Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart
July 26, 2021, Victoria, BC – Don’t let the Abbotsford Cardinals 9-17 record fool you.
They are big, hard hitting and after winning six of their last eight games to end the 2021 BC Premier Baseball League regular season, they will be looking to make some noise in the BCPBL playoffs, which begin Friday.
Over the weekend, the Cardinals completed their regular season schedule by heading to Victoria and sweeping the Victoria Mariners by scores of 12-8 and 9-4 on Saturday and then splitting a pair Sunday with the Victoria Eagles, dropping the first game 8-6 and then rebounding for a 10-7 win in game two.
In the four games, the Cardinals strutted their offensive power, scoring 37 runs total and in the two games against the Eagles, totalling 20 hits combined, including four home runs, two by Michael Brand and one each from Mitchell Middlemiss and Trey Smith.
The Cardinals will hope to continue their hitting prowess Friday in Pod C of the BCPBL playoffs that will be hosted by the Whalley Chiefs and that also include the Eagles, as well as the Okanagan A’s. The winner of that Pod will then advance to the semi-finals on Sunday August 1st in Langley.
Sunday’s closing win against the Eagles was an important “message” win for the Cardinals, as it marked the first time that the Cards beat the Eagles in four games against each other this season and given that the Eagles will also be participating in the Pod C playoffs, it will give the Cardinals some confidence heading into their playoff match with the Eagles which happens Saturday morning at 11:00am.
The Cards are also 2-0 against the host Chiefs and 1-2 against the Okanagan A’s, so, assuming they can keep pounding the ball like they did this past weekend, they will have a solid chance of emerging as the Pod C playoff winners. The Cards play the Chiefs in game one of the playoff pool at 9:00 am Friday the 30th and then take on the A’s later that evening at 6:00 pm.
The Cardinals can also take comfort in that the Langley Blaze and Coquitlam Reds are not in their playoff pool, as seven of their 17 losses came against Blaze, six of which came in first eight games of the season under COVID travel restrictions and they are 0-2 against the Reds, who swept the Cards 11-3 and 5-3 back on July 10th.
Of course the Eagles, who swept the Cardinals 4-2 and 15-7 on July 17th, will have something to say about that and on Sunday in Game one at Lambrick Park in Victoria, the Eagles jumped into an eventual 6-0 lead after four innings and added another two in the fifth, before the Abby bats finally came alive with two of their own in the fifth and four in the seventh to make things close.
Four of those runs came on a two-run home run from Middlemiss in the fifth and a two-run home run by Brand in the seventh. The Cardinals would load the bases in the seventh and were one hit short of tying the game, but Eagles reliever Ryan Whelan managed to strike out Owen McCuaig to end the game and give the Eagles the tense 8-6 win.
In game two Sunday, the Abbotsford offence wasted no time in getting going, racking up three runs in the first inning and jumping out to a 6-1 lead after three. Part of that lead came from a two-run homer by Smith in the third inning.
The Cardinals would let the Eagles creep back into the game, surrendering two runs in the bottom of the fourth and another in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the lead to 6-4, before scoring four more of their own in the top of the sixth, including a two-run shot by Brand, his second of the day, gave the Cards the insurance runs they needed to win the game.
Smith would finish the game with three hits and three RBI to lead all Cardinal hitters, while Brand added his two hits and three RBI to the overall 14-hit attack.
Starting pitcher Hunter Macleod would pick up the win, giving up just two earned Eagle runs on six hits, while striking out six and walking three in his five innings of work. Aiden Cutrell saw two innings of relief and picks up the save.
On the downside, the Cardinals committed four errors in each of the two games against the Eagles and they will need to minimize that aspect of their game this coming weekend to be able to advance to the championship rounds on Sunday.
For the full set of photos between the Eagles and the Cardinals from Sunday, please visit https://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/p475079921