of professionalism. It’s a process that our new local ownership group is fully committed to.”
In front of 1,140 at Joe Martin Field, the HarbourCats took a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when Griffin Andreychuk scored on a wild pitch, only to have Bellingham push two runs across in the bottom of the inning. Another pair of Bells runs in the seventh turned out to be enough to withstand Victoria’s ninth-inning rally, punctuated by a two-run homer from Andreychuk, his fifth long ball of the season.
Andreychuk was 2-3 with two runs and two driven in, accounting for exactly half his team’s hit total. The HarbourCats did not make an error. Bellingham had seven hits and made one error.
There will not be playoff baseball in Victoria in 2015, but the team’s front office is well under way on plans for the 2016 season, from ticketing to special projects. The team’s recruiting for 2016 has also begun, with announcements due later in the month.
Fans with unused tickets from the 2015 season will want to stay tuned for details on a chance to use those tickets to secure the best seats for 2016.
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