VICTORIA, BC — It was a dark and stormy night.
And both AJ Alcantara and Will McAffer were up to their old tricks, but too bad it wasn’t enough.
The Bellingham Bells, for the second time in as many nights, used a three-run home run as a key component of a win over the Victoria HarbourCats, this time an 8-3 decision that included five runs in the top of the 10th inning — following a crushing blow, a three-run shot by catcher Matt Dileo, his first of the season.
All of it came in front of a crowd of 2,004 and with a dark, ominous sky approaching from the southeast, an odd direction for such weather to find land in Victoria. The skies opened up with a vengeance after, or a half-hour after the final out.
McAffer, who struck out nine batters and walked one, held the Bells without a hit through seven innings and then walked a batter and gave up a single to start the eighth. Holden Lyons relieved him and gave up an earned run for just the third time this season, and second time since the opening weekend. He saw himself charged with six runs, five of them earned.
His no-hitter was extended into the eighth inning thanks to another amazing catch in left field by AJ Alcantara. Earlier in the season, he robbed a Kelowna Falcons player of a grand slam with a catch that saw his glove well above the fence line, and on Thursday, he took away a round-tripper from David Banuelos to end the seventh inning.
The result also set up the first two-game losing streak for the HarbourCats (28-10 on the season, 5-6 in second half) since a season-opening sweep in Walla Walla.
The HarbourCats scored two in the first inning off Bellingham starter Spencer Howard, both runs plated on a double by Austin Guibor. A Brad Pluschkell double in the fourth scored Riley Guntrip, and the HarbourCats had a 3-0 lead — until Dileo’s swing in the eighth.
Both teams finished with seven hits and one error.
Bellingham clinched the series, only the third series loss for Victoria this season. Walla Walla (opening series sweep over the HarbourCats in Walla Walla) and Gresham (won two of three in Oregon last week) are the only teams to take series from Victoria, who lead the overall standings by five games over the Corvallis Knights, with 16 games to play.
The HarbourCats already have a playoff berth in hand, winners of the North Division’s first-half pennant with a 23-4 mark, and are selling playoff packages through the team’s office at 1814 Vancouver Street. Single-seats for the first game are expected to go on sale next week, but some of the prime spots are going fast. The HarbourCats will open the best-of-three North Division final on the road on, but then be at home on (and potentially ), determining the North participant in the WCL championship series.
The two teams meet againnight, the capper of the series, on Grumpy Bum Pants Night presented by Bell Media. There will be a special Pokemon Go opportunity for those who have fallen in love with the app, and much of the music played with be Tragically Hip, in honor of the band starting its cross-Canada final tour.
The HarbourCats are on the road to Corvallis and a series that will run, and .